Portraits of homes in Stradbally, Co. Laois, by Mary Burke


Mary Burke is a critically acclaimed Irish artist whose work up to this point has dealt with painting suburban surroundings. On the invitation of Laois Arts Officer and Curator, Muireann Ní Chonaill, Mary Burke came to Laois Arthouse to see if Stradbally, Co. Laois, would be a suitable and appealing subject matter for her . Over a twelve month period she visited twelve homes and Townscape was born.


‘The built environment has always been central to my work. Most of my work has been Dublin situated. Townscape has provided me with the opportunity to explore homes in the rural midland town of Stradbally’ says Mary Burke.


Stradbally offered the artist a wide variety of homes from which to choose her subject matter. She has included paintings of Stradbally Hall, ancestral home of the Cosby family, which is central to the story of the town. These days it is probably best known for the annual Electric Picnic festival. Featured is one of the estate cottages in Court Square, built by the Cosby family for their workers in the early 1880s and now home to Mary Hegarty and Brian Flanagan. Also on Court Square is the home of Christine and James Hewitt. On Main Street the homes of undertakers John and Anne Lynch to the rear of their business and of Christine Mulhall and David Kennedy are included, as is the Parochial House. John and Irene Delaney’s house is in Brockley Park, a development designed by the architect Frank Gibney for Laois County Council in the 1950s and indicative of Gibney’s careful consideration of site, aspect and orientation. Houses in the recently built estates of Cillbeg Manor (Rita and Pat Scully) and The Glebe (Siobhan and Sean Kane) are also included. Further examples of modern houses are those of John and Rachel Conway and Geraldine and Seán Delaney, and the home of Dick and Katie Dillon in Woodview, to the rear of Laois Arthouse.


The involvement of sociologist, Professor Mary Corcoran, enriched the project immeasurably. She documented what living in Stradbally means to the home owners. Consisting of nineteen paintings in oil pastel on canvas, Townscape brings sociology, the community and the arts into collaborative practice.


In association with the exhibition a series of lunchtime lectures entitled Town Talks will take place in the Irish Architectural Archive on 11, 18, 25 May and 8 June from 1.15pm sharp-2pm. These talks are free of charge with entry on a first come first served basis.



A companion book called Townscape documenting the project with essays by Mary Corcoran and Jenny Haughton, and reproductions the paintings, is available to purchase for €10 in the Irish Architectural Archive. Details from