Biography Rita Duffy

Born in Belfast. Graduating with BA Hons. and MA in Fine art from University of Ulster 1985. One of Ireland’s groundbreaking visual artists; initiating major collaborative art projects, visiting lecturer at international universities, with contributions to numerous publications and media engagements. She was made an Honorary Member of the Royal Society of Architects for developmental work in the built environment, and an associate at the Goldsmiths College London, collaborating on artistic exchange with Argentina looking at the role of art in post conflict societies. Duffy’s work is held in museum and private collections worldwide and her public art projects continue to grow in scale and ambition.

In 2018 she was recognised for her contribution to visual arts in Ireland and elected to Aosdana, Irelands elected ‘people of the arts’.

Her Belfast studio practice of 25 years moved comfortably between gallery based exhibitions and acclaimed public art projects, deeply engaging with communities; Drawing the Blinds at Divis, an infamous tower block on the war torn lower Falls, was transformed for an evening into a picture lantern. In 2004, the Thaw project began, inspired by built in Belfast ship Titanic. This post-conflict project explored Belfasts relationship with the Iceberg and aimed to connect local experiences of colonialism/sectarianism with universal climate crisis. Thaw and environmental concerns continue to pulse through her work.

In 2011 she was awarded a Leverhulme Fellowship to work with Professor Fionnuala ni Aolain at the Transitional Justice Institute, University of Ulster. In 2012 the Chinese government awarded her the Cultural Olympic Gold medal for Ireland. The Shirt Factory Project was generated for Derry Capital of Culture in 2013, reanimating a former shirt factory by employing six local women to sew, exploring the legacy of female labour in Derry as a socially interactive art project.

The Souvenir Shop 2016, was an innovative national centenary commission from the Irish government, awarded for the year of remembering wars and revolution.  Drawing on the idea of ‘shop’ as a subversive place of exchange and ideas, visitors purchased surreal, openly provocative art works by Duffy, made by the Irish Countrywomen’s Association (ICA).  A range of over 50 everyday products that examined Irish history from a humorous and poignant, absurd and feminist perspective. Souvenir has toured Ireland, and the methology enjoys continued international success, developing new iterations for CCI Paris, The Mattress Factory Museum in Pittsburgh, Manchester, Belgium, Belfast and London.

Her studio base is a former Courthouse, situated on the British border in Ireland, she continues to explore issues of female identity, history and politics, working in this specific border context. Her ‘Soften the Border’ project produced with a ‘border knitting’ group attracted global media coverage and gave voice to the everyday local lived experience.

In 2020 she was appointed artist in residence at the Long Room Hub, Trinity College Dublin, engaging and  making visual art interventions. The Raft project inspired by Gericaults ‘Raft of the Medusa’ made in collaboration with residents of the Irish border area in response to Brexit, was exhibited at Trinity College Dublin.

Currently working as artist on production residence at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, to complete a new series of paintings. ‘Persistent Illusion’ opens at the Crawford Gallery in Cork June 2023 – Oct 2023.