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The death of Luke, her son, in 1987 was a pivotal event in Aileen’s life and work. His death was like a switchman, sending her artistic concerns down a very different track from the landscapes she had sculpted up to then. She moved to a new theme, the fragility of life and how we understand and deal with death. And there were new sculpture materials – metal, glass and porcelain, and her first drawings. The result was a series of works that formed the basis of House, an exhibition held in the Project Arts Centre in 1991.
She wanted to show how houses become homes, cocoons from which we escape the harsh outside world; how bricks and mortar become inscribed with meaning. She wanted to capture how death can turn this world of meaning upside down. How all that appears as solid in our lives, can melt into air.
In House the rawness of death and grief is confronted with brutal honesty. It is where raw experience and artistic expression meet. And there was a feminist dimension: the determination of a woman to challenge us to see and understand the death of a child.



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