Donncha MacGabhann MA PhD
Cnoc Áine, Ospidéal, Co. Luimní
Research Profile: Since 2016 I have been completing unfinished strands of the research which formed the basis of my doctoral studies. My thesis investigation concentrated on the makers and the making of The Book of Kells. This provides the first in-depth and comprehensive analysis of both the illumination and the scribal work in the manuscript. My research was significantly informed by the experiences gained in my career as an Artist and Art-Teacher. Complementary to the more traditional modes of academic enquiry, these enabled me to draw on a skillset that was integral to the development of my research methodologies including that of close visual analysis, which was central to my approach. My immediate aim is to communicate, through publication and on my website, the results of my research. I am also interested in exploring ways of sharing this work with the wider community and integrating it within the broader context of early medieval cultural heritage.
Current Position: Independent Researcher
2016 – 2017 Visiting Research Associate, Trinity College Dublin
2010 – 2016 Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Study,
University of London – PhD (Pass date – Feb. 29th 2016)
Thesis available online – https://sas-space.sas.ac.uk/6920/
Supervisor: Prof. Michelle P. Brown. IES, SAS, UL
Internal Examiner: Prof. Jane Roberts IES, SAS, UL
External Examiner: Dr. Laura Cleaver, TCD (presently IES)
2011 Medieval Manuscripts in the Digital Age (MMSDA). Five-day course Cambridge University and various venues in London (incl. King’s
College and Lambeth Palace Library).
2010 – 2011 London Palaeography Summer School.
1996 – 1998 National College of Art and Design – M.A. in Fine Art (Sculpture) Tutor – Brian King, External Examiner – Brian O’Doherty
1981 – 1982 Limerick School of Art and Design – Principles of Teaching Art
1979 – 1981 Limerick School of Art and Design – Graduated in first place in the Fine Art department (Printmaking major)
1982 – 2016 Art and Art History Teacher at John the Baptist Community School,
Hospital, Co. Limerick. Assistant-Principal 2012 -2016 (posts of responsibility have included: researching, setting up and coordinating the school’s first Transition Year (1994 – 1996), establishing the School Library (1998 – 2004)
1998 – 1999 Department of Education and Skills – Leaving Certificate Applied Programme: Co-Writer of modules in Arts Education – Visual Art (2 modules) and Craft and Design (15 modules)
1999 – 2000 In-service Presenter for teachers intending to teach Leaving Certificate Applied Programme in Visual Art and Craft and Design
2001 – 2003 State Examinations Commission: Advising Examiner for Leaving Certificate Applied Programme examinations in Visual Art and Craft and Design
2023 Forthcoming ‘Fun and Games in the Gospels: Medieval Emojis and Humour in the Book of Kells,’ in Pethainou, K., ed., Medieval Humour (Trivent Publishing, Budapest, 2023).
2023 ‘Writing under the influence: Masters, Mentoring and the curious case of the MacRegol Gospels,’ in Eolas, (Journal of the American Society of Irish Medieval Studies) vol. 15, (2023).
2023 ‘Finding Columba in the Book of Kells: Referencing Relics and Recycling Motifs’ in S. Evemalm-Graham et al, eds., Ì Chaluim Chille: Interdisciplinary Studies on Iona and Columba on the 1500th anniversary of the birth of the saint (Clò Gàidhlig Oilthigh Ghlaschu CLOG, 2023).
2022 The Book of Kells – A Masterwork Revealed: Creators, Collaboration, and Campaigns (Sidestone Press, Leiden). www.sidestone.com/books/the-book-of-kells
2021 ‘Figurative Art in the Book of Kells: Absurd Anatomies, See-through Tunics and Diverse Hairstyles,’ in Gale Owen-Crocker and Maren Clegg Hyer, eds. Art and Worship in the Insular World: Papers in Honour of Elizabeth Coatsworth (Brill, Leiden), 9-44.
2020 ‘Turning the Tables: An alternative approach to understanding the canon tables in the Book of Kells,’ in Peopling Insular Art: Practice, Performance, and Perception: proceedings of the Eighth International Insular Art Conference. Cynthia Thickpenny, et al, eds., (Oxbow Books, Oxford and Philadelphia, 2020), 13-22.
2018 ‘Reading the Book of Kells,’ in Lough Gur and District Historical Society Journal, No. 19 (2018), 39-44.
2017 ‘The et ligature in The Book of Kells: revealing the ‘calligraphic imagination’ of its great scribe,’ in Islands in a Global Context: proceedings of the Seventh International Insular Art Conference. Conor Newman, Margaret Mannion, and Fiona Gavin, eds., (Four Courts Press, Dublin, 2017), 138-48.
2019 Keynote Speaker – International Day of Celtic Art Conference June 7-9, Andover, New York. ‘Magnificent Obsession: An Artist’s response to The Book of Kells’
2015 Groam House Museum, Rosemarkie, Fortrose, Ross-Shire, Scotland. Inaugural George Bain Memorial Lecture – September 24th 2015 Lecture title: Magnificent Obsession: An Artist’s response to George Bain and The Book of Kells
2015 University of Aberdeen: Invited to address International Seminar on recently discovered fragments of an Insular manuscript with close similarities to the Book of Kells – September 26th 2015 (Convened by Prof. David Dumville and Prof. Francis Newton)
2013 University College Dublin (UCD) – address to final year undergraduate students of Art History and Cultural Policy as part of a module titled Medieval Ireland: Art and Architecture
2022 9th International Insular Art Conference Durham University, April 5-7, 2022. Paper title: ‘The initials in The Book of Kells (Revealing the ‘calligraphic imagination’ of its great scribe)’
2021 Columba and Iona: An Interdisciplinary Conference. Celebrating the 1500th Anniversary of Columba’s birth. Glasgow University, December 8-10, 2021 Paper Title: ‘Finding Columba in the Book of Kells (Referencing Relics and Recycling Motifs)’
2018 32nd Irish Conference of Medievalists UCC, 28th-30th June. Paper title: ‘The identification of hands in Insular manuscripts: scribes, masters, mentoring, and the curious case of the MacRegol Gospels’
2017 The Eighth International Insular Art Conference University of Glasgow July 10th – 14th 2017 Paper title: ‘Turning the Tables: an examination of the design/layout, iconography, and script evidence in the Canon Tables of The Book of Kells, proposing an alternative hypothesis by which they may be understood’
2017 31st Irish Conference of Medievalists National University of Ireland Maynooth June 30th – July 1st 2017 Paper title: ‘Were great scribes bad Latinists? Some observations on the Book of Kells’ poor Latinity’
2015 15th International Congress of Celtic Studies University of Glasgow July 13th – 17th 2015 Paper title: ‘The initials in The Book of Kells (Revealing the ‘calligraphic imagination’ of its great scribe)’
2014 TCD/UCD Medieval Conference – November 29th 2014 Paper title: ‘Accent Marks (The division of hands in the Book of Kells and an insight into the ‘calligraphic imagination’ evident in the script)’
2014 The Seventh International Insular Art Conference National University of Ireland Galway July 16th – 20th
2014 Paper title: ‘The et ligature in The Book of Kells (The division of hands in the Book of Kells and an insight into the ‘calligraphic imagination’ in the script)’
2014 International Medieval Congress – University of Leeds July 7th – 10th 2014 Paper title: ‘The Letter m in the Book of Kells (The division of hands and an insight into the ‘calligraphic imagination’ evident in the script)’
2014 Liminal Networks Palaeography Conference King’s College London June 3rd 2014 Paper title: ‘Letters with extended elaborations in the Book of Kells’
2014 Kalamazoo Medieval Congress -Western Michigan University. May 8th – 11th 2014 (Research Group on Manuscript Evidence Session 191 Friday 9th May: Individual Style or House Style? Assessing Scribal Contributions, Artistic Production and Creative Achievements. Paper title: ‘Half-uncial a and Uncial a at line-ends (The division of hands in the Book of Kells and an insight into the ‘calligraphic imagination’ evident in the script)’
2013 Irish Association of Art Historians (IAAH), Artefact Study Day – April 23rd Paper title: ‘Turning the Tables – an examination of the design/layout, iconography, and script evidence in the canon tables of the Book of Kells’
2013 TCD/UCD Study Day March 16th Trinity Irish Art Research Centre (TRIARC) – Trinity College Dublin
Paper tilte: ‘The Division of Hands in the Book of Kells – an examination of the letters with extended curved-concave elaborations’
2013 – 2022 Limerick City Arts Office Culture Night (2013-21) and Heritage Week 2021- 2: various presentations on aspects of my research on The Book of Kells. Lectures and presentations to local historical societies and groups on my research. I have also lectured on a variety of art historical topics including the nineteenth-century Gothic revival architecture of J.J. McCarthy and the stained glass of Harry Clarke (and his studio).
1996 Awarded Tax-Exempt status for creative work (Revenue Commissioners)
1982 SADE – Sculpture and Drawing Exhibition, Cork ` First prize – Drawing – Adjudicator Bryan Kneale
Second Prize – Open Exhibition, Claremorris
1981 Scott Tallon Walker Award – Oireachtas Exhibition
Alcan Award – First place in Fine Art, Limerick School of Art and Design
Taylor Bequest (Graphics) Royal Dublin Society
1980 Exhibition of Visual Art (EVA), Limerick – Alumina Contractors Award (Graphics). Adjudicator – Brian O’Doherty
Taylor Bequest (Graphics) Royal Dublin Society
Public Collections include – Arts Council/An Comhairle Ealaíon, Limerick City Gallery, Limerick Contemporary Arts Society, Insurance Corporation, Kilkenny Library, Donegal County Library, Listowel Writers Week, Leitrim County Library, Tipperary County Council (N.R.), National Collection of Contemporary Drawing. Work included in private collections in Ireland and abroad.
2022 Permanent Collection Exhibitions, May -September
Limerick City Gallery of Art (LCGA)
2020 Limerick Connections, an exhibition from the Permanent Collections of works by 67 artists associated with Limerick from the 70s to the present day. Limerick City Gallery of Art (LCGA)
2018-19 Selected works from the permanent collection (September–January) – in Response to the donation by the Rodgers family in memory of their parents Tony and Berna – work by Don MacGabhann, Tom Fitzgerald, Ciaran Lennon and Roy Johnson. Limerick City Gallery of Art (LCGA)
2013 I go to seek a Great Perhaps, works from the Permanent Collection of LCGA selected by Aoibheann McCarthy & Munster Young People.
2012 Rich Terrain, works from the Permanent Collection of LCGA (Cormac Boydell, Anne Brennan, Barrie Cooke, Jill Dennis, Sean Dixon, Paul Henry, Cecil King, William Leech, Don MacGabhann, Janet Mullarney, Thomas Ryan RHA, Oliver Sheppard RHA, Desmond Stephenson, Samuel Walsh, Jack B. Yeats. Roscommon Arts Centre
1998 Exhibition of Visual Art (EVA) Limerick Adjudicator – Paul M. O’Reilly
National College of Art and Design, M.A. Degree Exhibition Dublin Municipal Gallery – The Hugh Lane, Dublin
1997 Lingua Oculorum – Beltable Gallery, Limerick
1996 National Collection of Contemporary Drawing (+ catalogue)
Limerick City Gallery of Art
1994 Exhibition of Visual Art (EVA) Limerick. Adjudicator – Jan Hoet
1993 Exhibition of Visual Art (EVA) Limerick. Adjudicator – Gloria Moure
1991 Lifting the Siege – Riverrun Gallery, Limerick
1990 Springboard – Irish Life Centre, Dublin
1988 Divisions, Crossroads, Turns of Mind – Some New Irish Art Selector – Lucy Lippard. Helsinki, Finland
Exhibition of Visual Art (EVA) Limerick. Selector – Alexander Rozhin Exhibition of Visual Art (EVA) Limerick. Selector – Florent Bex
Open Exhibition – Claremorris
Acquisitions in Context – Limerick City Gallery of Art
1987 Divisions, Crossroads, Turns of Mind – Some New Irish Art Selector – Lucy Lippard. Banff Arts Centre – Alberta McKenzie Art Gallery, University of Regina Baxter Gallery, Portland School of Art, Musée De Quebec, and Douglas Hyde Gallery, T.C.D.
Limerick Contemporary Arts Society – First Collection Touring Exhibition Don MacGabhann, Rita Conway, Maighread Tobin – New Work Riverrun Gallery, Limerick
1986 Divisions, Crossroads, Turns of Mind – Some New Irish Art\ Selector – Lucy Lippard Art Gallery of York University, Ontario and Exit Gallery – New York
1985 Nature – Pecsi Gallery, Budapest Divisions, Crossroads, Turns of Mind – Some New Irish Art. Selector – Lucy Lippard. Williams College Museum – Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Drawing ‘Stone Circle’ reproduced in the Crane Bag
1984 Open Exhibition – Claremorris
1983 Guinness Peat Aviation (GPA) Awards Exhibition Douglas Hyde Gallery, T.C.D.
Exhibition of Visual Art (EVA) Limerick, Dublin, and Belfast Previous prizewinners exhibition
Oireachtas Exhibition (Dublin and Limerick)
Beltaine Limerick and Quimper (Brittany)
1982 Sculpture and Drawing Exhibition (SADE) Cork. Adjudicator – Bryan Kneale
Open Exhibition – Claremorris
Oireachtas Exhibition (Dublin, Limerick and Tralee)
1981 Exhibition of Visual Art (EVA) Limerick. Adjudicator – Pierre Restany
Guinness Peat Aviation (GPA) Awards Exhibition
1980 Exhibition of Visual Art (EVA) Limerick. Adjudicator – Brian O’Doherty
International Graphic Biennale – Listowel (Writers Week)
Oireachtas Exhibition (Dublin and Wexford)
Open Exhibition – Claremorris
Reference: Prof. Michelle P. Brown. IES, SAS, University of London