Philip Napier (b.1965)

Ballad No 2 (Antonio Gramsci), 1992

Mixed media installation

220cm x 160cm x 25cm

Courtesy of the artist

Born in Belfast in 1965, Philip Napier is an artist working mainly in mixed-media installation. In 1983 he enrolled at Manchester Polytechnic where he completed his BA degree, before continuing his studies at the University of Ulster, graduating with a Master’s degree in 1989. In 1991, he won the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s British School at Rome Scholarship. He is currently Head of the Fine Art Faculty at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin. Napier’s work has been the subject of several solo exhibitions, such as Raw Material at the University of Ulster, Belfast (2016) and Recalculating at the Void Gallery, Derry (2012). He has also shown work in group exhibitions, including So It Is at the Mattress Factory, Pittsburgh (2017) and Vanishing Histories at the Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast (2015). He has represented Ireland at the Sao Paulo Biennial, Brazil, Great Britain at the inaugural Kwangju Biennial and Northern Ireland in the Montreal Biennial.

This work was first installed in 1992 as an intervention on the neo-classical façade of The British School at Rome on the Via Antonio Gramsci, while Napier was a scholar there. Antonio Gramsci was an Italian communist philosopher who died in a fascist prison in 1937, he believed that the ruling classes used cultural institutions to maintain power in capitalist societies. An image of Gramsci’s face is attached to the ‘lung’ of the accordion in the artwork. In its original setting, it was made to be seen from a distance. The acoustic of the building’s portico amplified the laboured breathing sound hovering somewhere between life and death. Napier was interested in folk, popular or organic means of memorialisation. This project was originally twinned with a similarly rendered image of Bobby Sands with accordion offering a counter-cultural book-ending of the institution.