In a new series of articles, critic and broadcaster Cristín Leach selects 21 artworks for RTÉ Culture that define Modern Ireland.

Number One: Palm Trees and Bungalow, Carlow (2010) and Garden, Duncormick, Co Wexford (2011) by Mairead O'hEocha.

Mairead O’hEocha, Palm Trees and Bungalow, Carlow (2010)

In 2011, Dublin-born painter Mairead O'hEocha held an exhibition at the Butler Gallery in Kilkenny. It was called Whisper Concrete, the term for a type of concrete designed to absorb traffic noise. The works depicted locations in the South East of Ireland: roadside homes, fields, ruined castles and quiet country roads abandoned for the not too distant, implied motorways. It was a show that turned a mundane landscape of wheelie bins, blank gable ends and quirky garden ornaments into something almost epic.

Brushstrokes in muted greys and olive greens told a road-trip-style story of a quietly stoical, yet somehow soulless environment, empty of people but implying a certain kind of domesticity. In these post-boom landscapes, the remnants of the Celtic Tiger survive in wide, tarmacked driveways and immaculately planned houses. Nobody’s home because they’ve all gone to work.

Mairead O’hEocha, Garden, Duncormick, Co Wexford (2011)