Tracing Time

Artist Name(s) Laura Fitzgerald
Artwork title Tracing Time
Context/Background The context for this commission was to create a site-specific artwork/s as part of a Per Cent for Art funded project for a new primary school building, Presentation Primary School, Portarlington. The school has a long and established history in the town and was seeking an artist to work with them in a meaningful way in marking the transition of moving from the old school to the new school building. They wanted the artwork/s to consider the school’s ethos of learning, creativity, spirituality and the holistic growth of each child. Laura’s concept was based around memory and the use of objects, sculpture and drawing in recording and archiving stories and past experiences. Laura also had a very strong collaborative and participatory approach in her art practice. Laura’s proposal also considered the broader references and associations with the town and its history and this greatly appealed to the school.


Laura Fitzgerald’s practice combines elements of drawing, installation, works on paper and video. Ideas which inform her work relate to memory, nostalgia, real and imagined histories, perspective and the unseen. For the duration of this commission, Laura chose to base herself in Laois as per her proposal she wanted a better sense of the people and the place. She had one month of direct collaboration with the school and spent the remainder of the time going between the school, the town and working with local craftspeople, meetings historians and other interested participants. The resulting body of work is extensive.

From her memory drawing sessions with the children, staff and teachers, she collected approx 400 individual pen and ink drawings. She listened and drew what was being recounted. For the final selection, Laura chose 29 drawings to be framed and installed at the school. In addition to the drawings, she created three large sculptural pieces with the assistance of Riverside Joinery, Portarlington. These pieces were informed by the individual and collective memories. The interiors are made from found objects and memorabilia from the school’s archive. The sculptures are modeled on three local iconic buildings being the old school, St Michael’s and the French Church.  

A further key element which pulled all the individual installations together was a 13ft Memory Map pen and ink framed drawing depicting all the memories collected around a panoramic view of the town. This was placed in the main entrance hall.  Lastly, as a memento and archive of the project, Laura and the school produced an art booklet Tracing Time. This was a limited edition and distributed to all who participated and collaborated in the making of the artworks, their families and friends. The artworks were formally launched at the opening of the school on 4 June, 2010 where Laura gave a talk on her practice and time making the work in Portarlington.


Throughout the project, at key stages, Laura gave talks to the pupils, teachers and staff on her concept and working practice, work in progress. She gave a formal talk to all present at the official opening and launch of the final outcome and finished pieces.  
In addition a limited edition publication about the project called Tracing Time was produced. This included drawings, photographs, artist’s statement and essay Morphing memories into matter by Jane Humphries commissioned in response to the artworks created as part of this project. This booklet was distributed to all participants and the extended school community of Presentation Primary School.

At the official launch, 6th class pupils presented the installed artworks and discussed their involvement with the visitors to the school. 


Laura Fitzgerald was born in 1983 and studied Fine art in the National college of Art & Design Dublin. She graduated in 2007 with a first class honours degree and distinction in her thesis, Quantum Physics & the Art of Matthew Ritchie. Fitzgerald’s practice combines elements of drawing, installation, works on paper and video. Ideas which inform her work relate to memory, nostalgia, real and imagined histories, perspective, the minuet and the unseen. Fitzgerald was artist in residence in the Waterford Healing Arts Centre where over a period of six months, the artist produced a body of work in an acute hospital context.

Previous exhibitions include; Preponderance of the Small, a gallery 3 initiative by the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Once upon a time, Waterford Healing arts Trust, For our house is the corner of our world, Talbot Gallery, The RHA annual exhibition and RUA invited artist 2009. Recent exhibitions include A tourist in Reality with artist Laura Byrne in Riverbank Art Centre Newbridge Co. Kildare and Holding Together, a group show with the Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College Dublin. Future projects include, a Per Cent for Art commission with Scoil Diarmada, Castledermot Co. Kildare commencing in early 2011.

Commission Type Schools/Colleges
Commissioner Name Presentation Primary School, Portarlington
Commissioning process 2 Stage Open Competition
Project commission dates June 16, 2009 - March 20, 2010
Public Presentation dates June 3, 2010 - January 1, 1970
Artform Visual Arts
Art Practice Arts Participation
Funded By Dept. Education and Science
Percent for art Yes
Budget Range 35000 - 70000 euro
Project commission start date 16/06/2009
Project commission end date 20/03/2010
Location Presentation Primary School
County Laois
Town Portarlington
Street Address Station Road
Content contributor(s) Úna Collins
Relationship to project Project Coordinator
Public engagement

Teachers, pupils, staff, ex-pupils, retired teachers, parents and extended school community together with local people, historians and craftspeople who were involved in the project.

Associated professionals / Specialists involved

Essay Morphing Memories into Matter by Jane Humphries in Tracing Time art booklet. Jane Humphries is a writer and doctoral candidate in the Department of Art History TRIARC, University of Dublin Trinity College.

Woodwork and joinery for large sculptural pieces by Riverside Joinery, Portarlington

Design of art booklet by Tony O’Hanlon, Propeller, Galway



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