The Disappointed Tourist

Butler Gallery, Kilkenny, Ireland
April 15 – May 28, 2023

Butler Gallery is delighted to present The Disappointed Tourist, a series of over two-hundred-and-sixty paintings by the UK born, NYC-based artist, Ellen Harvey, inspired by the desire to repair what has been destroyed.

The places immortalized in the paintings were supplied by members of the public who sent them to the artist in response to the question “Is there a place that you would like to visit or revisit which no longer exists?” The project maps: memories, locations that were the scene of traumatic events, ecological catastrophes, victims of gentrification, technological transformation or simply changes in fashionable tourist destinations . In her series, the artist tries to restore what was lost, while recognizing the inadequacy of this endeavour.

We live in a world that often feels as though it is vanishing before our eyes. Places we love disappear. Places we have hoped to visit cease to exist. The forces of war, time, ideology, greed and natural disaster are constantly remaking places that we love but cannot control or save. The Disappointed Tourist is inspired by the urge to repair what has been broken. It makes symbolic restitution, literally remaking lost sites, at the same time that it acknowledges the inadequacy of such restitution. It is inspired both by old postcards and by the tradition of tourist painting – both the paintings produced for wealthy tourists to take home and the touring paintings that allowed pre-photographic viewers to experience far-off places. It attempts to honor the trauma underlying the nostalgia that results from our collective and individual losses, while celebrating the human attachment to places both real and aspirational. It tries to create a level playing field in which personal losses and larger cultural losses can meet and be recognized and create a new conversation about our love for our physical environment. Ellen Harvey, 2021

In response to the artist’s Irish call out for submissions Harvey has made seven new paintings of disappeared sites including three Kilkenny-based locations—the now defunct Regent Cinema, The O.K. House and The Tholsel Bar.