A beautiful memorial to 4989 Irish lost to COVID-19

Artist Asbestos shares this touching tribute to the far too many Irish lost to COVID-19 during this awful global pandemic.

Over 10 days in June I painted a figure made up of 4989 individually painted burnt matches on the side of a building in the centre of Dublin. Each match represents the life of a person who has passed away in Ireland during the Covid pandemic, each extinguished at a different stage of existence. Each life cut short, along with their hopes, ambitions and the memories.

After I finished painting each match I repeated a quote from Joseph Beuys "Pass Freely from one level of existence to another". The quote was inspired by my fascination with Beuys' work and his blackboard drawings in the Hugh Lane Gallery. I also drew inspiration from his visit to Ireland where he spoke in the gallery about the soul and its transition between different levels of existence. For me, this quote offers hope after the Covid pandemic. Although each individual has passed away, their memories and impact on the world and those around them still resonates. So, each time I painted a match on the mural I repeated this quote in their honour.

When you stand back and view the work from a distance it forms a profile of me standing and looking up, with my hands raised to the sky. This symbol unites the many intertwined matches to form a single representation of hope. United we are stronger.

The mural is part of a new initiative for the Hugh Lane Gallery, moving its programmes onto the street and is linked to their exhibition 'From Secret Block to ROSC' by Joseph Beuys. 14 July – 31 October 2021.


Artist: Asbestos – @artofasbestos

Hugh Lane Gallery @thehughlane

Film and Photography Sean Curtis @designmaketake

Mural Assisted by Colm Weakliam @withoutmatter

All images via @artofasbestos