The inspiration for my artwork, The Eviction (2021), came to me in the boxroom of my mother’s house in rural Wexford. I had recently returned from living in Clonmel for a spell, after leaving college. The optimism I had felt, on nights out with mates and during carefree student life, had totally diminished.
Growing up, I had imagined life as an ascending stair toward a house and a nuclear family. When I entered my mid-twenties, however, I saw how that was a luxury now completely out of reach for me and most of my peers. I wouldn’t get the opportunities my parents had; I wouldn’t be able to offer my kids any security – if I could even afford to have kids at all. Instead, my life would likely be entirely lived subordinate to landlords, outside of Ireland altogether or, God forbid, in the box room, thereby forgoing relationships, babies, and the trappings of adulthood to be financially stable.
Having been forced to leave the house I grew up in during my early teens – due to family circumstances rather than eviction – I had already attached monumental importance to the sanctity of a space that is truly one’s own. Though I wasn’t thrown out by bailiffs, the reality of seeing your possessions go into a skip, living in hotels, and watching family members struggle to keep the head through it all, still made a deep impression on me. Being a young enough man, I realised I still had relative mobility, even if security was out of the question. Unfortunately, some of my friends were not in the same position. When young children or family members in need of care become part of the equation, the lack of protection quickly becomes an existential threat.
And this existential threat becomes a hard reality for some; bailiffs do knock on people’s doors and the Gardaí have been documented standing by while people are thrown out onto the kerb. I drew on these truths and made what I believe to be an honest and obvious parallel to the reviled landlordism of the 1900s. The Eviction is a scene depicting the sharpest, coldest end of the state’s failed housing policy, but the inspiration came from a desire to depict the utter travesty that Ireland has foisted upon its poor, its vulnerable, and its young. According to housing expert Rory Hearne 11,868 notices to quit were issued in Ireland last year. Between 1849 and 1854, there were 48,740 evictions, averaging 8,123 per year. At the current rate, modern Ireland is actually surpassing the rate of evictions during the famine era.
The process of making the piece itself was rather simple. I digitally super-imposed figures over a depopulated image of Daniel MacDonald’s painting, Eviction Scene (c.1850). I grabbed the Gardaí from media images of the Strokestown eviction and the North Frederick Street eviction, both events in 2018 that saw the establishment putting the interests of property, banks, and private landlords before people. There have since been calls for greater transparency on how An Garda Síochána police evictions, and their relationship with private security operators. Without rental protection, tenants in Ireland are simply a resource; become unprofitable or inconvenient and your landlord, with state backing, can throw you out.
For the most part, the recent reaction to the piece was a flurry of the exact same emotions I felt when creating it – a desire for change and a sense of betrayal by a country whose leaders only seem to offer condescending platitudes rather than workable solutions. The Eviction has received all the vitriol, condemnation, and faux outrage that one might expect from a money-hungry monster, finally catching a glimpse of itself in the mirror.
Adam Doyle’s prints of The Eviction are currently available for purchase, with 100% of profits being donated to a homeless charity.