This week sees the launch of Glad I Did It, a creative installation by Award-winning Irish artist Christina Reihill that steps inside the mind of Ruth Ellis, the last British woman to face the death penalty. Rosanna Head
In an immersive three storey installation, the exhibition uncovers the facts about Ruth Ellis’ psyche that have never been brought to the surface before. Christina Reihill will recreate the prison cell of Ruth Ellis, the last woman in Britain to be executed by the state after she shot her abusive lover, 25-year-old racing driver David Blakely in 1955.
Glad I Did It is Christina’s interpretation of Ruth Ellis’ cell, imagined moments after her hanging, informed by a close reading of the psychiatric notes, prison files and diaries.
A video piece on the lower level of the gallery will feature an exclusive interview with the artist presented by Madeleine Keane, Literary Editor of the Irish Sunday Independent. Whilst the hanging was a turning point in the death penalty debate. Reihill used prison files, psychiatrist notes and diary entries to uncover that Ruth Ellis was happier than she’d ever been in prison – despite being on death row.
As a nightclub hostess in Knightsbridge where the likes of the Kray twins could be spotted, Ellis was often forced into unwanted situations with men and her relationship with lover David Blakely was violent and abusive – she famously miscarried after a fight with him. Christina Reihill uncovers how for the first time in her life, Ruth was treated with dignity and respect whilst she was in prison and she never played the victim. Ruth Ellis’ execution on 13th July 1955 was a turning point in the death penalty debate in the UK. Ellis unapologetically declared her intent was to kill her lover who she shot five times at point-blank range. In court she infamously stated:
“It’s very obvious that when I shot David Blakely I intended to kill him”
Glad I Did It asks visitors to step into Ellis’ mind at this crucial moment in history and to consider how easily they could have been in her shoes. The installation examines the thwarted desires and impulsive behaviours that led to Ellis’ execution and explores how we all can be victims to our own addictions.
GLAD I DID IT can be seen at Bermondsey Project Space and runs from 14th November – 1st December 2018.
About the artist Christina Reihill
Born and educated in Dublin, Christina studied psychology at Harvard and later went on to read multi-media and communications at the London Institute, before starting a 12-year career in journalism working for Vogue, The Evening Standard, Irish Times and Sunday Independent.
In the early 90’s she returned to Ireland for drug and alcohol treatment at The Rutland Centre. For the next decade she trained and practiced as a psychotherapist. During this time she wrote her debut bookSoulBurgers, and later created a performance based on the book, and has since produced a number of award-winning installations. In 2012 she won the Allianz Tile Style Artist of the Year Award. Christina created an Urban Art work in 2016, called WallWalks and last year opened “Wit’s End”, a major Installation at Smock Alley Theatre on Dorothy Parker’s last days before her death, opened by Patrick Murphy, Director of Royal Hibernian Academy.