Rowan Gillespie was born in Dublin in 1953, grandson to James Creed Meredith and Lorraine Meredith who, looking at the newborn baby, declared that he was going to be a famous mathematician and should, without doubt, be named after Richard Rowan Hamilton – She was wrong about the mathematician bit, but the name stuck.
His family soon emigrated to Cyprus where he lived until the age of ten. He attended the Quaker Bootham School in York, but left at the early age of 16 to enroll at York School of Art, continued his studies in the sculpture department at Kingston College of Art, then Kunst og Handverke Skole in Oslo. He lived and exhibited widely in Norway before finding his way back to the land of his birth, Ireland, in 1977.
He lives in Dublin to this day with his Norwegian wife, Hanne.
From 1978 to 1986, he held many successful exhibitions in Ireland, at the Lad Lane and Solomon Galleries, with the Jonathon Poole Gallery, London and Galeri Husstege in Holland. His work also traveled to exhibitions in York, Belfast, New York, Cannes, Los Angeles, Stockholm and Moscow.
From 1982 he regularly exhibited in group exhibitions, art fairs and theme exhibitions in Ireland, France, Holland, USA and England, including Recontre avec des Sculpteurs Europeens, Pan Amsterdam, Royal Hibernian Academy, Art Expo New York, Art Toronto, Puck New York, BCAF, ICAF London and Art Miami.
In 1989 he decided to concentrate solely on site specific work which resulted in a number of major public sculptures commissions, initially in Ireland then around the world. He has, as yet, never returned to exhibition work.
Possibly his best known series to date would be his Famine Trilogy, commemorative sculptures on Custom House Quay in Dublin, Ireland Park in Toronto and Hunter island, Tasmania.
John Hughes in Manhattan, Johnny Kilbane in Cleveland, James Joyce in Denver and Dublin and William Orpen are among his Irish Giants, they tell a mainly male story of staggering success in a life time. The female story is quite different, from convict women sent to Tasmania in Footsteps to the aspiration that women should achieve equality and freedom in the series A Woman.
Rowan Gillespie would be unique as a sculptor in that he works totally alone, has his own one man foundry and personally carries out every aspect of the work from conception to installation.