So we were standing there at the back of the car with the boot open. “And you tried it both ways”, I said again. He nodded pensively. “What you need”, he says… “is a Fiat Multipla”. “Shur I know”, I said, “but she won’t go for it. She says it’s like a Noddy car, with funny eyes – wouldn’t be seen dead in one, she said”. “It has a distinctive ‘quirky’ sort of style right enough”, says he, “but there’s so much more space in it, it’s like a car and a half, it could carry all your paintings and a kitchen sink as well, and it’s not one of those gas-guzzling SUVs either…”
“No, I’ll just have to make them a few inches smaller in future”, says I, and that’s how I ended up making paintings that were 42 inches wide. I’m talking about those paintings that somebody called “The Blank ones”. But of course, they’re not blank at all – there’s a sky and a shore in them, and there’s a mist rolling in… like the one above. But bigger.
And I was in the Museum of Fine Arts in Leipzig recently and – believe it or not – I saw a work similar to my own (see above). Is it the sea? or is it a misty lake? And could anyone tell me the name of this artist, I should’ve written it down. I took a photo of the label but I didn’t notice at the time that it was out of focus.
This was a big painting. It was more than 2 metres high. And beautiful. So now I think I might try a few bigger ones myself. We’ll just have to figure out a new system of transportation. What do you think? Suggestions?
Ag osnaí liom san oíche… Éire Saor. Ní h-amháin saor ach Gaelach chomh maith – sin a theastaigh uaidh an Piarsach i 1916. Agus bhí cúigear den seachtar a shínigh Forógra na Poblachta gníomhach i Chonradh na Gaeilge. Céard a thárla ó shin?
Tógadh mise le Gaeilge i mBleá Cliath. Ach d’fhás muid go ciúin agus labhair muid faoinár n-anáil – ag monabhar i nGaeilge, i bhfaitios go gcloisfí muid. Ach anois tá an saol athruithe. Is maith liom a bheith i mo chónaí i chathair ilchultúrtha agus bheith in ann aithne a chur ar dhaoine ó thíortha éagsúla agus teangacha éagsúla a chloisint. Ach is cosúil nach n-aontaíonn gach duine liom. B’fhearr le roinnt daoine go labharfaimis go léir i mBéarla!
“This is an English-speaking business”, a dúirt an fear thíos i gCorcaí, “we have a ‘language code’ in this establishment…”. Creid nó ná chreid, ní ligfeadh sé do óigfhear ó Chorca Dhuibhne Gaeilge a labhairt agus é ag obair sa mbeáir…
Agus tamaillín ó shin, bhí mé ag léamh blag an tSionnaigh Fhionn agus bhí sé ag tabhairt sliocht ó alt le Bláthnaid Ní Chofaigh…
I came to Dublin when I was 15 from a small Gaeltacht in Meath, and the Irish language wasn’t cool at all. Then, crazy as it may sound, the Hothouse Flowers came on the scene, and it became cool – and then became uncool again when I was 18. When I was a teenager the reaction was, and still can be, “Stupid language: what’s the point?” Then the adult versions: “It was beaten into me”; “you’re all mad ’RA-heads”; and my favourite, “You get a grant for everything.”
My response is: I am so sorry, and that is all terrible, but guess what – I am the minority here, and, however difficult it was for you, it has been and still is a struggle just to respond to all of you. At times it’s racist. Nobody ever calls it that, but no other culture would tolerate it…
Agus sin é mo scéal inniu agus daoine eile ag smaoineamh ar an Oíche Chultúir a cheiliúradh… duitse, leatsa, fútsa; domsa nó liomsa? N’fheadar…
Is dóigh go raibh an teanga i m-aigne aríst nuair a chuir mé líníocht mhór d-eilefint san taispeántas sin i nGailearaí Olivier Cornet le déanaí. Eibhlín Eilifint. Bhí orm í a ghlanadh den bhalla nuair a tháinig deireadh leis an taispeántas… ach aisteach go leor, thainig sé ar ais an mhaidin dár gcionn! Bhí ar Olivier dhá chóta breise péint a dhathadh thairis sul a d’imigh sí as radhairc ar fad. Agus tá seans fós go dtiocfaidh sí ar ais. Ní féidir í a chloí!
I’m just back from Leipzig in Germany where I was caught up in the middle of a TERROR ALERT. – Actually it turned out to be some teenagers in Austria making prank phonecalls to hotels in Germany but the Polizei were on the case immediately. They closed down the no.12 tram (our one); they closed off the streets; more than one hundred officers from the Saxon state police special forces were deployed together with sniffer dogs, they erected security barriers around a small group of devout Protestants who were calling for Religionsfreiheit und Toleranz and… we were forced to walk into town for our supper. But other than that, it was wunderbar.
And back in Ireland, next Friday night is Culture Night. (16th of September from 5pm until 11pm). Arts and cultural organisations open their doors until late with hundreds of free events, tours, talks and performances to be enjoyed around the country. Plenty going on at the Olivier Cornet Gallery, of course.
Claire Halpin’s solo exhibition ‘The Glomar Response’ will be open by then; Pearse McGloughlin and Nocturnes will be performing songs from their new album ‘The Soft Animal’ and Jean Ryan will be conducting a storytelling event in the gallery. This year, I’ll be able to enjoy the night as part of the audience. I remember another year, I spent the night under a blanket!
That was in 2011 – I was in the National Gallery of Ireland as part of a Tondo group exhibition, sitting on a sheet of cardboard, covered by a blanket. There was a concert going on in the restaurant next door, I could hear people laughing and chatting. I felt ignored, unwanted, irrelevant… As I think of that now, I find that interesting because I imagine that it’s perhaps something of what the people who are homeless might feel. I was there for just a few short hours, of course, and it was my decision to be there. I can’t begin to imagine what it would be like for someone to be forced to sit and beg for help.
I must say that it was really nice when a few people sat down beside me and talked to me through the blanket. I realise now that it was an awkward situation. People didn’t know how to react to me. I heard some people hesitantly call my name. There was a lot of noise in the Gallery and sometimes I could hardly recognise the voice. But I appreciated people’s support. Normally at an exhibition it’s a lovely ‘party’ atmosphere, I love meeting all the guests and thanking them for coming etc. but this time, it was different. Iwas the artwork!
It was a new experience for me. Actually, I didn’t mean it to be simply about homelessness and the inequalities of contemporary society. It was a metaphor, I suppose… Something about the struggles of life, struggles that everyone encounters. Don’t we sometimes just want to curl up and hide? As me mother would’ve said: “The world has gone mad”. Sometimes, we need to step back and have a think about it…
PS: Religionsfreiheit und Toleranz translates as: Religious freedom and tolerance
I don’t know what it is about public speaking but I was worried about it all day. Of course, I shouldn’t have. Once we got into it, and the various panelists started expounding and expanding on their views, I settled in and found it stimulating and quite moving. You should’ve been there.
It was chaired by Marcus Howard, the independent film-maker, and the other speakers were artists Pamela de Brí, Claire Halpin and Kelly Ratchford, and the curators of “Republic”, Olivier Cornet and myself.
Marcus Howard has spent this year capturing on film the stories of relatives of those who were involved in the Easter Rising of 1916. Believe it or not he has recently completed his 76th short film on the subject. (Check out his Youtube channel: Easter Rising Stories).
It all started with Moore Street. Would you believe that there’s still the possibility of the whole historical site being turned into one vast SHOPPING MALL. Marcus has made 3 films about this and about the people’s protests against it. There was a court case taken to stop the “development” and the judge in the high court ruled in favour. He agreed that the entire area of the last battle should be preserved as a National Monument but – would you believe that the present government is appealing the judgement?
Mór mo náir’ – mo chlann féin do dhíol a máthair…Pádraic Mac Piarais
Sigh. But Marcus was talking about his films. “The reason I do it”, he said, “is because I want to create an online library so that future generations won’t be left saying: I wish I’d asked more questions… In one of my films, the poet Theo Dorgan says that the truth of our history depends on our memory-keepers and on our storytellers. We are the memory-keepers, he said, we are the storytellers… that’s why I do it.” He’s a relative himself, his great-great-grand uncle was Arthur Greene, a member of the I.R.B. in Dundalk. Patrick Pearse asked them to read out the Proclamation of the Irish Republic from the hill of Tara on Easter Sunday – but that’s a story for another day.
Yes, so I’m sure you’ve heard of the poet Joseph Mary Plunkett who was executed after the Easter Rising of 1916 but did you know that he had a brother called George who was also involved. And George was the grandfather of Mary Plunkett who is participating in “Republic”, a group exhibition at the Olivier Cornet Gallery. And her great grandfather was the Count Plunkett.
But speaking of the Plunketts, I have to tell you a story about the Kimmage Garrison which was billeted out in the Plunkett residence in Larkfield, Kimmage before the Rising. They were marching into Dublin on Easter Monday, under the command of George Plunkett, but it was looking like they were going to be late, so George took out his pistol, stepped out into the road and he held up the Harold’s Cross Tram. 52 volunteers clambered onto the tram with their guns, provisions and billycan bombs, and then George paid the 52 tupenny fares to the GPO.
And the Count: George Noble Count Plunkett was also a poet and some of his poems feature in the exhibition. I include one here below and then, a few more images after the poem. And if you’re around this evening (Thursday) there’s a panel discussion in the gallery at 7pm – a National Heritage Week event, it’s free, all are welcome…
The Shining Woman – by George Noble Count Plunkett
The morn the Shining Woman
was standing in my way,
she said, ‘You’ve looked for many a one,
but did you look for me?
If you’re my man you’ll suffer stripes
from high and low degree,
come make your choice, to live at ease,
or die because of me.’
I said, ‘O Shining Woman,
your love no man denies,
but I am to be married
to a girl that’s to my mind;
and must I leave her kindly arms,
a faithful soul desert,
because you come and call me
like a fairy from the earth?’
Then spoke the Shining Woman,
‘Now look at me’, she said,
and when I looked I saw the face
of the girl that I would wed:
I knew her smile, I knew her voice
that bid me be foresworn,
but to the Shining Woman
for all I would not turn.
I said, ‘O Shining Woman,
my mother waits at home,
I am her only staff and stay
my father being gone.
Must I give up her lonely bones,
my father’s name belie,
because a lovely stranger
would send me on the way?’
Then spoke the Shining Woman,
‘Now look at me’, she said,
and when I looked I saw the eyes
my mother has for me,
and in my mother’s voice she spoke,
‘Your father he was true,
and would you have him in his grave
to turn away from you?’
I said, ‘O Shining Woman,
you hold my heart alone,
though I may tramp the rugged hills
or stand beside your throne.
I’ll live for you, and be content
to lie below the sod,
if I can strike a blow for you
And keep my soul for God!’
Now, there was plenty more good work in the exhibition ( which is coming to an end on the 31st of August). I just want to show a few more gems here, but if you can, drop into the gallery yourself for a look, it’s always better to see the works in real life…
Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité – Today, I’m thinking about Fraternité: not brotherhood as such but solidarity, mutual support, Comrádaíocht… and it’s something we need more of, these days, I reckon. The old Irish tradition of the Meitheal, where groups of neighbours got together to help each other in turn (with farm work mostly) – I believe that it’s coming back. I hope it is. Don’t you think that it’d be great if we all looked out for each other, all for one and one for all?
The painting above is “The Starry Plough” by John O’Grady. It is featured in the group exhibition “Republic”, now on at the Olivier Cornet Gallery. It recalls the early days of trade unions in Ireland, and the men and women of the Irish Citizen Army who took part in the Easter Rising. “Looking out across the sea of lights from Montpelier Hill”, writes O’Grady, “each light is a life, a citizen. Overhead every night, the ‘Starry Plough’ shines brightly”… and every night, the Plough returns, a reminder that James Connolly’s words are still with us and still very relevant to this day”.
We’re going to have a panel discussion in the gallery next week. This exhibition has raised so many issues and interesting topics during the course of its run – so we thought we’d bring together a panel of artists and experts to discuss these issues. We will also consider the role of the artist in commemoration. Boy, oh boy, when I think back to the original briefs for the Centenary Programme… and that video…
Anyway, a lot of good stuff has happened since then, a lot of people got involved. Any thoughts yourself about how it all went? Your comments are always welcome. I don’t think I heard from you for a while… ? The panel discussion takes place at 7pm next Thursday, the 25th of August, 2016. That should be lively🙂
Odd, wouldn’t you say, that there are very few art exhibitions in Dublin about the Easter Rising in this centenary year. There have been concerts, readings, plays and poetry evenings – but not much art. For various reasons, the visual artists seem to steer clear of ‘political’ work – but in my opinion, all art is political. It cannot be separated from the society from which it emerges. And I’m happy to read in the Irish Times that the artistic director of Project Arts Centre agrees with me!
“What surprises me most”, he writes, “is that some citizens believe that art should or can only be neutral – that an arts organisation should not present work that challenges the status quo… It is vital for art and artists to be at the centre of our nation’s great debates – as indeed, they always have been…”
Hmmm, I’m not so sure that artists have been at the centre of our nation’s “great debates”. It seems to me that they (like many citizens) have been particularly reluctant to deal with our turbulent history, with the legacy of Colonialism, with questions of our National identity and such. Anyway, I’m not here today to be ‘artist bashing’ (we have it hard enough as it is), but I thought I’d remind you of the group exhibition “Republic”, at the Olivier Cornet Gallery at the mo, because this exhibition is quietly reflecting on the aspirations of the Proclamation and commemorating those who died in the struggle for Irish independence. It was officially opened by Eamon Ryan of the Green Party during the summer.
Here’s a short film of the exhibition below, if you can’t see it immediately, you should click into the actual blog… If you see an elephant in the room, well – that’s my contribution.
Your comments are always welcome. Did you see any of the 1916 art projects funded by the state this year? If you did, what did you think? Have you been in to see “Republic” at the Olivier Cornet Gallery yet? If not, why not? 😉