art exhibitions, artists

“The Truth is rarely pure and never simple”

Miriam McConnon Common Ground
Miriam McConnon and some of the children of “Common Ground”

So rather than add to the hatred and bile that is boiling over around the internet these days, I’d like to tell you about a project that tries to bring people together.

This is “Common Ground”, a project initiated by Miriam McConnon, an Irish artist who lives in Cyprus. As you know, the two communities in Cyprus have been divided since a Turkish invasion of the island in 1974 (after a coup by the Greek military Junta) so the aim of the project was to bring Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot children closer together.

This project is one of the main events to celebrate the Cypriot city of Paphos becoming Cultural Capital of Europe in 2017.

A series of workshops took place in the town of Kerynia (Northern Cyprus) and the town of Paphos (Republic of Cyprus) from February to April 2016 in which the children created a public artwork using the Cypriot technique of cementography. During the workshops the children exchanged drawings, stones and earth from their towns. The artwork created in Paphos was created using the stones, earth and  drawings from the children of Kerynia and likewise, the artwork in Kerynia was created using the stones, earth and drawings from the children of Paphos.

Miriam hopes that there will be many more cross-community cultural events in the future that will help to break down the borders between the two communities, between people who have had little or no contact for over forty years.

Oil painting by Miriam McConnon
Miriam McConnon : “Domestic Landscape II”, oil on canvas, 70 x 80cm

I wanted to tell you about Miriam Mc Connon because she and I are going to have a two person show entitled “Silent Stories”, in the Belltable in Limerick in March.

In her current body of work, the simple china cup is featured extensively, multiples of cups expanding across the canvas, creating ‘landscapes’ that resemble walls or partitions. Walls can provide security but also can keep people out. The pattern of cups perhaps echoes the repetition of domestic chores and domestic routines. Does the intensity of this repetition make us feel secure or does it smother us, I wonder.

For me, the cups hold precious memories. I think they could be a symbol of home, with all its complicated highs and lows. But as Oscar Wilde once wrote: “The truth is rarely pure and never simple”


Irish art, Nature

The blackbird and the flying snails

oil painting of Blackbird by Eoin Mac Lochlainn

My brother tells me that it’s listening for earthworms. That blackbird on our lawn is certainly on the lookout for something – but our hardworking earthworms?  I’d much prefer if he went for the snails. Those snails are the bane of my life.

Well, just one of the banes, I suppose, but those snails have been causing major problems here in Harold’s Cross ever since we began to grow our own vegetables.

I had a plan. Not a complicated one, I would simply drop them over the garden wall. Next door’s garden was just an unkempt lawn and nobody lived there, but d’you know – those snails used to come back over every night! My brother tells me that they’re like homing pigeons, they can find their way home. And I’m sure of it now because every morning, when I went out to check, there’d be less and less green shoots and more and more gastropod devastation.

I became a bit desperate. I used to go out at night with a torch and a saucepan, and I would search and find every single marauding mollusc and… but what to do with the seething, sluggy mass of Pulmonata?

I had a catapult. I would launch those slimy pulmonates into space, right over the roof of the house behind. Now, find your way home from there, you slug!

Bhuel, bhí go maith agus ní raibh go h-olc. But I was out in the garden one night around midnight. The sky was clear, the stars were twinkling bright. (I love to stand in the garden those nights and listen to the distant hum of the city). Then I heard something fall on the lawn; there it was again! Something landed behind me. I turned – and something hit me on the back of the neck! Something small and slimy…

And even though this is a terrible story (and very little to do with my art practice), I reckon I’ll be preparing the ground soon for another season of slugduggery. Any sensible suggestions would be very welcome.


Gaeilge, Nature

Kingfisher – an rud is annamh is iontach!

painting of kingfisher by Eoin Mac Lochlainn
A Kingfisher in Bushy Park, Dublin

Scroll down to read the English version. Is rí-annamh a fheicim an rí-iascaire (an Kingfisher) ach bhí an t-ádh liom inné agus mé amuigh ar shiúlóidín i mBushy Park, i dTír an Iúir.

Nach iontach an t-éan é – lena chuid cleití gleoite gealgháireacha – mheasfá gur chóir go mbeadh cónaí air sna Trópaicí, nó i nGáirdín na nAinmhithe b’fhéidir, mar chonaic mé go h-éasca é, a cholainn lonrach ag glioscarnach i measc na craobhacha loma gheimhriúla.

Bhí a chleití ar ghorm na spéire, agus bhí dath rua nó oráiste ar a ucht.  D’eitil sé leis ansin agus ní fhaca mé aríst é ach d’fhan an t-aisling liom agus mé ag triall ar bhaile.

Yes, I saw a Kingfisher the other day, a fleeting glimpse of that ethereal bird. Bright sky-blue feathers standing out against the bare grey branches of Bushy Park. How is it that such an exotic creature has made his home by this little woodland pond in Dublin? Was it a heavenly blunder? Or was he created on some crazy whim, to bring joy to this wintery world? – I can think of no other explanation.  Can you?


photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Bushy Park, Terenure
Woodland pond in Bushy Park, Dublin.

I did that painting of a kingfisher a long time ago for a book by O’Brien Printing – I wonder is it still in print… But I’m thinking these days, that with all the trouble in the world, and climate change in particular, maybe it’s time to revisit that subject and see where it takes me.  

I’m reminded of the old mandarin in China who, when he disagreed with the emperor, he took to sitting by the banks of the Yangtze to spend his day fishing. A quiet and dignified protest.

Your comments are always welcome.


art exhibitions

Can art make a difference in this crazy world?

painting by Joy Gerrard at the RHA gallery
From “Shot Crowd”, an exhibition of paintings and video by Joy Gerrard at the RHA

Well it is crazy. And getting crazier and more dangerous every day. But I want to tell you about an art exhibition that’s on at the moment. Black and white paintings – mostly large – scenes of mass protests taken from newspapers or the internet, images of dense crowds viewed from above, from tall buildings or from police helicopters, perhaps.

The Arab Spring, “Black Lives Matter”, Anti-Trump demonstrations – all part of our recent history – but then I wondered: what does she think of all this? Is she ‘for’ or ‘against’ or is she simply observing?

Someone else might say that it doesn’t matter, it’s just art – but it matters to me! I knew a fella once, he’d make art videos of all the marches – but he never took part. I used to see him standing up on plinth with his camera as we marched by. Where did he really stand, I wondered?

Joy Gerrard at the RHA
Detail from a painting by Joy Gerrard

But I’m talking about the wonderful paintings by Joy Gerrard in Shot Crowd at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin at the moment. I was very taken by them. And when I think about it, how they deliberately choose the ‘helicopter view’, I imagine she wanted to portray that sinister feeling of being under constant surveillance.

The paintings are Japanese black ink on linen. See the detail above, the water based ink mixed to different consistencies from transparent washes to solid black, her brushwork quite free and loose, perhaps to emphasise the humanity of the scene and to subvert the threatening atmosphere in some way.

And there’s also a video and this is what really caught my attention. Hard to describe, it’s like a model of an empty city and then thousands of ball bearings start pouring in from one side until the ‘city’ is completely taken over by them. (Actually, they’re not ball bearings, Joy tells me, they are shot or shot gun pellets, collected by emptying shot gun cartridges). The pellets finally come to a halt and  there’s silence for a moment before the pellets start running again, away to the other side, until the city is deserted again.

Video, Joy Gerrard
Still from video in “Shot Crowd”, an exhibition by Joy Gerrard at the RHA

And so it continues endlessly. I imagine the creator tilting the ‘city’ from side to side to make the pellets roll, some hidden hand controlling the situation, allowing the ‘people’ to run wild for a while but containing them within certain limits and ultimately, maintaining absolute power over them. Scary thought.

Scary times. But could an art video change anything? I believe it can. It can raise awareness; it can move an audience and make them think. And that’s crucial in today’s world. What do you think?


Irish art, Nature

The Diaspora and the Irish weather

oil painting of empty fireplace by Eoin Mac Lochlainn

Fionnuala tells me that it’s called ‘the anti-cyclonic gloom’ . It’s nothing to worry about, it’s not terminal, but it generally keeps our little island shrouded in a misty, fecky, damp grey miserable blanket of cloud for most of the month of January.

She also tells me (she’s doing a climate course) that the third week in January is most likely to be the dampest, feckiest, miserablist week of them all. But the other day, let me tell you that it was 10 degrees celsius in Dublin – the same day that it was snowing in Venice – so that can’t be bad!

But why am I telling you this? Well, this ‘anti-cyclonic gloom’ is probably the reason that I’m painting empty fireplaces again, my “Tinteáin Tréigthe” series, because if one ventures out these days in search of inspiration, up in the hills around Dublin, one might find oneself on a fool’s errand: – Nothing to see, it’s all over lads, have yez no homes to go to?

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of a cottage in Donegal

So I wander off and investigate some deserted old cottages instead. I have been painting empty fireplaces in abandoned homes in the hills for a few years now. I think about how central the fireplace once was to the home, how people used to keep the fire going throughout the night and throughout the year, and how the fireplace really was the heart of a home.

Seeing them abandoned and cold, each with their own distinctive personality, was quite moving so I started a series of paintings as a requiem for those people who had gone, a memorial to the Irish diaspora.

and if you don’t believe me, check out:





art, Nature

If you’re feeling the winter’s discontent…

painting of snowdrop by Eoin Mac Lochlainn
by Eoin Mac Lochlainn

The three wise men – I always think that they get a raw deal here in Ireland. They arrive on the last day of Christmas, just as everyone is taking down the Christmas decorations, dumping the Christmas tree and going back to work. Not a fun time to visit Ireland, you might say.

Yes, it’s still dark and still pretty miserable here but there’s one thing that always gives me a boost – and that’s the snowdrops. Every January, they force their way out of the cold ground to greet the new year. They pop up outside our back door and they nod their little heads in the wind and rain. They’d bring a smile to the grouchiest of people.  This year, the first one arrived on the 7th of January, the day after those three “wise” men.

But, having noticed the solitary snowdrop, I then started noticing that there was purple campanula in bloom all over the patio. Surely that’s not supposed to happen until June or July? So I know that it’s extremely cold across mainland Europe these days but on our little island, it has been ‘extremely’ mild this year.

painting of Bluebells by Yanny Petters
by Yanny Petters

Now, as you know, I don’t normally paint flowers – but I know some artists who do. There’s Yanny Petters who paints on glass (see above); there’s Nicola Lynch Morrin, Bid Flinn and Sarah Zoutewelle-Morris (see below). All of these images are on their websites which are well worth visiting (see the links below).

Nicola Lynch Morrin
by Nicola Lynch Morrin
painting of yellow tulips by Bridget Flinn
by Bridget Flinn
painting by Sarah Zoutewelle Morris
by Sarah Zoutewelle-Morris
Decor-Art UK photo of snow on pine
by Decor-Art UK

And then there’s photographs – another friend of mine has beautiful frosty photos on her website at:

Sarah Zoutewelle-Morris

Just a thought – I realise that all these artists are female. Is this a coincidence, I wonder, or do real men not paint flowers? Naw… Van Gogh painted flowers; So did Emil Nolde. Any thoughts?



Nature, photography

What do you do in the evening?

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of fire

“Ah, sometimes I sits and thinks”, she said, “and sometimes I just sits”. I was thinking about that old woman recently, when I finally got time to sit down.

And she reminded me of a film that I’d seen about the artist Natalia Black ARUA. Whilst expounding on the visual impact of a painting, she said: “My idea is to look at (paintings) and stare into them like one looks into the fire and thinks wordless thoughts…” (see her website here )

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Kippure mast

Funnily enough, I wasn’t sitting by the fireside at the time; I was sitting on top of the misty summit of Kippure in the Wicklow mountains. But isn’t there something about slow-moving clouds, like flickering flames or the never-ending sea, that just brings forth those ‘wordless thoughts’?

If only we could’ve stayed there for a while longer. But it was cold, and whenever it’s wet underfoot…

grasses on Kippure mountain photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn

Happy New Year, a chairde, let’s hope it’s a good one.