Are we living in trepidation?

Two Choices, 20 x 40cm, oil on canvas/ wood
Two Choices, 20 x 40cm, oil on canvas/ wood

I have an exhibition in the old Belltable Arts Centre in Limerick at the moment and Helen Carey, director/curator of the Limerick City Gallery of Art opened it officially for me last week. She made some very interesting observations in her speech, I thought, so I’d like to mention them here as well.

She worked in London some years ago, on a 2 year project in Homelessness and she talked about how artists there were involved in improving the environment in hostels etc – but what she found most interesting, was the impact that homeless people had on the artists, and on society in general.

She found the homeless people she worked with to be extremely open and honest. “When the everyday goals were simply matters of survival,” she said, “dissemblance achieved nothing”. But this honesty could be difficult to handle and would challenge our way of thinking in “settled” society. She said she saw in my works, an invitation to look into the eyes of the homeless person and to feel their isolation.

She also talked about a “cardboard city” which used to be in the underpass at Waterloo Station in London.  “On your way to the National Theatre, you encountered the stateless, homeless. The complexity of the constructed cardboard dwellings was a mirror of the complex relational structures of the people who lived there, with their pets and their own society. And in many ways, the idea of alternative societies is often what artists appear to construct. They become the ‘other’ and the general population doesn’t understand how they live (or how to deal with them). And it seems that we as societies are always in trepidation of the other…”


And we talked about what it might mean – to be homeless. I think that it’s more a feeling of being unwanted, of not belonging, of being an ‘outsider’ – rather than simply not having a proper place to stay. It’s about feeling insecure, unsure, unprotected… actually, I think that many of us feel like that from time to time, maybe more so these days, perhaps?

But I have an installation of drawings on cardboard in the exhibition (see below). I wondered if I was homeless and I had cardboard and a black marker, would I use it to write: “Please Help, I’m Hungry”, or would I start making art, right there on the street? I just don’t know but, as an artist, I feel grateful that I can create images out of thin air. I can picture places I’d like to be, people I used to know, things I could maybe have… That’s why I called the installation: “Where there is art, there is hope”.


There’ll be more info about Dídean/ Home on my website at:

I always look forward to your comments, thanks, eoin



  1. Congratulations on the show Eoin, we wish we had been there. I’ve seen on many occasions what became known as “cardboard city” The city within a city, it’s a place I think that had a level of belonging for the “outsider”. Maybe that’s what Home is, with all it’s different layers of interpretation, a sense of belonging. Great post, thank you


    • A sense of belonging, yes indeed… But regarding the term “Outsider”, the latest official term for what used to be a ‘homeless person’. I’m not too happy with that term, actually. It seems to me that by labelling someone as an “Outsider”, it possibly increases the chances that they will be treated differently… I dunno, what do you think?


  2. Yes, we are living in trepidation of the other. We have a sense of comfort with people who look and feel and sound like we do. When we say, Dublin is a small place, we maybe really mean: the middle class segment where I grew up – meeting the same kind of people with the same kind of possessions and the same kind of education and the same kind of hobbies. Maybe also, or most likely in the eighties when I came of age, with the same kind of skin. I am afraid that I might be racist, afraid of difference, afraid of who I will meet or what I will encounter when I step away from the more familiar, when I move outside the same-ness circle. Even if I am careful to avoid the way of opening a sentence with ‘I’ve nothing against foreigners but you know that…” I am afraid that sneaky suspicions about the other-ness of someone different from me still rest inside me and still influence my responses, even if not overtly. I am sorry that this is how I am. The last thing I should be is smug.


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