“A Trace and a Shadow” – drawing on the past

photogaph by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of installation by Brian Fay


If Charles Dickens was alive in Dublin today, I think he might write about NAG. This is a diminutive art gallery at the bottom of a crooked staircase in the basement of number 59, Francis Street in the Liberties, the oldest part of Dublin city. NAG stands for New Art Gallery. It is run by one Mark St.John Ellis, a lofty, upright gentleman from Birmingham who always wears black. Upstairs is the Cross Gallery, the proprietor being one Nicholas Gore-Grimes… but on this occasion, dear Reader, I will confine my letters to the work of the artist Brian Fay, who has an exhibition of exquisite drawings in NAG at the moment.

So, first of all I want to mention that Fay has just won 1st Prize in the prestigious Derwent Art Prize for his pencil drawing entitled “Looted salt mine 1945 Manet in the Winter Garden”.

Next, his exhibition entitled “Of the Survival of images (and objects)” continues at NAG until the end of October. You really need to see these works up close, they are very delicate pencil drawings, details from X-rays of Rembrandt paintings, examining their gradual deterioration, a meditation on time and impermanence and a homage to the old masters.

But the image above and the detail below are from his installation at the Pearse Museum, part of the Palimpsest/ Rianú Project. Here again he is seeking out traces from the past – this time using carbon paper and taking tracings of fragments from the Pearse Papers collection in the National Library.  “When a line is inscribed on carbon paper”, he writes, “the ink surface is displaced, so the line is actually a removed remark. The carbon paper drawings are backlit by light coming through the window from the environment of the house. I believe this alludes to the dynamic of the Pearse legacy; being both historically present and removed, being both a trace and a shadow”.  Again, I have to say: you gotta see this for yourself, my photographs just can’t do justice to the work.


art by Brian Fay

The Palimpsest/ Rianú Project, curated by Claire Halpin and myself, continues at the Pearse Museum until the end of November. The museum is open every day except Tuesday, from 9.30 – 5.30pm. Drop out for a visit, it’s in St.Enda’s Park in Rathfarnham and there’s a nice coffee shop there too.







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