What has Nelson’s head, aerial photography, art exhibitions and the Irish Georgian Society got in common?

photograph by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of IGS Octagonal room Dublin

Well, it all started with photographs taken from an aeroplane during the First World War. Then Olivier Cornet decided to curate a special touring art exhibition in response to them.  And yesterday we installed the artworks in the Octagonal Room of the City Assembly Hall in South William Street, Dublin 2. This exhibition opens on Thursday and continues until the 28th of February.

OK, the City Assembly Hall  – we used to know it as the Civic Museum, where the head of Nelson was kept (after it had been blown up, off of Nelson’s pillar in O’Connell Street). But this building was originally built for The Society of Artists in Ireland during the 1760s, and its grand octagonal exhibition room was the first purpose-built public art gallery in Ireland, and Britain, and even in Europe, or so they tell me.

But it had been closed for the last 10 years and was slowly crumbling, until the Irish Georgian Society took it over and started to renovate it. You can see in the photo above, the original plaster is disintegrating; it’s a nightmare to try and hang paintings on it but, it’s an amazing space with wonderful light. The Irish Georgian Society will be replastering and repainting all this in the next few months but I have to say that I like it now in its delapidated state – a relic of auld decency.

And the Olivier Cornet Gallery is holding a special exhibition here for the next few weeks entitled: “A Terrible Beauty”. It’s an extended version of the show that was first presented at VUE at the Royal Hibernian Academy of Arts in November, 2014.

Aerial Photograph by Francois Bost
Aerial Photograph by Francois Bost

The photograph above was one of the photos taken from an aeroplane during the First World War. You can just make out the trenches, and yes, those tiny white dots are soldiers, God help them. It was taken during the Battle of the Somme and the photographer was Francois Bost (1881 – 1970).

Bost was the great grand uncle of Olivier Cornet. “I saw his aerial photographs when I was a kid”, he told me, “and they just looked beautiful to me…” So he worked with several of his gallery artists to bring about this exhibition. They included: Michelle Byrne, Hugh Cummins, Mark Doherty, Conrad Frankel, John Fitzsimons, Jordi Forniés, Eoin Mac Lochlainn, Yanny Petters, Kelly Ratchford, Hanneke van Ryswyk and Adrienne Symes. There is an essay by the Irish Times arts writer Cathy Dillon to accompany the show.

Below, one of the pieces that I will be showing, entitled “Waiting”. It’s a pretty big piece – 90 x 120cm (about 3ft x 4ft) – so you can judge for yourself the size of the room when you see this hanging up there under the window!




And another Quiz Question:  Where is the head of Nelson held these days, now that they’ve closed the Civic Musum?

More about this exhibition at:


More about the Octagonal Room at:


More about my own work at:





    • Hello again Aysha, mostly I take part in group exhibitions around Ireland – which is not a big place – so no, I wouldn’t say that I get to travel much with my art. (Maybe that’s why I began blogging about it – to reach a wider audience) I like showing my work because it was made to communicate with others. But it’s also a bit worrying because I never know if people will like it. When they do, it gives me a great feeling!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Your work is fantastic, although I am surprised to find that you don’t travel more often! How is the art scene in Ireland? I can’t tell you all that much about this side of the Atlantic, as I’m primarily interested in graphic design and street art.
        I’m sure your work will find its way to more people!


  1. What a beautiful space. I agree with you, and so wish they would leave it in it’s rough state. It would be sad to get it all slick white and polished, especially for this exhibition’s theme. Looks like a quality show, glad you’re getting your work out there, it has a lot to communicate, and I feel it needs to be seen.


    • Thanks for that Sarah. Yes, isn’t there something very interesting about an old, crumbling space. It seems to hold many ghosts within its walls. But I imagine that they won’t be making it pure white in the end – possibly grey-green or maroon, like in Georgian times (18th century). Ah well… we were delighted to get the chance to exhibit here at this stage, anyway 🙂


  2. They look really good in the space Eoin, great to see ‘A Terrible Beauty’ in a different space such as this, full of atmosphere and history, Congratulations to you, the other artists and the gallery


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