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.
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: