Great show – but where were the artists?

"Humans sharing Spaces", by John at the CHQ Building this week
From “Humans sharing Spaces” – a collage by John …

Unusual for a group exhibition – none of the artists turned up for the opening – but I was there myself and there was a great buzz, with speeches and applause, canapés, smoked salmon and all that jazz.

People felt very proud (I was delighted myself when I saw one particular piece on display). Everyone said that it was a great achievement – but a great pity that the artists themselves weren’t there to see it.

And if you were wondering why that was, well, it’s because they are all still in prison. It was an exhibition of artworks made by people in prison and it was entitled: “Humans sharing Spaces”, a joint initiative by the Irish Prison Service Education Centres and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

"Humans sharing Spaces" at the CHQ Building, Dublin
Before the opening of “Humans sharing Spaces” at the CHQ Building, Dublin

I did an Arts Council project in Cloverhill Prison last year, working with the prisoners to produce artworks for this exhibition. The piece you saw at the top is by John (we can’t use his full name) but would you believe that John had never done art before this project!

He told me that the tower at the bottom of the collage was known locally as “the Cup and Saucer” in his hometown, and that he saw the flying doves in a book about Magritte… Of all the works in the show (and there were hundreds more submitted), I was delighted that this piece got selected. Congratulations John.

It’s always a bit of a rollercoaster ride working in a prison. When you think of it: hundreds of (mostly) young men living in close proximity with strangers; lonely for their loved ones; possibly trying to deal with an addiction; maybe traumatised by some unresolved incident – it can be very difficult for them to come to grips with this new situation.

oil painting by Eoin Mac Lochlainn
“Graduate”, 50 x 50cm, oil on canvas, 2011 – one of my own paintings (in the collection of the state)

But in the art class, there’s a supportive atmosphere. We talk about mixing colours. We talk about the home place, about dreams, about the great artists… For a few hours, we forget about the present and we venture into a world of new possibilities. We begin to make art.

The exhibition continues until the 26th of March in the prestigious CHQ Building in Dublin and I’m told that it will tour to some other venues later on in the year.





  1. That’s great Eoin. Sounds like a great project. Fair play to you. You were so busy last year. I didn’t know half of what you were up to! Hope you are both well. Clare


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Congratulations to John, and to yourself for teaching in prison. It’s easy for people to forget that prisoners are human beings. Seeing a work of art by a prisoner can help remind them.


  3. Maith thú , Eoin. I often wonder are the right people in our jails ? Our concept of jail is archaic – I like the Dutch and Nordic concepts – except for very serious / mortal crimes I doubt the need for forcibly confining people, denying them liberty and a route of progression – art is such , so it transcends those boundaries – interesting event here at Cloughjordan soon on Art and 1916 – more ‘criminals’……….Sunday 30th April 3pm. Heritage Centre.

    Explore the power of the arts and creativity to challenge injustice and transform society. Introduced by Peadar Kirby, this presentation by Dr. Caoilfhionn Ní Bheacháin and Dr. Angus Mitchell from the University of Limerick will reflect on the role of the artist and on the importance of culture in the Rising of 1916.

    Followed by a tour through Cloughjordan Ecovillage to the new Community Amphitheatre, which will offer the opportunity to link the arts with the great challenges of our times, for social justice and environmental sustainability.


  4. Can’t imagine what its like to live confined like that. Love both those pictures – the first one really draws you inwards. Go raibh maith agat, Maev


  5. Ar smaoinigh tú riamh ar “príosúnacht/ liberty and/or lack thereof”, nó a leithéid a úsáid mar théama dod chuid ealaíne. Tuigeann tú nach bhfuil aon difir idir príosúnaigh agus daoine eile (except they were caught?!), agus tá neart taithí agat ar bheith leo, gan trácht ar an taispeántas a bhí agat i gCill Mhaighneann.


Leave a Reply, I'd like to hear your viewpoint.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s