Concerning the Other, Irish art

Ten Concerned Artists

Concerning the Other art project

There’s been so much talk about statues lately – what they stand for, who put them up and what to do about them – maybe it was something in the ether but I know of ten artists who have been grappling with this thorny subject since early summer, long before the trouble happened in Charlottesville, USA.

It began with James Hanley’s drawing: “poking fun at the pomposity of statues” (see below left). For his initial image for the Concerning the Other collaborative art project, he drew a statue looking up at a ceremonial fly-over by the air force. When he passed it on to other artists in the group, they responded to it by painting over it or adding to it in some way and then passing it on again – until it landed on the desk of Ben Readman.

Ben “knocked over” the statue and replaced it with a Pokémon Go character (see below right). He mused that more attention was being paid to these ridiculous virtual creatures than to the millions of actual people who were being forced to flee their homes because of the war in Syria.

Pigment prints from the Concerning the Other collaborative art project

But then, believe it or not, I decided to reconstruct James Hanley’s statue when my turn came and I had various reasons for doing so. I was thinking that, despite all our so-called “freedoms”, that pompous character – the captain of industry – is still controlling the situation. You can tear down his statue if you like but it is society that needs to change.

When I received the artwork, I printed it out and folded it into the shape of a jet fighter. How do Western powers and Western industries show their concern for the Other? Answer: they facilitate the sale of military equipment and warplanes to both sides!  I rearranged all the various elements using Photoshop, trying to achieve a more balanced composition. (See the image at the top).

So I think we need a lot more measured discussion about what to do with these contentious statues. As I read recently on An Sionnach Fionn’s blog – It’s really about what is an appropriate symbol for a shared civic space.

Print from Concerning the Other collaborative art project

And with Concerning the Other, we were trying to promote compassion, diversity and concern for minorities in these days of mounting racism and intolerance. We wanted to do something to try and bring healing to the situation.

The ‘statue’ prints are from one strand of the artworks created for the exhibition. Many other themes are explored as well, by the ten “Concerned” artists. All will be revealed at the opening on Sunday, September 10th at the Olivier Cornet Gallery in Great Denmark Street, Dublin.

I hope some day you will join us…

Concerning the Other




Irish art, sculpture

When words fail…

sculpture by Willie Pearse of Roisin Dubh

“I’ve nothing to say”, he wrote, “we’re still here”.  That was all that Willie Pearse wrote to his mother from the burning GPO, during the Easter Rising of 1916. It’s hard to know what to make of that.

Well, I suppose that if you’ve nothing good to say, better to say nothing… better not add to the worry – but I’ve often wondered what was he thinking back then or indeed, what was he like at all. He was my great-granduncle – a dark eyed, lank-haired, pensive young man – if one can judge by the photos…

But he was an artist and I know something about that. I keep hearing about statues that he’s carved – one in Westland Row church, another in Mount Argus, and one I discovered in St. Stephen’s Green this week (see above). It is lovely to seek them out, over one hundred years later, and to discover how sensitive a touch he had.

photo of Our Lady of Sorrows by Willie Pearse, Westland Row Church
Our Lady of Sorrows by Willie Pearse, Westland Row Church

It was quite moving to be able to touch the smooth marble and to know that he had worked on it all those years ago, must’ve spent such intensely focused time on it, carving the marble and creating the beautiful sad face of Róisín Dubh. Ó a Róisín ná bíodh brón ort…

Bhuail an smaoineamh mé le déanaí – tá go leor, leor scríofa faoin bPiarsach ( ’sé sin Pádraic Mac Piarais ) ach céard faoin bPiarsach eile – Liam Mac Piarais?

Bhí mé i Ros Muc ar feadh seachtaine agus chuala mé roinnt scéalta spéisiúla faoi Phádraic ach tá a fhios againn gur chaith Liam tréimhsí ansin chomh maith – ach níor chuala muid aon rud faoi sin. Conas mar a thaithin an áit leis nó céard ar cheap muintir na h-áite faoi? Nó ar thug éinne faoi deara é, ar chor ar bith?

Portrait of Willie Pearse by Eoin Mac Lochlainn
My portrait in oils of my great-granduncle Willie Pearse

N’fheadar cén sort duine a bhí ann, an fear úd a mhúin ealaíon i Scoil Éanna tráth? An fear a mhúnlaigh na dealbha naofa do séipéil ar fud na tíre. An fear a bhíodh ag aisteoireacht ar an stáitse i mBaile Átha Cliath? An fear a cuireadh chun bás tar éis Éirí amach na Cásca?

Bhuel, sin-sean-uncail liomsa a bhí ann.  Ealaíontóir a bhí ann agus ealaíontoir mise freisin. Tá mé ag ceapadh go dtuigim leis – maidir leis an taobh sin dá phearsanacht.

Ní dóigh liom go raibh fonn air é féin a bhrú chun tosaigh ariamh ach tá mé cinnte go raibh sé sásta agus é ag obair leis sa stiúideo. Más féidir le h-ealaíontóir seans a fháil le bheith ag obair, gan aon bhriseadh nó cur isteach, níl aon rud a thaithníonn níos fearr leis nó léi.

Agus is cinnte gur chaith sé go leor ama ar na dealbha sin.  Imíonn an tuirse is fanann an tairbhe.

PS: the face of Róisín Dubh can be found in the lower part of a larger monument to the poet James Clarence Mangan, in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin.


Gaeltacht, Irish History

What makes a small place so special?

oil painting by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Carraroe, Connemara
an old oil painting of mine, a sunny day near Carna

So there was this conversation about what was the true Connemara – was it the mist-covered mountains, was it the bogs and the myriad lakes, was it the stone walls and the little fields or was it Cois Fharraige by the sea…

When there’s no television and no broadband, some people go a little crazy, I suppose, but I remember insisting: –  that there had to be the sea, and floating seaweed, and the lonesome cry of the curlew;  there had to be the scent of turf fires burning; there had to be mountains in the distance, and always, the possibility of rain – but most of all – there had to be the Gaeltacht people, and Gaeltacht life.

And Ros Muc has all that – no wonder that the poet and revolutionary Patrick Pearse was drawn to it, back in the last century. “The most intensely Irish-speaking part of Co. Galway (indeed of Ireland) is Iar-Connacht”, he wrote to a friend, “and the most Irish speaking part of Iar-Connacht is the parish of Ros Muc. It is out of the tourist track but the scenery is wild and glorious…”.

Last week we were over there again, this time with independent filmmaker Marcus Howard, and we were working on a film about Patrick Pearse. We did an interview with Colm Ó Mainnín who has a great store of knowledge about the area and about Pearse’s time in Ros Muc. We also interviewed my brother Fearghas who is a schoolmaster in Indreabhán.

photo of Coilmin O Mainnin and Fearghas Mac Lochlainn
Coilmín Ó Mainnín agus Fearghas Mac Lochlainn i Ros Muc    Photo: Seán Ó Mainnín
Marcus Howard and Eoin Mac Lochlainn filming in Ros Muc
Marcus agus mé fhéin i mbun scannánaíochta ag Caladh na Leice, Ros Muc    Photo:  Fionnuala Rockett

So what do you think?  Why do we keep going back?  Do you have special places that you return to again and again?  What is it that draws you back there?  I’d love to hear your stories…

Slán go fóill, eoin

Marcus Howard – Easter Rising Stories



community festivals, Gaeltacht

Holy Mountain

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Mamean Pilgrimage, Connemara

Now, a bit of a photo essay for you today.  I’m just back from the wilds of Connemara and yes, I can confirm that it’s all four seasons there, in the one day.  What a wonderful place to visit.

But did you ever hear of Mám Éan? – It’s a holy place in the middle of the Maumturk mountains and we had the special privilege of joining the local community there last week for the annual pilgrimage on the first Sunday of August.

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Mamean Pilgrimage, Connemara

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Mamean Pilgrimage, Connemara

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Mamean Pilgrimage, Connemara

This pilgrimage, linking back to the Celtic harvest feast of Lughnasa, was revived in recent years by An tAthair Micheál Mac Gréil. The pilgrims walk from either side of the Maumturks to the site. Two holy wells, St. Patrick’s Bed and some other leachtana are the focus of older customs, while more recently the revival has involved the Stations of the Cross and then Mass at the restored Mass rock. There is a statue up there too, sculpted by Clíodhna Cussen.

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Mamean Pilgrimage, Connemara

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Mamean Pilgrimage, Connemara

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Mamean Pilgrimage, Connemara

I have to admit that we beat a hasty retreat afterwards, as a roguish raincloud dumped bucketfuls of rain on top of us as we clambered down the mountainside. However, in no time at all, the sun retook control of the elements and pierced the clouds with glorious shafts of sunlight.


photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Mamean Pilgrimage, Connemara

community festivals, Irish art

Friends – and not just Facebook friends

Photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Veronica Bolay RHA, Shay O'Byrne and myself at the Hamilton Gallery
Artists Veronica Bolay RHA, Seamus O’Byrne and myself at the Hamilton Gallery

It has come to my notice that people actually read my blog-posts from time to time and this gives me a warm fuzzy feeling inside. Yes, it’s really nice to get comments and smilies and such – and I feel very privileged to have made such good friends around the art world, over the years.

And I don’t just mean the artists, it’s great to hear from people who are genuinely interested in the Arts – in fact we artists depend on them!

But I was about to say that the Cairde Arts Festival exhibition is on in Sligo at the moment and of course, the word Cairde is the Irish for friends.

And we met up with many old friends last week, first in Boyle and then in Sligo. The group exhibition “Crazy Jane” is still on at the Hamilton Gallery and then there’s the exhibition at The Model which looks really impressive.

This one is entitled The Model presents Cairde Visual and it’s the fourth annual open submission exhibition of the Cairde Arts Festival. It features work by 87 artists with paintings, drawings, sculpture, lens-based work and installation – and I’m chuffed to have one of my Tinteán Tréigthe paintings selected for the show.

The Model, Sligo from the front
The Model, Sligo from the front
The Model, Sligo from the back (or the new front)
The Model, Sligo from the back (or the new front)

The Model is one of Ireland’s leading contemporary art centres. Built in 1862 as a Model School, the present building has been completely refurbished and extended to include a restaurant, a bookshop, a purpose-built performance space, wonderful bright galleries and a suite of artist’s studios on the top floor.

This award-winning building is home to the Niland collection, one of the most notable art collections in Ireland, featuring works by Jack B. Yeats, Paul Henry, Estella Solomons and Louis Le Brocquy to name but a few.

But back to the present. Do please keep sending in your words of wisdom, your comments and your requests. Is there a particular subject that might be of interest to you?

Just click on the brown ‘comment button’ to the right of the top photo.