Yes, I’d have to admit that this is a dark painting. The saddest bit for me was the fallen Christmas wreath in the grate. How long did it lie there? When did it fall? What was the story of the final occupants of this old abandoned house?
This is one of four paintings that I submitted to Glór in Ennis, Co. Clare for the open exhibition entitled: Small Town Decline: Rural Patterns of Decay. The work was selected by an independent panel of curators and I’m delighted to report that all four were accepted. The exhibition includes print, photography, sculpture, ceramics and textiles as well as paintings and it is an important exhibition in a very impressive art centre.
The word ‘glór’ translates as: sound, music, tone, voice or call. Isn’t it wonderful how one little word can carry so many subtly different meanings. I was reading recently about the importance of languages on a website called GlobalVoices and I quote from it below…
Languages are a living manifestation of humanity’s long history on this planet. Reaching across time like a tapestry weaving generations together, languages transmit centuries of accumulated wisdom related to human adaptation and survival. They contain vital information related to land management, subsistence patterns, kinship and social relationships, local customs, cosmology and much more.
Every language represents a unique way of interpreting and conveying the human experience in a specific cultural and environmental context. Languages are ever-evolving, they are shared museums of the mind … A language is a doorway that accesses the human imagination. Sayings, poetry, song lyrics – all are possible because of the expressive power of language. Proverbs, idioms and jokes reveal the subtle nuances of a culture through rhythm, rhyme and punchline. A language’s creative potential goes beyond the lifespan of a single individual. It is the sound of a collective soul that lives and dies within each speaker. When a language is transmitted to a subsequent generation of speakers, its soul keeps on living.
This wonderful passage was written by Anna Luisa Daigneault and it’s from an article to commemorate the United Nations’ Year of Indigenous Languages (2019). It came to mind as I was wandering around the exhibition at Glór. I often worry about the depopulation of the countryside and the subsequent loss of rural traditions. My series of empty fireplace paintings was all about this. It was originally inspired by a poem by Cathal Ó Searcaigh entitled: Na Bailte Bánaithe which explores this same issue.
I was on an artist’s residency in Gort a’ Choirce in Donegal when I met him. He’d just written this poem about how spirits haunt the land long after the people who had lived there were gone. Here’s a short extract, with my own translation below.
Tá ochlán chaointe sa ghaoth
a shéideann aniar ó Altán
is anseo tá damhán alla
ag fí aibíd an bháis
i bhfuinneog bhearnach an tseantí
inar chonaí mo chineál fadó.
There’s a loud wailing cry on the wind
that blows eastward from Altan
and a spider weaves a shroud
in the vacant window of the house
where my people lived long ago.
But now, I’d have to mention that Clare is such a lively county and its reputation as a centre of culture is well deserved. It feels great to visit and to be inspired once again. This exhibition continues at Glór until the 18th of January, 2020. Well worth a visit!