Breaking into the Irish Museum of Modern Art

painting of Birdsong by Eoin Mac Lochlainn mixed media, canvas and steel wire
Birdsong,  oil on canvas, metal grid and shadow

So yes, my work is now in the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA).  Maybe not exactly where you might expect it but it’s there nonetheless.

This story starts in my mother’s garden in the late 1980s.  Not quite the gripping psychological crime drama but more an artful whodunit mystery story with a splash of horticultural colour and intrigue.  It concerns one Dr. Clodagh Emoe, one group of asylum seekers and a collaborative art project that brings together poetry, art and Crocosmia.

Crocosmia is the official name for that exuberant orange flower that blooms all over the West of Ireland (Montbretia is another name for it) and we also had it growing in my mother’s garden and subsequently, in our own front garden in Harold’s Cross.

Photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Montbretia in Connemara

Crocosmia is also the name of a group of writers and poets who were seeking asylum here in Ireland. Dr. Emoe worked with this group developing an art project which involved growing the Crocosmia in the garden of the Spirasi Centre and later on, in the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

They chose the Crocosmia because it originally came from Africa but has adapted well to our misty climate, flourishing in the hedgerows and adding a great splash of colour to the Irish countryside – a nice metaphor, wouldn’t you say.

Anyway, a few years ago, I donated a big clump of it from our garden and I helped to plant them out in the garden of IMMA, as my contribution to the art project.

I kept an eye on their progress and they seemed to be doing well in their new home until last Spring when I noticed (I never told anyone about this) but I noticed an interloper amongst the fresh green leaves of Crocosmia.

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of forget me nots at the Irish Museum of Modern Art IMMA

No doubt about it, they were Forget-me-nots. In fact, they were our Forget-me-nots. They had stowed away in our Crocosmia and now they were after inveigling themselves into the art project without as much as a one page proposal.

They say that if you have Forget-me-nots in your garden, you’re never going to have a tidy garden. That’s fine with me – who says that gardens should be tidy anyway – but those seeds get everywhere and their tiny flowers pop up all over the place. (Their happy hoards of blue had completely taken over my mother’s garden towards the end).

And now, they’re growing in IMMA. (Well, I’m presuming that they’re still there because this is the time of year for them). Below, you’ll see how they’re making themselves at home in our back garden at the moment.

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of forget me nots in bloom

So that’s the story of how my mother’s wildflowers ended up in the Irish Museum of Modern Art.  She would’ve been happy with that , I’d say – she never really went for all that “mad modern stuff.”

I’m not sure what she would’ve made of my painting at the top of the page.  I created this piece some fifteen years ago but I thought it timely for these days with all of us self-isolating and maybe wishing we could break out too.  (Don’t do it!)

Finally, there’s a moral to my story after all.  Nature is irrepressible.  Those Forget-me-nots never give up – so keep scrubbing those hands!

Stay safe, and see you next Thursday.


Dr. Clodagh Emoe



  1. Sadly now , even alarmingly, there is an emergency Morgue installed in IMMA /RHK grounds beside us here at HSQ , hopefully continuing to be surplus to requirements -it’s SO important we ‘stay the course’ with our patience ; internalise our creativity and share it , as in this lovely, resonant and nourishing message from you Eoin ; maith thú…………………………………


  2. Thaitin an scéal sin liom go mór.

    Ainm eile ar Montbretia/ crocosmia ná ‘flame flower’ toisc an dath atá ar na bláthanna.

    I think this is a suitable name for the Spirasi Centre caring for victims of torture, because the flame can represent new life, and it reminds me of the long song (hymn) ‘Beauty for Brokenness’ of which I quote a few lines here:

    Beauty for brokenness, hope for despair,
    Lord, in your suffering, this is our prayer
    Refuge from cruel wars, havens from fear,
    Cities for sanctuary, freedoms to share.
    Lighten our darkness, breathe on this flame,
    Until your justice burns brightly again.
    Melt our cold hearts, let tears fall like rain,
    Come, change our love from a spark to a flame.


  3. I really like this piece, to me it’s what gardens and gardening is all about, sharing the plants with friends, family, neighbors and passers by who happen to like a flower or plant. I love the thought of the ongoing cycle of planting and sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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