Well, of course I’m delighted that my painting (above) got accepted into the annual exhibition of the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) but I came across something recently on the internet that put a bit of a damper on my scamper.
I’m not sure anyway, if it’s a good thing for artists to be taking part in competitions. Isn’t it hard enough to produce something worthwhile without having to put yourself through the stress of anticipation, disappointment, resentment, jealousy etc – just for the temporary thrill of the odd conquest…
But there you go, they had 2450 entries to the RHA this year and only 321 pieces got selected. (That’s just under 13% of the entries)
But now, I’m going to show you some wonderful pieces of art – and they’re not from the RHA. It’s hard to believe it but all these pieces below are from the Texaco Children’s Art Competition. (I got these images from the Irish Times website and you can see more of them here – great photos by Nick Bradshaw).
The artists below range in age from 7 to 15 years old. Boy, oh boy – wait untilthey start submitting to the RHA!
Yes, there’s a problem with homelessness in Ireland. It brings shame on us all – we’re supposed to be “cherishing all our children equally” but there are over 260 people sleeping rough on the streets of the capital every night and 70 families, still losing their homes every month. This is the concrete results of those “austerity measures”.
So the big news this week is that a group of concerned citizens took over Apollo House, an empty office block in Tara Street in Dublin and made it available to people who had lost their homes. Of course, it was an illegal act – but a good one.
The empty building was under the control of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), the ‘bad bank’ set up by the Irish government after the economic crash. Since the weekend, volunteers have been working flat out to make the building reasonably suitable as accommodation.
There has been a huge outpouring of support for the project, with more than €90,000 being raised through a GoFundMe page in the first 3 days for the “Home Sweet Home” campaign. It’s still going on – click on that link yourself!
Activists including singer/songwriter Glen Hansard argue that because the building is linked to NAMA, it belongs to the Irish people… “This is an act of civil disobedience”, he said, “We shouldn’t have to do it but the government is not doing its job to house the homeless.”
So that’s my Christmas story for you. It’s great to see the people caring about the most vulnerable in our society, even if the government doesn’t.
Nollaig Shona, a chairde. Have a lovely Christmas, talk soon, eoin
I painted these trees on a windy mountainside in northwest Donegal – probably not Christmas trees, just the regular forestry trees. I had often tramped those lonely mountain tracks, wandering and wondering.
Now? No, I’m not a big fan of Christmas anymore. Maybe it’s just for kids. But I find the parties, the ridiculous jumpers, the presents, the shopping to be like a foreign world where other people participate in strangely meaningless excesses.
When did it change for me? I can’t say… I saw a documentary on telly last night, ‘Toughest Place to be’, the tale of a street cleaner from Dublin who travelled to the Philippines to work with a street cleaner over there. The poverty in Manilla was utterly shocking.
Shocking, and yet, they were waiting in joyful hope…
But now, thanks to my faraway friend in Los Angeles, here’s something nice to change the mood – Christmas songs in Manx Gaelic. My favourite one has to be: “Bee dty Host” performed by Caarjyn Cooidjagh. (presumably translated as: ‘Bí i do thost’ or: ‘Be silent’) See the link just below:
So I was caught cheating! Or so I’m told – but I beg to differ. Let me explain. Last week, I put up an image of Pearse’s Cottage in Ros Muc, a painting that I did over 20 years ago. But strangely enough, the painting that you saw never really existed. (you can see the image here)
And this one above – that one never existed either. But do you like it? I remember a scene just like that in January this year. I was staying in Ros Muc on an artist’s residency and it was a cold, frosty morning. As the mist gradually lifted, I could just make out the cottage across the lake, such a peaceful, homely scene.
So here I was, at my computer, searching for an image that would tell my story. I suppose you heard about Photoshop? Well, down below is the original painting but I thought that I could improve it. (you probably know that artists are never really happy with their work, they think that it could always be improved). So now, which version do you prefer?
And anyway, what could be wrong with using computers to make art? Isn’t it just another tool, like a pencil or a paintbrush? I wasn’t happy with the way I’d painted the water in the original. That’s why the original had to be changed. And it was quite exciting to work on it afresh. I might even paint a new version, a misty one, now that I see the result.
But the thing is – you’ll never see the original, hanging on the wall. You won’t be able to see the mark of the artist’s hand. That’s the difference really, between a painting and a photograph. But I like taking photographs too. It’s not a case of one or the other. See the photograph below – this is one I took back in January, with two swanny-swans gliding across the lake…
So let me know what you think. And which of the three images do you prefer?
Chips. Well, I don’t know but I’ve been told that some people have big chips on their shoulders about various aspects of the art world – about certain art practices, certain art institutions and certain art galleries.
Take the Douglas Hyde Gallery in Trinity College for instance. There are two separate spaces here, the large space which exhibits “significant” contemporary artists and the smaller Gallery 2 which generally shows outsider art, craft, textiles and ethnographic objects – you might say: works by people who never heard of the “significant” contemporary artists in the other gallery. I don’t know but I’m a bit uncomfortable with this policy, this unhappy juxtaposition of two different worlds but shur, that’s probably to do with certain chips that I have myself, weighing down on my unenlightened shoulders.
Anyway, I wanted to talk about Seanie Barron and his wonderful sticks, now showing in Gallery 2. They are walking sticks with all sorts of carved and whittled handles, one of his specialities is the “Tickler” stick, which has a hook on the shaft to hold down electric fencing. (if you were a farmer, you’d know what I’m talking about). Manchán Magan had a lovely interview with him in the Irish Times recently…
“I’ve been at it for as long as I can remember, making sticks and selling them down the town,” says Barron. “You’d always get the old price of a pint. ’Tis very handy when things would be slack. I worked as a farm labourer when I was a gasún, and often a fellow would say, ‘Is there any ash sticks up above in those fields?’, and I just got into the habit then of making them…”
So it’s well worth a visit to the Douglas Hyde Gallery at the moment. As you see in the photos above, it’s just a long line of walking sticks, leaning against the wall but have a good look at them, they’ll surely give you a lift. And have a read of that article/interview too at:
Oh dear, well yes, I’ve always said that I like those ‘Conversation with the artist’ events but there’s one on this week with a difference – the artist is me. It’ll be a conversation between the artist/curator Claire Halpin and myself and it’ll be happening this Thursday at 6.30pm at the Olivier Cornet Gallery at 3 Great Denmark Street, next door to Belvedere College. Now Claire is well established as an expert in her field and she’s familiar with my work at this stage – so what’s the problem, you ask… Ah, it’s just me, and public speaking.
Actually I’ve plenty to say when I get going, but you know, talking about art can be tricky. Everybody approaches it differently. I prefer the straight-talking version. You won’t be hearing too many quotes from obscure German philosophers, let’s say (although there could be some philosophers in the audience, of course).
No but what I do want to say, as we come to the end of this exhibition, is: Go raibh míle maith agaibh, and: Thank you all very much – for coming to the opening or for coming along in the following weeks. I really appreciate your interest and your support, it makes all the difference.
I also want to thank a couple of people for their wonderful reviews – Brian McAvera in the ‘Irish Arts Review’, Aidan Kelly Murphy in ‘Le Cool Dublin’, Kate Finnegan on ‘Imeall’ (TG4) and also, all of you who wrote comments in the visitors’ book. Your comments are always welcome here too. Click on the little brown speech bubble up at the top right of this post and you can put your comment there. Thanks again, eoin
Too stressed to write this week. Well, almost. There’s a time in the lead-up to an exhibition when EVERYTHING has to be decided. Picking the right image for the invitation. Rewriting the artist’s statement. Choosing the title for the show. Thinking about the publicity. Who might open the show for me? Who will be coming to the opening? Will you? Will he? Will she? Oh me, oh my, I hope that little lady goes by…
Yes, it’s a bit crazy. And I just want to lock the door of the studio and keep everyone out. I’m still working. I still have half a dozen possibilities. With these last few paintings, this one (maybe) or that one – could be the masterpiece. It’s always the same – maybe this time, maybe this time…
So what’s my solution? Yes, lock the door! (I’m sorry) Danger, keep out! Beware of the artist! “Diaspora” is the title of the exhibition. I’ll tell you more later. For now, a couple of recent works, possibles for the show. You do know that your comments here are very much appreciated?