art exhibitions, community festivals

Irish Portraits

unfinished sketch of Richard Allen by Dave Gleeson
Sketch of Richard Allen by Dave Gleeson

There’s a lot happening at the Harold’s Cross Community Festival this week but I’ll just tell you today about the show that I’m curating as part of it.

It’s an exhibition of portraits by local artist Dave Gleeson. (That’s one of his drawings above). He makes these meticulous, finely crafted drawings in graphite and pastel that must take an age to complete. Each piece is carefully composed using various references to tell the story of the sitter.

But the drawing above is unfinished (I unceremoniously wrested it out of his grasp for this blog post) because I wanted to show you Richard Allen, the celebrated Quaker and philanthropist who was born in 1803 at 201, Harold’s Cross Road, Dublin (seen below).  It’s in a terrible state at the moment but the good news is that it has finally been agreed to fix it up.

Photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Quaker house in Harold's Cross, Dublin

The theme of the festival this year is diversity and inclusion. There was a great lecture about the Quakers on Tuesday evening. I’ll tell you – those Quakers got themselves into an awful lot of trouble down through the centuries for many reasons. For instance, they believed in equal status for men and women; they believed in everyone being equal in the eyes of God; they refused to pay tithes to the Anglican church; they refused to take an oath of allegiance to any monarch. I tell you: the more I hear, the more I like them!

But Richard Allen was active in movements for prison reform, the abolition of the death penalty and more particularly, for the abolition of slavery. In 1840 he attended the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London, the other Irish delegates being Daniel O’Connell and Richard Robert Madden. His friends included the freed slave Frederick Douglass, the temperance campaigner Fr. Theobald Mathew, the philanthropist Dr. Barnardo and the composer Thomas Moore.

And did I mention that he also raised £20,000 to help victims of the Irish Famine? His concern for the other was second to none.

His portrait can be seen alongside portraits of various Irish personalities from the literary and musical world at La Galerie Impromptu in Harold’s Cross until Sunday, the 14th of May. Well worth a visit!

And, speaking of “Concern for the Other”, there was an innovative new art project launched this week that you might like. I’ll tell you more about it next week but in the meantime, you could check out:


art, community festivals

The Common Good

painting of PH Pearse by Eoin Mac Lochlainn
“…to sacrifice themselves for the common good”

You may remember back in May, artists were invited to respond to The Proclamation of the Irish Republic for an exhibition in Clones, Co. Monaghan. The idea was that they would request a postcard from the Clones Art Studios (which is based in the old Post Office in Clones) and they would turn it into a small artwork and post it back for the exhibition. This exhibition was curated by Eileen Ferguson and proved to be a really interesting show.

Now the exhibition has been invited to the Galerie la Vieille Poste in Larroque in the south of France – and of course, this is la galerie de mon vieil ami, Kenneth Hay.  And of course, both art spaces are based in old post offices.  My piece for the show in Larroque is above, it’s a photoshopped version of a large painting that I did earlier this year.  I’m doing a lot of work in photoshop these days, enjoying messing around with virtual artworks on the computer, instead of painting real ones in the studio.  It’s because I’m working on a video for my art project in Ros Muc… “Lens-based art”, they call it.  A change is as good as a rest, I suppose, but you know, I can feel the studio calling me back.

photo by Ken Hay
Galerie la vieille Poste, Larroque

No but, I wanted to emphasise the idea from the Proclamation of doing something for the “Common Good”.  An idea that seems to have lost currency these days. How did that happen, do you think?  We’re sorely in need of some visionary leadership again, I reckon.  Any thoughts?



art, community festivals

If these walls could talk, what stories they’d tell…

oil painting by Eoin Mac Lochlainn
Tinteán Tréigthe no.7, oil on canvas, 2015

Ok, it’s all about the galleries this week – you might’ve heard about the Dublin Gallery Weekend, a new walking visual arts festival that runs from the 11th to the 13th of September?  When I say: a walking festival, I mean yes, you have to walk from one gallery to the next but…  well, they’ve just published a crispy new edition of the Dublin Gallery Map and most of the galleries listed on the map will be involved in this weekend and there’s a great programme of art exhibitions and events going on across the city.

And, of course, The Olivier Cornet Gallery will be involved, operating from its bright new premises at 3 Great Denmark Street (next door to Belvedere College).

On Saturday, a special event will take place in the gallery with the art historian/ storyteller Jean Ryan. Jean specialises in art that is based on narrative. At 1pm she will weave a story at the Olivier Cornet Gallery. The aim is to foster a connection between the viewers and a work of art. This is achieved by encouraging the listeners to choose the moment in the story which resonates with them most and to imagine how they would depict the work if they were the artist. The viewers create their own ‘moments’ which will most likely be different to that of the artist.

photo of Jean Ryan storyteller
Jean Ryan, art historian and storyteller (photo courtesy of Olivier Cornet)

The plot thickens. The story she will tell won’t be about a painting in the Olivier Cornet Gallery but instead, it’ll be about a piece in the nearby Hugh Lane City Gallery. (There’s a nice camaraderie developing amongst the museums and galleries of the Parnell Square Cultural Quarter). Anyway if all this talk of art and “fun” makes you want to see more of it, then that’s great because…  there’ll be a lot of it around this weekend. (define “fun”, me brother says)  Did I mention that my own exhibition “Diaspora” is now installed in the Olivier Cornet Gallery?  The painting at the top is in the show.  There’s more about that here   and  here

Dublin Gallery Map is a handy printed map featuring 28 Dublin galleries and up-to-date exhibition listings (April to September 2015). It is available free of charge in selected galleries, tourist offices and hotels and is also downloadable online.

And your comments are always welcome.  Click on the little brown speech bubble up at the top right of this post and you can put your comment there.  Slán go fóill

art, community festivals

Can you ever trust a Scarecrow?

photo of Scarecrow in Harold's Cross Park

So Tony rang me early one morning. “He’s gone”, he said, “Harry’s gone”. I could hear the upset in his voice. “But, wasn’t he tied up”, I asked. “Yes, he was”, he said, “feckin’ gurriers, they must’ve pulled him down during the night.” “But it’s ok”, I said, “I can paint you another one…”

Ok, I’d better start again – The Harold’s Cross Community Festival is going from strength to strength. It is organised by the Harold’s Cross Community Council who were founded in 2007 to promote our urban village and to encourage cultural activity and positive citizenship. It has created a great buzz in the area. The festival happens in May each year with music in the park, a children’s carnival, historical re-enactments, Russian folk dances, poetry readings, art, history, lectures, walking tours and allsorts of everything… And it’s all local people – you wouldn’t believe that there was so much talent in such a small area. And so many volunteers willing to lend a hand – but I’d say one thing – it might never have happened if it wasn’t for the vision and sheer determination of Tony and Eileen McDermott.

Pat Liddy's 'Walk and Talk' historical tour
Pat Liddy’s ‘Walk and Talk’ historical tour


But anyway, in the first year of the festival, I made this banner for the park (see above) with a Scarecrow on it. It was something to do with the vision for 2025 – a greener, smarter, healthier village (check out the website at: and we called him Harry of Harold’s Cross and he became a sort of mascot, I suppose. But then, one Sunday night we left him out in the rain and the following morning, he was gone. Vanished without a trace. Was it gurriers, or did he just feel unwanted or abandoned? Nobody knew…But then in November 2013, Harold’s Cross won first place in all of Ireland at the Pride of Place Awards  – a well-deserved result for all the hard work of the Community Council – and they went up to Derry/Londonderry to receive the prestigious award. So now we have a new banner. Harry is back from the North and he’s wearing a new sash (see below).

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Scarecrow in Harold's Cross Park

And yes, I did curate an exhibition of contemporary art during the festival but you know, I’ve a feeling that old Harry got more attention.  Well, we don’t want him to disappear again, do we?