art, Gaeilge, Historic, Nature, Palimpsest/ Rianú

The Hawk, the post-colonial condition and ‘that video’



A sparrow hawk flew down and caught a pigeon while Claire Halpin and myself were giving a talk at the Pearse Museum, the other day. Such consternation! No, we hadn’t planned it – but Claire had just been talking about the use of pigeons in war and in particular, the use of miniature drones, disguised as birds… (more about that at: ) But it brought various ideas into sharp focus for us.

Our talk was about the Palimpsest/ Rianú Project, a group exhibition that we had curated, and it proved to be a very interesting and thought provoking afternoon. Brian Crowley, director of the Pearse Museum told us how Patrick Pearse believed that it was good for his students to grow up with an appreciation of the natural world, the rhythm of the seasons, life and death, and he was reminded of the phrase from Pearse’s speech at the graveside of the Fenian O’Donovan Rossa: Life springs from death, and from the graves of patriot men and women spring living nations. Indeed, several of the artworks in the exhibition alluded to the ultimate sacrifice made by those who fought in the Easter Rising in 1916 and in the subsequent War of Independence, many of those who died, students in Pearse’s school.

Another theme that was often mentioned was Pearse’s interest in the Irish language. Nuala Ní Fhlathúin’s installation was developed around her research into Pearse’s educational texts. Aoife McGarrigle’s elusive prints referred to the gradual decline of the Irish language in her native Donegal – Tír gan teanga, tír gan anam – another quote from Pearse, which translates as: a land without a language is a land without a soul. Ian Joyce’s print (below) came about as a result of time spent teaching himself to speak and to write in the Irish language.


"An Tuaisceart (Léarscáil)", by Ian Joyce
“An Tuaisceart (Léarscáil)”, by Ian Joyce


We also spoke about how a building can be a conduit for so much political and cultural weight – how the museum was originally the country home of a Georgian gentleman, then a school for boys and a training ground for revolutionaries – as we walked from room to room, we could almost feel the ghosts passing by.

Kate Murphy’s “Self-portraits in ritual masks” reminded us of tensions between public and private personae, and how Pearse always preferred to be photographed in profile. Whereas some of us thought that this accorded him iconic status, Brian Crowley felt that it did him a disservice because, in reality, Pearse was a multi-faceted individual with numerous interests and talents. Which brings me to my latest rant – Did anyone see that dreadful video “Ireland inspires, 2016”, produced by the Irish government to prepare us for the commemorations in 2016? It’s full of razzmatazz with shoppers in Grafton Street, revellers in Galway, fluffy clouds flying by and William Butler Yeats and Bob Geldof and Queen Elizabeth and Cameron… yes, I did actually say Queen Elizabeth and Cameron… and would you believe that there is actually no mention in it of the seven signatories of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic? No mention of those who died… tá sé deacair é a chreidiúnt, do-chreidthe, náireach… ach sin mar a thárla.

As we talked at the Pearse Museum, we could see that there was so much to remember, so much still to discover, so much to learn from the past. I felt that the artists had really started something here. They had evoked all sorts of emotions, they had broadened our horizons, made us think again. No, we’re not just shoppers and partygoers, oblivious to our history and heritage, unwilling to deal with our past. Yes, it’s complicated. But such is life. Both the hawk and the pigeon have chicks to feed.


Palimpsest image by Eoin Mac Lochlainn
The Palimpsest/ Rianú Project – it’s complicated


But to reduce it to shallow consumerism? to the lowest common denominator? The first link below is to that video… go on, you’d better see it once, so that you’ll see where this “post-colonial” government stands in relation to our heritage. I’ve also put links to the artists that I’ve mentioned today. As always, I’d love to hear your own comments, let me know what you think.


More about the Palimpsest/ Rianú Project at:-



art, Exhibitions, Palimpsest/ Rianú

Like a photo, nothing like a photo… or somewhere in between?

oil painting by Mary A. Fitzgerald
“Makers of the New World” by Mary A. Fitzgerald


Yes, some people still talk about “Modern” art but you know, Modern art went out in the Sixties! “Contemporary” art is the term for these days. Just to clarify, Modern art emerged in the 1880s (with artists like Monet, Manet and the Impressionists). It continued with artists like Van Gogh, Mondrian and Kandinsky. (Kandinsky is credited with having created the first abstract painting in 1911). Skip over then to America in the 1940s and there’s the Abstract Expressionists (People like Jackson Pollock, Rothko etc). I suppose you could say that Modern art was a reaction to the advent of photography. Some people say that when photography was invented, it killed painting but then, others have said that when photography was invented, it set painting free!

And you know when people say: “Oh, it’s so good, it’s like a photograph”. Well, sometimes that bugs me. Why? Because painters are not just trying to recreate photographs. Why would they do that? Aren’t there all sorts of great little cameras around these days – why spend your time trying to replicate what cameras can do so easily? Of course, many artists these days use cameras as a tool but painting is about something else. Art is about something else. (Oh dear, why did I start on this thorny old subject?).


oil painting by Mary A.Fitzgerald
“Pageant” by Mary A. Fitzgerald


Ok. Well, just a bit about abstract art so… Hang on, if you’re watching the sun go down on Galway Bay, do you ask yourself: “what does it mean?” No, you don’t, you just admire the scene, the beautiful colours, the dark shapes of the clouds, the expanse… you just breathe it in. Isn’t it wonderful? So, what if you didn’t ask yourself: What does a painting mean? Why not just breathe it in? – appreciate the colours and study the shapes and brushstrokes? That’s one way, there are many ways of taking it in… and the longer you stay with it, the more you’ll get to know.

Anyway, I really wanted to talk about some paintings at the Pearse Museum, in the Palimpsest/ Rianú Project (curated by Claire Halpin and myself). The first one, “Makers of the New World”, is by Mary A. Fitzgerald. She was reacting to the romantic idealism of Patrick Pearse’s educational philosophy, how its influence and culture might have been felt by the boys attending his school. Her second piece, entitled: “Pageant”, refers to the plays that were a significant element of the boys’ training. “The idea of manufacturing fantasy”, she writes, “is something that interests me in visual terms in my own work”. Manufacturing fantasy – I like that – but is there a hole in that first painting? Or is it the boy’s eye? Is it perhaps referring to the fact that many of these boys went on to join the great rebellion, the Easter Rising in 1916? – and were shot? It is left to the viewer’s imagination…


oil painting by Colin Martin
“Foley Studio” by Colin Martin ARHA


And then, there’s the work of Colin Martin ARHA. In one way, he leaves nothing to the imagination, he puts in every detail – from the packed shelves and the angle lamps to the electric cables on the floor and the beautifully rendered shadows on the wall. (I’m reminded of one of Vermeer’s interiors, where every detail is so carefully described)

“Foley Studio” is a large painting (120 x 140cm) and it is part of a series of interiors that explore how space is used as a conduit for cultural, political and social value. The Pearse Museum holds so many memories in its lofty corridors. One can almost feel the ghosts passing from room to room.

So that’s what I mean – there are so many different ways of approaching an artwork and, of course, I haven’t even mentioned videos or performance or installations or sculpture in this post. What do you think? – I’d love to hear your comments.


By the way the Palimpsest/ Rianú Project is still on at the Pearse Museum, and Claire Halpin and myself will be giving a talk about the work on Saturday, the 15th of November at 2pm. It’s free and everyone’s welcome.

The museum is open every day except Tuesday, from 9.30 – 5.30pm. Drop out for a visit, it’s in St.Enda’s Park in Rathfarnham and there’s a nice coffee shop there too.

See also



art, Exhibitions, Palimpsest/ Rianú

Selfies at the Pearse Museum – it’s nothing new


Self Portrait with Ritual Mask
Self Portrait with Ritual Mask (iii) by Kate Murphy


Selfies, selfies and more selfies – it seems like everyone’s at it these days. Self portrait photographs, usually taken by mobile phone, any time, any place, anywhere… but you know, it’s nothing new. Do you remember those camera booths for taking passport photos? They were all the rage at one time. See below, that’s one I got done, a long time ago, long before mobile phones. I’d say that I didn’t even have a passport those days but I suppose, I just wanted to check out how I looked. Is that what it’s about? – or is it something to do with wanting to control how we are perceived?

Anyway, you’re probably wondering about the strange character in the image above. This is one of the paintings in  The Palimpsest/ Rianú Project, at the Pearse Museum in Rathfarnham. It’s by Kate Murphy and there are 3 of these extraordinary paintings in the exhibition, depicting the artist wearing primitive, animalistic masks.

Kate writes: “the paintings attempt to express the tension between public and private personae. While the mask conceals inner, primitive instincts or ‘flaws’, the very wearing of it suggests that there is something to hide. At the same time, the anonymity afforded by a mask allows its wearer to project desirable elements of the self”. She is also making a reference here to Patrick Pearse’s iconic portraits and how he avoided being photographed face-on (so as to conceal his pronounced squint).

photograph of young me by Eoin Mac Lochlainn

Now, I don’t have a squint – although one eye does seem bigger than the other, here – but don’t we all have our “best” side? A lot of us don’t like being photographed at all, especially if we’re not prepared. Is it because someone else is deciding how we look? Someone else is in control? What do you think? I’d love to hear your views.

But have a look also at Kate Murphy’s website at:

And don’t forget that The Palimpsest/ Rianú Project, curated by Claire Halpin and myself, continues at the Pearse Museum until the end of November. The museum is open every day except Tuesday, from 9.30 – 5.30pm. Drop out for a visit, it’s in St.Enda’s Park in Rathfarnham and there’s a nice coffee shop there too.





art, Exhibitions, Palimpsest/ Rianú

Hollywood, Harold’s Cross and the Palimpsest/ Rianú Project

Dear oh dear, there’s an awful difference between Hollywood and Harold’s Cross. Lads, Lads, I could’ve told you that.  But when I woke up this morning there was a gazebo out on the green, in front of our house. No, three gazebos, and then the lorries arrived, and the vans and the trailers and the generators and the cables and the mobile café and the men in hi-vis jackets, and the walkie talkies, and the coffee machines and the Gardaí and…  and then it started raining, bucketing down from the heavens. It never rains in Southern California…


photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Rain in Larkfield Grove
Rainy Day in Harold’s Cross


Apparently, they’re shooting a film called “Mammal” and it’s starring Rachel Griffiths (from Brothers and Sisters) and Barry Keoghan (from Love/Hate). Now, as you know, I’m no expert when it comes to the movies but I’ve made a short video in the meantime (an indoor one) about the Palimpsest /Rianú Project at the Pearse Museum.

See below – it’s an overview, panning around the 3 rooms of the exhibition. It’s just two and a half minutes long.



The Palimpsest/ Rianú Project, curated by Claire Halpin and myself, continues at the Pearse Museum until the end of November. The museum is open every day except Tuesday, from 9.30 – 5.30pm. Drop out for a visit, it’s in St.Enda’s Park in Rathfarnham and there’s a nice coffee shop there too.

More about the other film “Mammal” at:



art, artists, Palimpsest/ Rianú

“A Trace and a Shadow” – drawing on the past

photogaph by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of installation by Brian Fay


If Charles Dickens was alive in Dublin today, I think he might write about NAG. This is a diminutive art gallery at the bottom of a crooked staircase in the basement of number 59, Francis Street in the Liberties, the oldest part of Dublin city. NAG stands for New Art Gallery. It is run by one Mark St.John Ellis, a lofty, upright gentleman from Birmingham who always wears black. Upstairs is the Cross Gallery, the proprietor being one Nicholas Gore-Grimes… but on this occasion, dear Reader, I will confine my letters to the work of the artist Brian Fay, who has an exhibition of exquisite drawings in NAG at the moment.

So, first of all I want to mention that Fay has just won 1st Prize in the prestigious Derwent Art Prize for his pencil drawing entitled “Looted salt mine 1945 Manet in the Winter Garden”.

Next, his exhibition entitled “Of the Survival of images (and objects)” continues at NAG until the end of October. You really need to see these works up close, they are very delicate pencil drawings, details from X-rays of Rembrandt paintings, examining their gradual deterioration, a meditation on time and impermanence and a homage to the old masters.

But the image above and the detail below are from his installation at the Pearse Museum, part of the Palimpsest/ Rianú Project. Here again he is seeking out traces from the past – this time using carbon paper and taking tracings of fragments from the Pearse Papers collection in the National Library.  “When a line is inscribed on carbon paper”, he writes, “the ink surface is displaced, so the line is actually a removed remark. The carbon paper drawings are backlit by light coming through the window from the environment of the house. I believe this alludes to the dynamic of the Pearse legacy; being both historically present and removed, being both a trace and a shadow”.  Again, I have to say: you gotta see this for yourself, my photographs just can’t do justice to the work.


art by Brian Fay

The Palimpsest/ Rianú Project, curated by Claire Halpin and myself, continues at the Pearse Museum until the end of November. The museum is open every day except Tuesday, from 9.30 – 5.30pm. Drop out for a visit, it’s in St.Enda’s Park in Rathfarnham and there’s a nice coffee shop there too.



art, art installations, artists, Gaeilge, Palimpsest/ Rianú

Occupying Space, achieving Balance – gold leaf and old photographs

photo of gold leaf artwork by Nuala Ni Fhlathuin

Mmmmmmmm. Gold leaf, so delicate, so pure, so fragile. This is what artist Nuala Ní Fhlathúin has been using in her artworks in recent times. You might’ve seen some of her work at the National Gallery this year, on Culture Night, as part of the IdirÁite projections.

I don’t know if you’ve ever used gold leaf but it is actually real gold that has been hammered into extremely thin sheets and is generally used for gilding frames and other decorative surfaces. Now when I say ‘extremely thin’, I mean extremely, EXTREMELY thin. It is so light that it could fall apart or blow away in the slightest breeze. But Ní Fhlathúin uses it for this very reason.

So I’m paraphrasing now but her art practice is an investigation into material processes and procedures, exploring the mysterious divide between material reality and the disembodied world of abstract sequenced thought. She works with ceramics, soil, string, fragments of paper and other such found objects, paying attention to their distinct physical properties – their weight, their balance, their particular way of occupying space, how they impinge on each other etc…

The image above shows a detail from a piece for IdirÁite, inspired by a painting by Francesco Da Rimini entitled: “The Crucifixion, Noli Me Tangere” but I also wanted to show her work for The Palimpsest/ Rianú Project at The Pearse Museum (See below). Here she was working with educational texts and photographs preserved by the Museum. It’s an installation in a glass case. That cut-out photo, by the way, happens to be my grand uncle Frank, as a young fella!


artwork from the palimpsest/Rianu Project
“Léaráid 1/ Diagram 1”, by Nuala Ní Fhlathúin


So, bhí muintir Mhic Lochlainn an-tógthaí leis an píosa ealaíne seo a chruthaigh Nuala. D’aithin mé an sean-ghrianghraf sin ach níor chuimhin liom ar dtús gur ár sean-uncail Frank a bhí ann (mar leaidín óg). Chuaigh eisean ar scoil i Scoil Éanna agus is amhlaigh gur ghlac sé páirt i ndráma eicint mar Setanta. Bhí an-spéis ag an bPiarsach sna sean-scéalta agus sa bhFiannaíocht agus bhíodh drámaí acu go minic leis na scoláirí a spreagradh. Bhí Cú Chulainn mar eiseamláir ag na buachaillí, agus an mana a bhí ag an scoil ná: “Glaine inár gcroíthe, neart inár ngéaga agus beart de réir ár mbriathra” – an mana céanna a bhí ag na Fianna.

Tá mé ag ceapadh gur chuimhin liomsa Frank mar sheanfhear maol. Is cuimhin liom a dhéarthár níos fearr, ár sean uncail John. Fear ard a bhí ann le srón maorga. (Tá an srón céanna tar éis teacht chun solais arís is aríst inár gclann ó shin) (níl sé agamsa).

Ach, ó thaobh na h-ealaíne de, cheap mé go raibh sé spéisiúl mar a chuir Nuala an gasúirín óg le chéile le banna gasúirí agus mar a bhí roinnt eile acu ina luí – ar Chnoc an Áir, b’fhéidir…  Nuair a thosnaíonn tú ag scrúdú mar a d’eagraigh sí na píosaí éagsúla, feictear go bhfuil gach sórt scéalta agus smaointe fite fuaite san saothar ealaíne seo.

Beidh an taispeántas seo ar siúl i Músaem na bPiarsach go dtí deireadh mí na Samhna.

The Pearse Museum is open every day except Tuesdays

9.30 – 5.30pm. Do drop out for a visit, it’s in St.Enda’s Park in Rathfarnham and there’s a nice coffee shop there too.




artists, Palimpsest/ Rianú

Nature and the Horrors of War

Drone's nest by Claire Halpin
Drone’s nest by Claire Halpin

When you think about it, we really are making a mess of this planet, with so little respect for nature, but no, this is not going to be a post about Climate Change. It’s just another in the series about artist’s works at the Palimpsest /Rianú Project in the Pearse Museum, Rathfarnham.

When we did a site visit there a few months ago, in preparation for the exhibition, we were all fascinated by the glass cases containing specimens and samples which had been collected and displayed at St.Enda’s school in the last century. All sorts of things – butterflies, birds’ eggs, rocks, minerals, tools, weapons etc – various implements to facilitate a broad education. It was clear to us that the school principal and poet Patrick Pearse had progressive ideas about the boys’ education but it was never far from our minds that he was also one of the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916.

Claire Halpin’s artworks for the exhibition developed from her research into surveillance and unmanned drones, implements of modern warfare including micro-aviary, the tiny surveillance drones that are modelled on birds and flight patterns in nature. She decided to place her “specimens” in a glass case, using the aesthetic language and materials of museology, re-imagining these machines as mechanised birds with mechanised eggs and nests.  These sculptures were constructed using computer cables and plastic webcams and such, playful perhaps but with a sinister reminder of the horrors of modern warfare.

The Pearse Museum is open every day except Tuesdays, 9.30 – 5.30pm. Drop out for a visit, it’s in St.Enda’s Park in Rathfarnham and there’s a nice coffee shop there too.