art exhibitions, Prison art

Great show – but where were the artists?

"Humans sharing Spaces", by John at the CHQ Building this week
From “Humans sharing Spaces” – a collage by John …

Unusual for a group exhibition – none of the artists turned up for the opening – but I was there myself and there was a great buzz, with speeches and applause, canapés, smoked salmon and all that jazz.

People felt very proud (I was delighted myself when I saw one particular piece on display). Everyone said that it was a great achievement – but a great pity that the artists themselves weren’t there to see it.

And if you were wondering why that was, well, it’s because they are all still in prison. It was an exhibition of artworks made by people in prison and it was entitled: “Humans sharing Spaces”, a joint initiative by the Irish Prison Service Education Centres and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.

"Humans sharing Spaces" at the CHQ Building, Dublin
Before the opening of “Humans sharing Spaces” at the CHQ Building, Dublin

I did an Arts Council project in Cloverhill Prison last year, working with the prisoners to produce artworks for this exhibition. The piece you saw at the top is by John (we can’t use his full name) but would you believe that John had never done art before this project!

He told me that the tower at the bottom of the collage was known locally as “the Cup and Saucer” in his hometown, and that he saw the flying doves in a book about Magritte… Of all the works in the show (and there were hundreds more submitted), I was delighted that this piece got selected. Congratulations John.

It’s always a bit of a rollercoaster ride working in a prison. When you think of it: hundreds of (mostly) young men living in close proximity with strangers; lonely for their loved ones; possibly trying to deal with an addiction; maybe traumatised by some unresolved incident – it can be very difficult for them to come to grips with this new situation.

oil painting by Eoin Mac Lochlainn
“Graduate”, 50 x 50cm, oil on canvas, 2011 – one of my own paintings (in the collection of the state)

But in the art class, there’s a supportive atmosphere. We talk about mixing colours. We talk about the home place, about dreams, about the great artists… For a few hours, we forget about the present and we venture into a world of new possibilities. We begin to make art.

The exhibition continues until the 26th of March in the prestigious CHQ Building in Dublin and I’m told that it will tour to some other venues later on in the year.



art, Prison art

Back in Jail again – was it worth it, I wonder?

I thought that I’d have more time but, in prison, there’s a lot of waiting around – waiting for doors to be unlocked, waiting for people to show up, waiting for decisions, waiting for permission, but my stint of teaching art in prison has come to an end for the mo and I’m back here in what’s generally known as ‘the real world’.

But oh, tá mé traochta anois – it was tiring in there but I think that it’s a good thing to do. It’s an Arts Council scheme that affords opportunities for artists to work with prisoners and their art teachers. This time we were working on a project to make artworks for a major exhibition next year, an exhibition of art from all the prisons, entitled “Humans sharing Spaces”.

A while ago I was interviewed by Sprocket films for Dúiche, a television programme on TG4 about working in prisons so I thought I’d show the clip here today. It’s just a short clip, if you can’t see it below here, you should click into the blog itself…


Art musings, Prison art

If you don’t hear from me for a while, it’s because I’m in Prison (!)

Yes, I’m taking part in an Artist-in-Prison Project – but thankfully, I don’t have to stay in overnight. So what’s it like? Well, there was an awful lot of form-filling at the start. That’s for the Arts Council. You need to write a proposal – what you’re going to do, how you’re going to do it, what materials you plan to use, your aims and objectives (needless to say, you have to know the difference between aims and objectives first). There are so many boxes to tick.

After that, there’s a lot of doors. You stand and wait outside a steel door. Wary eyes look out at you through a little square window. The door opens, you identify yourself, then you’re passed on to the next door; the same again. I must say, the Prison Officers are very thorough but generally speaking, they are friendly.

work from Prison art class

But then I suppose it’s like any art class. One of my aims was to broaden the students’ awareness of the possibilities and scope of art, in particular by exploring the use of recycled materials. In other words, we were making art out of cardboard. But no, it wasn’t like any other art class. Some of these fellas had never done art before, hadn’t done much school at all, probably. So they end up in prison anyway and somebody suggests an art class… what feels wonderful to me is: seeing somebody realising that they can do something, something they’d never even dreamed of, something that they could be good at, if they gave it some time…  and that’s one thing they have in here, plenty of time.

The work above was made by a student, what do you think of that?

PS: Not sure what it is about me and prisons but – see an exhibition of mine, in a former jail at:

and another at: