This is Covid Eyes, a temporary art project for the period of the pandemic. I realise that there’s an awful lot of extra stuff going out on the internet these days so these posts of mine are going to be short.
In this strange period of isolation, social distancing and face masks, I have decided to concentrate on Eyes as a theme. My plan is to post a new image every Tuesday for the next while. This special project will be in addition to my regular Thursday blog post and it is grant aided by the Arts Council of Ireland.
So why the eyes? The eyes can tell so much about us – our compassion, our frustration, our fears – the eyes also show that we are not that different from each other and, they remind us too, that we are all in this together.
Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine.
09/ 06/ 2020 – What I’ve Seen…
I could not get the awful, awful murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, USA out of my mind as I prepared this post for my online project Covid Eyes.
The ‘eye painting’ above is from a series of small paintings entitled: “What I’ve Seen”. It was a series based on an unknown soldier, returned from war, that I painted again and again. Each piece was 20 x 20 cm, some darker, some lighter and some, like the one above, almost fading to black.
Art critic with The Irish Times, Aidan Dunne, wrote about them on the occasion of my solo exhibition Caoineadh/Elegies at Droichead Arts Centre in Drogheda. The heading of the review was: “The eyes have it” (10/04/2009).
A number of the paintings from this series can be seen at the Olivier Cornet Gallery.
16/ 06/ 2020 – Waiting
Today’s eye painting is taken from a large oil painting entitled: “Waiting” that I created some years ago. It was inspired by the character Babette in Gabriel Axel’s film “Babette’s Feast” – which itself was based on a story by Karen Blixen.
The film is about the inate impulse of the artist to create. A wonderful film. In this scene, is she waiting to hear or… waiting in fear maybe? What do you think?
Maybe too much analysis inhibits the painter but I thought that it would be interesting to take a still from the film (by photographing the television screen) and using it as a starting-off point for a painting.
That original painting is currently hanging in the Olivier Cornet Gallery (visit by appointment only, for the present).
23/ 06/ 2020 – Who is essential?
These are the eyes of a person who was homeless.
Over the years I’ve made several large paintings of homeless people for a body of work entitled: Dídean/Home. Mostly I found images on the internet and in newspapers to use as references for these paintings, images that one might see on Sunday and have forgotten by Monday.
But by taking a small photo of someone and making a large painting of it, it adds significance to that person’s story.
Significance? Why is it mostly portraits of Lords and Ladies we see? Who is more important – the businessman, the bus driver or the community volunteer? During this pandemic, maybe we’ve begun to realise the essentials.
And as for the guy who is homeless – well, who knows what goes on in another person’s life, what circumstances, what trauma led to his present situation?
30/ 06/ 2020 – Uaigneas
Masks protect others from the virus but masks also hide a lot. It can be more difficult to ascertain age, social standing or emotions even, when you wear them. In a similar way I find that when I crop an image to only show the eyes (as I’m doing with the Covid Eyes online art project), some of the emotion or the human expression is lost from the painting.
Today’s eye painting was first presented in an exhibition entitled: Caoineadh/ Elegies at the Linenhall Arts Centre in Castlebar, Co. Mayo. The exhibition was opened by Irish sean-nós singer and activist Treasa Ní Cheannabháin.
If I could, I would like my paintings to exude the same depth of emotion, the uaigneas, the beauty and the sadness of those timeless sean-nós songs.
07/ 07/ 2020 – Razan
These are the eyes of Razan al-Najjar, a 21 year old nurse/paramedic, the eldest of six children born to Ashraf al-Najjar.
A frontline worker, brave and dedicated, she lost her life as she tried to save others.
According to witness testimony, she was shot by a sniper when she and some other medics, walking with their hands up and wearing white vests, approached a wounded protester.
In a subsequent investigation, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights found that she was clearly marked as a paramedic and that she “did not pose an imminent threat” when she was shot. The report concluded that there was “reasonable grounds” to believe that the snipers intentionally shot health workers, despite seeing that they were clearly marked as such.
Something is rotten in a society that allows this barbarism to continue unsanctioned.