I’ve spent the last two days clearing out the studio (it’s now in a worse mess than before) but it’ll be better tomorrow, hopefully.
It’s not a bad thing to do. You can get totally overwhelmed by the detritus of old projects and the bits and pieces ‘that might possibly be useful some day’, and this burgeoning clutter can have a detrimental effect on your mood as well on your workspace.
You see, for the most part, you’re on your own in this space, working away at something – unlike any “normal people’s work. Yes, it’s a strange occupation. I remember once the late Tony O’Malley said to me: “Painting is a mystery, like poetry… you have to listen. It’s available to you, as long as you don’t presume…”
Still, you sometimes stand there alone, wondering what to do next.
But as I was clearing, I came across this piece of wire (see above). I made that back in 2004 and it was exhibited in 6×6 for Ireland at the Central Academy of Fine Art in China (organised by James Ryan of the 411 Gallery, Hangzhou).
Yes, of course, it’s just a bit of ould wire but I like to think of it as a 3-dimensional drawing. It was referring to all those building projects that were underway back then. It had no colour, increasing the effect of the cold inhumanity of it all.
I was incorporating those grids into a lot of the work back then. Below is another one, a more hopeful one, I suppose. Breaking free from the grid. The shadows and the different sources of light were an important element in these works.
So, if you’re wondering what to do next – why not have a rummage in the attic, or in the shed. You just never know what you might find or what new direction it might lead you. (Don’t throw anything out) and, if you happen to come across something interesting… maybe you’ll let me know about it?
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, I’m well aware that the world is now officially in a state of complete ‘chassis’ but I’m going to ignore that for the moment and tell you instead about what happened at the weekend.
Even better, to describe it more elegantly, I’ll quote from Gearrscéalta an Phiarsaigh, the short stories of Patrick Pearse. It’s in Irish but I’ve added my own (loose) translation below…
Cluineadh go tobainn glór nár cluineadh san áit le tuilleadh agus leathbhliain. Glór beag bídeach. Glór fann fíorbhinn. Ceiliúr mear meidhreach, agus é neamhchosúil le h-aon cheiliúr eile dá dtagann ó ghob éin. Le luas lasrach thiomáin toirt bheag dhubh aneas. Í ag eiteall go h-ard san aer. Dhá sciathán leathna laidre uirthi. Déanamh gabhláin ar a h-eireaball. Í ag gearradh na slí roimpi mar shaighead a chaithfí as bogha. D’ísligh sí go tobann, thiontaigh sí, d’éirigh arís, d’ísligh is thiontaigh arís. Ansin rinne sí caol díreach ar Eoghainín, í ag labhairt in ard a gutha…
Translation: Suddenly a sound was heard that hadn’t been heard in the place for over half a year. A tiny, twittering voice. A stray, puresweet voice. A joyful celebratory birdsong, like no other. At the speed of lightning, a tiny speck appeared from the south, flying high above the land. Wings spread wide. Forked tail. Slicing through the air like an arrow from a bow. She dived suddenly, she turned and rose again. She dived and turned again. She made straight for Eoghainín, joyfully, joyfully…
And I’ve added a tiny clip from my short film “Ar theacht an tSamhraidh” to celebrate the return of the swallows. If you can’t see it immediately below this, you need to click into the actual blog…
That piece of music was by Davy Spillane, by the way. Slán go fóill, Bye for now, eoin
Quiet determination – I think that’s what he had. He was passionate about the Irish language, Irish history and culture, the Irish way of life.
He saw what the English education system was doing, trying to stamp out any indigenous cultures, and produce obedient servants of the British Empire.
“I thank the goodness and the grace that on my birth has smiled and made me in this Christian age, a happy English child” – this was the prayer in Irish National School readers, before 1916. This was the attitude that he rebelled against – and was determined to change.
Patrick Pearse had a cottage in Ros Muc and last year at Easter, Fionnuala and I went over there to join in the local commemorations of the Easter Rising.
We heard many stories about Pearse from people in the area, people whose grandparents might’ve met him long ago. There were fond memories of him.
People remembered him as a quiet man who visited the area regularly. They described how he would sit with them, late into the night, listening to their stories, endeavouring to learn everything about their way of life, and discussing and developing ideas for a better future for Ireland. Éire saor agus Éire Gaelach.
They appreciated his interest and he inspired them with his dedication.
If you read his short stories (that were based around Ros Muc) you can see how much he loved the place and the people. That was why we wanted to be in Ros Muc for Easter last year, to remember him and to commemorate the Easter Rising, one hundred years later.
Raidió na Gaeltachta was there to record the occasion. They all crowded into Pearse’s Cottage to interview the locals. The man you see talking in the centre, above is Frank Ó Máille. Pearse stayed in his father’s house, the first time he ever visited Ros Muc. (an Teach gorm – ach níl sé gorm níos mó, faraor). His father met Pearse at Maam Cross railway station and brought him in his sidecar to Ros Muc.
I wanted to create something special to mark that special year. While I was working on an art project there, I created a short film entitled: Ar theacht an tSamhraidh. With my brother Fearghas, we projected it onto the gable end of the cottage, as you can see in the video below this paragraph. (If you can’t see it straight away, you need to click into the actual blog) An raibh an Piarsach féin ann an oíche úd, meas tú, agus an bheirt againn ag seasamh le chéile, i gcoim na h-oíche?
The painting of Patrick Pearse, which appears in the film, is hanging in the Olivier Cornet Gallery in Dublin at the moment. The gallery will be open over the Easter weekend – Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. (that man never stops!)
You can see more about the Ros Muc project at the first link below.
Yes, well some years ago, I got a present of a tree for my birthday – an apple tree – and every year, around this time, those delicate pink and white flowers open up to greet the sunshiny days of Spring.
“Efflorescence”, that’s the word to describe our little tree ‘in the state of flowering’ and that’s what’s happening right now in our suburban garden.
Later on, of course, the wind and the rain will come howling down from the Kimmage Crossroads and tear at the branches and send the petals flurrying and swirling into the air until only the pluckiest and the stubbornist of the buds will remain to develop and grow into lovely green and rosy apples.
In Celtic tradition, the apple tree was a symbol of purity, wholeness and fertility. They say that applewood was burned by the druids in various fertility rites. The apples were highly valued because they would keep over the long winter months.
But for me, the apple tree is a reminder of the rhythms of nature and of the cycle of life. Rotha Mór an tSaoil. Isn’t it amazing, when you see the tree in winter, to think that in a few short months, it will be completely transformed from bare branches to an abundant mass of flowers – and then again – to sagging branches, laden with luxurious fruit!
I have a series of apple paintings which I return to from time to time. (Here’s one of them below). But they have to be real apples, the sweet juicy ones. Did you ever get a nicer gift?
So Limerick has the Milk Market and Cork has the English Market – how come Dublin’s Moore Street Market has been so sadly neglected? The main reason is because successive governments didn’t want us to remember our history.
But we know what happened at Easter 1916. We know that a relatively small group of people decided to challenge the status quo, to confront the establishment and to proclaim a republic that would treat all the people equally. And Moore Street was where they took their last stand.
And we know that the idealism of the rebels was not matched by those who eventually took control of our destiny. Isn’t there always those business people who can only think in shillings and pence? Those who cannot appreciate the spiritual or cultural aspects of life? Why, oh why do we let them run the show?
And we allowed them to snuggle up to the speculators and to sell off our heritage to the highest bidder. “Mór mo náir’, mo chlann féin do dhíol a máthair…”
Have you been down in Moore Street lately?
Have you heard about the speculator’s plans? If it wasn’t for the various Save Moore Street groups, the whole area would’ve been demolished long ago and a massive shopping mall built in its place.
But a High Court decision put a stop to that. Last year, Mr Justice Max Barrett ruled that the entire Moore Street Battlefield site, including all its backlanes, constituted a National Monument and therefore was the responsibility of the Minister for the Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.
But what did she do? She lodged an appeal against the judgement and this won’t be heard until next December. In the meantime, the neglected old buildings are steadily deteriorating…
Oh and she set up a Ministerial Consultative Forum to make “recommendations”. (I spoke at this myself – here) They launched the report this week but the minister’s appeal is still going ahead.
Why? Well, I reckon that by demolishing the Moore Street Battlefield site, they thought that they could bury our history. Build more retail units. Keep people shopping. I reckon that they don’t want people to imagine a different future where idealism, equality and local communities can flourish. “They think they have purchased half of us and intimidated the other half. They think that they have pacified Ireland…”
No Minister, you must drop that appeal. Your role must be to protect our heritage and to preserve it for future generations.
You see this painting above? It is an empty fireplace from one of the oldest houses in Dublin. (No. 9, Aungier Street) There has been an awful lot of money spent on the renovation of this rickety old house. Not because of any particular historical event but simply because it predates the Georgian houses by fifty years. It’s quite safe to do this – it won’t arouse the people’s emotions. But to remind people of the struggles of their forefathers? – That could be risky. That could open a whole can of protesting worms… Better to destroy the evidence before they realise it.
But it didn’t work!
However, we still need to be vigilant. I don’t think that they can be trusted to do the right thing now. Do you? Your comments are always welcome. But you could also write to the minister hereand ask her to drop the appeal.
(By the way, the painting above is part of the exhibition “Silent Stories” at Belltable in Limerick at the moment. This is a 2 person show with Miriam McConnon, curated by Olivier Cornet and it continues there until the 7th of April )
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.
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.
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.