Friday, May 27, 2005

RHA: Turn a Bland Eye

The annual RHA debacle is currently taking place at the RHA Gallery in Ely Place. The show consists of three tiers: work by a select group of invited artists (John Shinnors, Gwen O'Dowd, John Noel Smith etc.); work by 160 artists selected from around 3,000 works submitted; work by members of the academy.

Of the 460 pieces on show, the work by academy members makes up over half. There is no selection process for members so they can submit any old shite; and often do. Their work in general is bland, safe, figurative art. There is an alarming tendency (marked this year) for them to paint formal portraits of each other in their dodgy drag. Last year we were treated to 2 portraits of the ridiculous George Potter - looking for all the world like he'd stepped out of a G.K. Chesterton novel. This year there's a whole set of these ugly old men in robes. There are also far too many stilted still lifes and harmless landscapes. Why bother. There hasn't been a decent artist in the academy since Richard Kingston died - apart maybe from the anomaly that is Richard Gorman; an artist who, heaven forfend, deals in hard-edged abstraction. Well maybe I should add Martin Gale.

But back to the open submission selection process. Do these artists (each of whom contributes 10 Euros to the RHA coffers) get a fair hearing? It hardly seems possible given the scale of submissions and the circumscribed selection period. Well known names will always get in; and there is a suspicious preponderance of art college staff, while talented newcomers are often passed over. Maybe the problem is more randomness than any conspiracy; although there is a conspiracy of taste. I know artists who get in one year with serviceable pieces and are rejected the following year with superior pieces. You'd like to think this was down to the vagaries of the selection committee. However this committee only varies slightly from year to year and in terms of their art they are all fairly conventional.

One thing is clear from all this, there is room for a large-scale open submission show that will not be dominated by the academy. The Living Art show that thrived in the Seventies should be revived. All it needs is a corporate sponsor and a few energetic souls.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Aren't you just sick at the moral outrage of the Manchester United fans following the recent takeover by Malcolm Glazer. Had they not noticed that they were a global business, a brand rather than a local football club? Where did they think the money came from that allowed them to hoover up the best players from around the world? Buying success on the field just like Chelsea and Arsenal. Do they not remember when they were too busy to play in the FA cup because they had to chase the marketing opportunity afforded by some spurious international tournament?

They who live by the dollar may now perish by it. The debt the club will incur so that Glazer can complete his purchase will affect their buying power for the few years, so success may not come so easily. And this is already a team in decline.

It also goes to show that you fuck with Magnier and McManus at your peril. This is the Rock (of Gibralter) that Fergie will perish on.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Everton Highburied

Everton's record defeat (7-0) by Arsenal was attributed by some to ongoing celebrations after they secured 4th place in the Premiership and a place in next season's Champion's League. Others mentioned that they were missing their new talisman Tim Cahill.

The real reason they lost by such a margin is not so obvious. This was an exhibition match for both sides - the result made no difference. Everton's game is based on work rate and heart, qualities not relevant in a match that doesn't matter. Arsenal on the other hand have silky skills to demonstrate in abundance. They revel in a non-combative milieu. And did so.

When the chips are down next season, Everton will revert to type.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Comic Copera

Summoned for jury service to the Central Criminal Court in the Four Courts yesterday. This is the court where most of the country's serious crimes are tried so along I went anticipating some kind of Henry Fonda role, bringing balance and reason to an imperfect system.

My fellow jurors were mostly middle-class, middle-aged men and women. For some reason I got the feeling that the Civil Service was well represented. There was a singular absence of fat cats and Foxrock fannies. Civic responsibility is, I suppose, for the little people.

Bang on the designated time the Clerk of the Court addressed us on the logistics of our duties and took a roll call. Then we were set free for an hour.

On our return all had changed. The court was full of bewigged barristers conferring in small animated bunches, and there were two benches full of handcuffed defendants and their Gardai escorts. Everyone was jammed into close promimity. It was all very relaxed. Even the handcuffed defendants seemed comfortable and complicit in their roles.

Mr. Justice Paul Carney was presiding and his female tipstaff called on us all to rise as he made his majestic progress to his podium. He is straight out of central casting - jowly, irascible, wig slightly askew.

The deal was to go through the list of cases and swear in a jury where the trial was to go ahead that week. One by one the prosecution and defence for the different cases agreed postponements. It was all done in a very clubby agreeable fashion - no arguments from anyone. The only time Carney demurred was when a case was put back to the 5th December he suggested that because it would be a long trial ("more than 3 weeks"), they should postpone until the new year.

In the end it transpired that no cases were to go ahead. So Justice Carney thanked us for our trouble and said we were off the hook for two years.

What an anti-climax. A small glimpse into an arcane world.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Blair Bitch Project

The only interesting thing about the UK General Election taking place today is the extent to which the electorate give Blair a kicking for his policy on Iraq and his unctuous behaviour to the unspeakable little prick in the White House. I like Polly Toynbee's suggestion that Labour voters should turn up with clothes pegs holding their noses shut.

If the Brits had a more sophisticated electoral system we could hope for a Liberal Democrats / Labour coalition, but that won't happen.

The ideal result would be a close labour victory followed by Brown replacing Blair and Kenneth Clark replacing Howard.

As for Norn Ireland, a plague on all their houses. Bring in compulsory mixed-religion schools and hope the problem goes away after a few generations of inter-marriage.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Aunty Marian's Bloomers

Like any right-minded person I automatically change channels when the Marian Finucane Show comes on RTE Radio 1. Last Monday I was a bit lethargic and allowed myself to be ambushed again by her rancid mix of sanctimoniousness and banality.

Poor old Jim McDaid had just had his collar felt by our zealous Gardai for drunk driving. A there but for fortune situation for the average Irish male. Mind you he did compound the felony rather by attempting to drive up the Naas dual carriage-way in the wrong direction. That does get you noticed.

Anyway, how does the bould Marian treat this rather unhappy story? She parades McDaid's embittered ex-wife and allows her to launch into a tirade about what a sick little bastard he is - the veneer of concern not really concealing her relish at the opportunity to kick the man who wronged her while he is down.

She was preceded by what I thought initially was a comedy act, but in fact turned out to be the chairperson of a society called MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). Suffice to say that it could have been a sketch in the old Halls Pictorial Weekly without a word being removed. Again poor old McDaid got a good kicking.

The odour of sanctity from the whole thing fair put me off my breakfast.

Goodison Agonistes

Liverpool in the final of the Champion's League - the nightmare scenario has come to pass. As an Everton supporter this is hard to swallow. And yet having watched last night's match I have to say they deserved it. Their defence performed like the Spartans at the Pass of Thermopylae. Jamie Carragher was particularly heroic. Now I hope they have the decency to lose to Arsenal next Sunday and let Everton into the Champion's League next year.

I haven't seen much of Chelsea this season (life too short and too much football on TV) and was keen to check them out to see what all the fuss is about. They were disappointing . They showed a lack of imagination in attack - maybe they're tired after a long season. That striker they brought on (Kezman?) was truly atrocious. He lacked control, penetration, and physical presence. Duff seemed a big loss.

I reckon the Kop played a major role in stiffening Liverpool's resistance. They were in full cry from the outset. Bizzarely however they seemed to be singing the Fields of Athenry at regular intervals. Am I missing something? Steve Finnan's presence hardly justifies this? Is it now part of the Kop's repertoire like the equally dire "You'll Never Walk Alone".