Saturday, January 20, 2007

How all occasions do inform against us...

The portents were all wrong. Alan Quinlan our junk yard dog, born for such a scrap, spuriously cited (by a Brit commissioner)and savagely suspended. Halstead, the spine of the backline, injured, leaving two high-stepping nancy boys manning the pass. And then, just as the pot was beginning to bubble nicely, John Kelly was taken off injured - to be replaced by the very flakey Tom O'Leary - you saw his role in Leicster's clinching try. Why didn't they bring on Christian Cullen at full-back, move the estimiable Payne to the centre and stick one of the ballet-dancers on the wing. Why wasn't Foley on from the start? O'Driscoll lacks wit and pace and ruins the configuration of the back row - perhaps his fitness was suspect and they only brought him on when things were going awry. Also, Leamy was plainly not back to full fitness and was a nonentity.

But I must not dimiss Leicster's hunger, drive, and huge physical commitment. They outfought Munster. They were evil, cynical, brave, and clever. None more so than Shane Jennings - soon to rejoin Leinster. Their front row won the game for them though - Chuter, White and Castrogiovani were the rock upon which all was built. They bullied their opponents - Horan a boy to White's man. And Tuilagi and Rameri on the wings, with their exotic hair-styles, were immense - you could see them relishing the physical nature of the game.

And yet, and yet. If O'Connell had taken the penalty opportunity at 8-6 to Leicster, it would have been a huge psychological boost for Munster - who should have been nowhere near at that stage. Instead he opted for a scrum - Leicster won a penalty and went down the field and scored the match clinching try.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Felim Egan at the Kerlin Gallery

A modest but modish crowd attended Felim Egan's opening at the Kerlin Gallery last Thursday: Ruari Quinn, Stephen Rea, John Kelly, and Bono to name a few. Bono, who knows no restraint, greets the famously undemonstrative Felim with a big hug. Bystanders cringe. Felim is looking more raffish than usual with a little colourful fez and a dangling earring. Rumour suggests that he is courting Islam - the outfit certainly syggested Eastern sympathies.

It's a classy show. Felim's usual carefully wrought minimalist abstract pieces have evolved into something with more ado. Where before there was one little polished rectangle within the brushed surface, now there are 3 or 4. Many of them feature an arc - suggestive maybe of Islam's crescent? The colours are occasionally brighter than heretofore - there's red one and even a pink. But the most striking pieces are large and sombre - they have a stillness and mystery that suggests Rothko. The size ranges from 18 inches square to 60 inches square - and the prices from €3,250 to €21,000. About half of the 21 pieces had sold by he end of the night.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Martin Gale at the Taylor Gallery

Went with B and J to the opening of Martin Gale's new show at the Taylor Gallery last Thursday. The show was sold out so there wasn't the usual crowd of potential buyers, but there was an exceedingly large number of artists present. Either Martin is an artist's artist or it's a reflection of what a thoroughly nice guy he is. The opening was being filmed by Sean O'Mordha - that doyen of arts related documentaries - as part of a film he's doing on Irish landscape painters. Myself and J arrive early and are followed around by the camera in an embarrassing way.

Gales's work is photo-realist in many aspects, the lovingly detailed old water pumps, the circus tent in the field, the minute attention to leafs and blades of grass etc. However, there is something off-kilter and vaguely sinister about a lot of his work. Some of this has to do with the rendition of light. There is an aura of gloom, of light fading. It's far from Arcadian. The figures depicted are always looking away from the viewer and some of the images suggest something nasty is about to happen - or, in some cases, has happened. The image of the boy on the trampoline in a deserted field, the party baloons sagging sadly on a nearby bush, or the farmer sheltering under a large tree looking out at an expanse pf gloomy countryside. come to mind.

Looking around at he gathering I realise that all my favourite Irish artists are present, with the exception of John Shinnors. There's Gwen O'Dowd, spikey and animated, with her ever-present escort Phelim (her impending show in the Hillsboro is postponed because the gallery's lease has run out); and Mary Lohan with that weird quiff of red hair - suggestive of a Star Wars character. Her slightly other-worldly manner confirming this impression. Sean McSweeney is there, a big avuncular rural presence - florid and friendly. He is with his amiable wife Sheila (and her strangely closed left eye) . They are house-minding in Donegal and he seems to be doing no painting. Charlie Tyrrell is also in a very sociable mood and forgives me for calling him John. He will be showing in the Taylor next February - something to look forward to. He tells me he will be doing some more of those small aluminium pieces. Donald Teskey joins the crowd and I get a chance to pin him down about a piece he has promised me. He is cautious at first but as we converse later in Buswell's the deal is sealed. When you get beyond his initial reticence, he seems very sound - no arty bullshit. He has a show opening in London next week. It dawns on me that the only artist present whose work I don't have is Martin Gale himself. He is disconcertingly like Charlie Haughey around the eyes but, unlike Charlie, is devoid of airs and graces. Mike Murphy is also present in a splendid Miro tie and Peter Fallon from the Gallery Press has come to support one of his favourite artists.

After some debate, the entire crowd move on to Buswell's hotel - in the continued absence of the Shelbourne option - and a spontaneous party gets going. B. has joined us - a rare opportunity for her to move beyond the Dalkey fannies circuit and converse with other artists.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Mizen Tropes

Having dragged myself through the Christmas debacle I find safe haven in storm-tossed Schull. We have rented a large comfortable house, high on a hill overlooking the harbour (almost bereft of boats).

I quickly adopt the old routines: down to the supermarket in the morning for the delicious fresh crusty bread and the Irish Times - a warm greeting from owner Tom Brosnan, the de facto Mayor of Schull; then a long walk by the sea with the dogs; before dinner a brace of pints in Newman's or the Courtyard (the murderer looks in), then a leisurely dinner and so to bed with an improving book.

Certain well-trod paths have to be revisited: a walk on the beach in Barleycove; a crab sandwich in O'Sullivan's in Crookhaven; a meander around the graveyard near Barry's Hill (I notice a new gravestone for David Wigginton - a Cork Hibs star during the Seventies and a pathfinder when it came to soccer player excess. He kept Krojaks and a few other night-clubs in profit and ended up marrying the daughter of a chip-shop proprietor). A nice man though.

There have been some changes. Newman's now offers wireless access along with your pint, or coffee and scone.