Monday, April 21, 2008

Brian Maguire at the Kerlin Gallery

Agitprop as art eh. Long may Brian burn with political passion. Quite a lively portrait of Patrice Lumumba, a giant suffering Allende and a lot of dirty angry expressionism. Not much happening in the way of sales but you can’t have it both ways. His heroes are hardly heroes of the bourgeosie. Or his concerns theirs.

Timothy Hawkesworth at the Taylor Gallery

Good to see a new artist at the Taylor – well new to me anyway. They are inclined to rely on their tried and tested stable of artists. On first encounter the work suggests Jackson Pollock (a chaos of swirling colour) and you feel that this show is an anachronism. But on closer inspection they are quite different - the swirls don’t cohere the way Pollock’s do. There’s something different going on here. Hawkesworth’s own words describe them best: “rectangles of burning consciousness”. Well worth a look.

Tipp Top

A harbinger, a harbinger. The last time Tipp won the National Hurling League (in 2001) they went on to win the All-Ireland. This was a very impressive performance for this time of the year. You could see the passion and engagement. Every time Eoin Kelly scored, he would turn and shake his fist in encouragement at his team mates – urging them on to even greater heights. Lar Corbett seems back to his best as well – scoring a goal of great poise. There wasn’t much in it but Tipp kept their cool when Galway got back into it and Butler’s point ensured the victory. Bring on Cork. And it was nice to see a more intense Tipperary manager. Liam Sheedy has that lean and hungry look. A stark contrast to his media-loving fat boy predecessor.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Winnie & Wolf by A N Wilson

Herein lies the danger of book clubs. Left to my own devices I would never pick up a book by A N Wilson. I know of him as a writer for the Evening Standard and The Spectator – the twin organs of right wing England. One addressing the hoi polloi and the other the more dim-witted members of the Oxbridge set. He is also a writer of populist histories and biographies on subjects no interest to me: Hilaire Belloc, John Betjeman, the Royal Family, Sir Walter Scott etc.

So of course I approached this book with my prejudices and pre-conceptions on red alert. They were not disappointed.

The book is divided into parts, each named after a Wagner opera: Tristan and Isolde, Parsifal etc. Maybe these operas parallel the action described in the different sections but unless you’re familiar with Wagner you will never know. Wilson gives you a tedious summary of the plot of each which provided me at least with little illumination. Throughout the book you get little essays on Wagner, Bayreuth, the Weimar Republic, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche etc. These are irritatingly opinionated and seem to reflect the prejudices of a young fogey (such as Wilson) rather than those of a contemporary of Hitler. He accuses Nietzsche of anti-semitism in The Birth of Tragedy on palpably nonsensical grounds: Nietsche was an advocate of the Dionysian, Socrates on the contrary stood for the Appollonian, therefore Nietzsche didn’t like Socrates. Socrates had many of the qualities we associate with Jews; intellectual rigour, hard work etc. Therefore Nietzsche didn’t like Jews. Make sense? No, I didn’t think so. And Nietzsche was always an admirer of the Jews. Here’s a quote from Human all too Human on the Jewish nation:

"the most sorrowful history of all peoples, and to whom we owe the noblest of all human beings (Christ), the purest philosopher (Spinoza), the mightiest book, and the most effective moral code in the world. "

Wilson also seems to have some kind of cloacal obsession: referring frequently to Hitler’s farting and bringing up that old canard about his coprophilia. This is schoolboy stuff.

And then you get him playing around with historical fact. So in this account Hitler actually executes the leader of the SA Eric Rohm himself. This never happened and in fact I don’t recall Hitler ever getting close to violence and executions in the way his contemporary Stalin did.

And of course the central promise of the book has Hitler and the gruesome Winifred Wagner having a child. An event made highly unlikely by Hitler’s obsessive avoidance of procreation and famously low libido – not to mention the lack of any historical evidence. That’s fiction for you I suppose.

Rocco Tullio at the Cherrylane Gallery

It’s always a pleasure to get out to the Cherrylane Gallery in Delgany on a Sunday afternoon – particularly when the weather allows you to gather outside. And Michael and Robert are amiable hosts.

Tullio’s work reminds me somewhat of Gwen O’Dowd’s, or occasionally Tim Goulding’s. Some of the smaller encaustic landscapes are excellent. He has a reputation as a talented portrait artist and there is a straightforward charcoal piece of Skellig Michael that demonstrates his skill as a draughtsman. However, the bulk of the show is made up of moody expressionistic landscapes with splashes of reds and yellows suggesting fires and dawns. Generally the show is impressive, if not very original, but when he moves away from encaustic to oil (or acrylic?) the work is flat and uninteresting. I suppose encaustic lends a heft and ambiguity to paintings that oil by itself cannot.

Whatever about Tullio’s artistic future he will hardly starve in a garret. The show was opened by U2 manager Paul McGuinness – who happens to be Tullio’s godfather. McGuinness damaged his arm falling off a horse on the morning of the show. He had asked John Boorman (the film director) to stand in for him should he not make it. An impressive duo to launch your solo career. Both ended up saying a few words: McGuinness with his arm in a sling, Boorman looking fit and dapper with his dicky bow.

There was a huge turnout of Wicklow bohos – foxy ladies with ethnic jewelry and roguish eyes. Chris de Burgh was there with his fragrant wife and so was Neil Jordan – dressed, as usual, like a refugee from a Salvation Army hostel.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Munster Abu - Heineken Cup Quarter-final

Munster eh, how do they keep on doing it? One reason is the palpable espirit de corps in the squad - in contrast to the Irish squad. Also, the experience and intensity of their forward play has now been augmented by a trio of hard and dangerous backs from the southern hemisphere. Add a couple of up and coming local lads and suddenly Munster are looking like a complete team. Spare a thought for poor old Peter Stringer though – cast off by Ireland and now by Munster. The best passer of a ball we’ve had since John O’Meara and he’s discarded for Thomas O’Leary (who was fine) - just as O’Meara was discarded for Andy Mulligan (who was rarely fine) many years ago.

For the first 15 minutes Munster were on the back foot but thanks to resolute tackling Gloucester never looked like getting over the try line and when the usually metronomic Patterson started missing his kicks the Gloucester assault began to wane. Slowly the wheel turned and Munster began to strut their stuff in mid-field. Some inspiration from O’Gara and Howlett led to Dowling strolling over in the corner. Gloucester never threatened thereafter. Bring on the Saracens.

The gigantic Vainakolo on the wing for Gloucester with his elaborately coiffed hair looked as if he was going to Mardi Gras rather than playing rugby but an early encounter with Leamy soon put him right on where the party was. Leamy and Quinlan were heroic but I’d expect nothing less from a couple of Tipp boys. For Gloucester Simpson-Daniel was their best player and should clearly be playing for England instead of the other high-stepping peri-wigged galoot.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Sketches of Cuba - Part 5

One notable feature of Cuban life is the rarity of crime or violence on the streets. We walked down the meanest streets at all hours of the day and night and never once felt even slightly intimidated. And these are people who have nothing – a bunch of plump tourists would surely suggest rich pickings to them. You can attribute this to a constant police presence on the streets – but this presence is not too obvious or intrusive – just a couple of policemen every street or so as you walk around. This is a presence we could do with in Dublin.

On my last night I had my mobile phone snatched as I walked down a crowded street. This was my own bloody fault as I was ostentatiously texting someone with my left hand stuck out invitingly – thumbing away like a hero, in a country where mobile phones are like gold. It was snatched and gone before I had time to react. A shadowy figure disappeared into a darkened park and as I turned. I rang O2 and the account was disabled within minutes – not bad at about one in the morning Irish time.

The following day we headed to the Mirimar area for our last lunch. We took a taxi there from our hotel. On sitting down to lunch I suddenly realised I had left my bag with passport, airline ticket, wallet with credit cards, and about €1,000 in cash in the back of the cab. That ruined my appetite as I considered the awful implications of this piece of carelessness. I suffered for about 20 minutes when suddenly the taxi driver walked in holding my bag.

So Farewell then Bertie

Bertie going eh - after suffering the death of a thousand cuts. It's hard to see him as a corrupt figure, more morally amorphous I suppose. We can only speculate about why he was shifting all that cash around during the period he was separating from his wife.

He was the epitome of Fianna Fail - no discernible political philosophy, just all things to all people: cheerfully philistine, friend of big business, sensitive to the will of the big unions, but ultimately believing that the devil should take the hindmost - like his US friends. His legacy should include the disgraceful failure to improve our health and education services during a period of prosperity. (Hanafin is already saying we can't reduce class sizes because of a downturn in the economy - thereby begging an obvious question.)

His claim that he has left a "stronger and fairer Ireland" is palpable nonsense. The Ireland he has left has never been so divided between the haves and the have nots. And as for the tosh about Fianna Fail being the "republican party", who can credit that these days? Has he done one radical thing to improve the quality of our life in this country? Look at the violence in the streets, look at the traffic fiasco. Perhaps his efforts on the North are his best legacy. And his only piece of memorable legislation was the smoking ban.