Thursday, January 20, 2011

Kieran McGonnell R.I.P.

I was saddened to hear of the recent death of the Cork-born artist Kieran McGonnell. He had an accident last October shortly after moving to Chicago from New York and was in a coma until he died last week. I didn’t see Kieran that often – we met a few times in Dublin and New York and once, the last time I saw him, a couple of years ago in Cork. However we kept in touch regularly via Facebook and e-mail.

Kieran was a uniquely nice guy. Even a natural misanthrope like me found it impossible not to like him from the first. He had a joie de vivre about him that was infectious. He was gay and occasionally tended towards campness but he also had enough of the acid of Cork in his blood to keep him earthed. He also had the most crazy and intense blue eyes. We liked to talk about Cork and about CBC the school we both attended. We also shared a background involving Collins Barracks and the military. But mostly we talked about art for which he was an enthusiastic advocate and tireless exponent.

Although he varied his media in recent times, the majority of work that I saw was large-scale water-colours in very bright colours – he especially favoured yellow and red. He also specialised in amusing titles. A giant piece (10 feet x 4 feet) I bought for my company rejoiced in the title “The Prioress Parades her New Wimple”. In recent years he started doing portraits of famous artists (Van Gogh) and American presidents such as Obama and Lincoln. These were geared I suspect to the poster market he was building.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Eilis O'Connell at the RHA

The RHA is always worth a visit. It’s quiet, it’s bright, it’s free and now it has a coffee shop and a bookshop. And it frequently has interesting shows.

The current show by Eilis O'Connell is the most impressive body of work I've seen by her - it seems that move to Inniscara has done her good.

There are 38 pieces, all done since 2007. And what variety. There are beautiful found objects preserved in clear resin: red coral, birds nests, a child’s shoe, a vulture feather, a sheep's skull and a strange silvery object found on Inch Strand. Then there’s a series of small bronze rectangles (entitled Unlikely Monuments) etched with delicate patterns, each a minimalist masterpiece. These are apparently ideas for larger works. Upstairs the scale increases dramatically. We see 12 foot triffids, a superb Henry Moore like shape (but warmer and shapelier), and metal strips that suggest Brancusi's Le Signal. There are also some small exquisitely delicate gourd like bronzes.

This is a beautiful, classy and accessible exhibition. Get in there and relish it.

Downstairs is an exhibition of late work by Paddy Collins. There is a suggestion of Celtic iconography but the cut out format and attendant jagged shapes vie with the colour and pattern of the work. These were a critical failure in his life time – and I can see why.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Up Eoghan

Thwarted of my usual Sunday papers today in Schull I buy the Sunday Independent . A reprehensible moment of weakeness. Jesus what meretricious shite. What the hell is Gene Kerrigan doing there? A good deed in a naughty world, or a man who puts pay before principle? Even the once sound Declan Lynch has gone all tired and flaccid.

But you know what, there are occasional moments of merriment to be gleaned from the general sad, self-referential, and trite effusions that emanate from this diseased organ. Is Eoghan Harris the most ridiculous man in Ireland? Or am I being unkind and has he slipped into dementia? Maybe his ertstwhile wife is indulging him on sentimental grounds. Alas poor Eoghan – oh what a noble mind was here o’erthrown. In today’s edition he compares Bertie to Daniel O’Connell. Now we know Bertie appointed him to the Senate and gratitude is a wonderful thing – but we expect a little balance and perspective from our journalists. Bertie and his crew (and his corrupt old boss) have sunk this country. Anyone who thinks otherwise isn’t paying attention, or is unhinged. And no amount of banging on about the Peace Process (a process he was involved in and not his doing) should divert us from his despicable incompetence.

I first encountered Harris en route to Kilworth Camp outside Fermoy with the FCA back in the early Sixties. Harris was an NCO in A Company 23rd Battalion. He was a middle-class boy from Douglas in charge of an Irish-speaking platoon called the Buion Galeach. They were the best turned out, most organised, most disciplined of the platoons – thanks to Harris. He was a charasmatic leader and they were a tight group. He endeared himself to me at the time by marrying his Gaelic soldier trip with a love of Buddy Holly. His platoon used to sing his songs on the way to Kilworth Camp.

Time moved on and Harris joined RTE and combined his semi-state sinecure with a leading role in the Official IRA. Years passed in the somnambulant atmosphere of RTE and the next thing we know he’s out there doing PR and marketing for Fine Gael – remember the Twink debacle. I think there was a flirtation with Unionism subsequently – who knows, it was dizzying keeping up with his u-turns. Anyway he has now ended up sounding like a choleric retired colonel writing from Leamington Spa. For God’s sake Anne retire him.

Or better still let him loose on the literary pages. The last time I heard him talk sense was about 12 years when he was reviewing Harold Bloom’s The Western Canon.