Exhibition Review: The International Style of Muriel Spark


Part of Muriel Spark 100, a programme of events celebrating the centenary of the birth of iconic writer Dame Muriel Spark, this exhibition in the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh takes a journey through the various places Spark lived – Edinburgh, Africa, New York, London, Rome and Tuscany – showing the significance of these places to her work and charting her career. Mirroring the often unusual structure of Spark’s novels, the exhibition is not arranged chronologically, and it is possible to wander from section to section and explore Spark’s life and writing. I also love the design of the poster and postcards for the exhibition, as pictured above.

Featuring letters and telegrams from such illustrious names as Jacquelie Kennedy Onassis, Elizabeth Burton Taylor, Evelyn Waugh and Maggie Smith (to name but a few), the manuscript of Spark’s most famous novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and dresses Spark wore for publicity shoots; this is exhibition offers a fascinating insight into the writer’s world. Spark said that ‘since 1949 onwards I have thrown away practically nothing on paper’ and the NLS holds an impressive personal archive of her work and correspondence.

Image of Muriel Spark from NLS website

The only Muriel Spark novel I have read to date is Loitering with Intent (a brilliantly comic satirical book) but having been to this exhibition I am keen to read more of her work! Myself and the friend I was visiting in Edinburgh stumbled across this exhibition, it was a wonderful surprise and definitely one of the highlights of my trip.

I would highly recommend seeing this exhibition in person, entry is free and the National Library is a gorgeous building, but plenty of information and some of the exhibits can also be seen here on the National Library of Scotland’s website.

Review: A World of Colour Exhibition at the DLR LexIcon

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The ‘A World of Colour’ exhibition in the DLR LexIcon brings together the work of Chris Haughton and Beatrice Alemagna, two very talented illustrators and picturebook makers. The exhibition  was curated by Sarah Webb, the DLR Writer in Residence. Haughton and Alemagna have very different styles, and they make an interesting pairing for this exhibition.

The exhibition showcases original illustrations from many of their best known books, and offers viewers a valuable chance to examine these artworks on their larger original scale. Charming details are evident, and it is a joy to be able to see the mark-making on the page. Seeing originals also allows the viewer to consider the process of making a book, and in comparing the originals to the finished book to think about design and particularly text placement.

A wall showing collages Haughton made when planning A Bit Lost alongside finished illustrations from the book offers a fascinating insight into his process. The information panels, by picturebook expert Valerie Coghlan, give a brilliant introduction to each artist, information about their materials and process, and fun facts too! Her introduction to the picturebook also offers much food for thought when exploring the exhibition. I like that the images are allowed stand alone, only captioned, so the viewers can read the visual cues for themselves or simply enjoy these wonderful images.

There is a wonderful sneak peek of Beatrice Alemagna’s forthcoming book On a Magical Do-Nothing Day which will be published in English by HarperCollins this year. It has previously been published in French. There is a fantastic spirit of adventure and imagination in these pictures, I love the one where we are looking up at the little girl walking through a field.

This exhibition is a delight. From mischievous dogs to sleepy bears, curious children to strange creatures, there is so much to see. The bright and bold colours of Chris Haughton’s work are a visual treat, and one of the rugs he designed for his Fairtrade company Node is also on display. Seeing A Bit Lost on the original scale and in full vibrancy is worth the trip alone. Beatrice Alemagna’s work uses such a mixture of techniques, being able to examine her originals shows this off beautifully. I love her collage work in A Lion in Paris, it’s a marvellous book, and the portraits from What is a Child? are really beautiful.

Ultimately, these images work best in context. Where better to show them than in a library where readers young and old can then go find the books from which the images originated and answer lingering questions. Does the Haughton’s little owl in A Bit Lost find his way home? And what on earth does Alemagna’s lion get up to in A Lion in Paris?

Chris Haughton and Beatrice Alemagna will be interviewed by Margaret Anne Suggs (another wonderful illustrator, see Pigín of Howth written by Kathleen Watkins) at the Mountains to Sea Book Festival next month. This will be a wonderful opportunity to learn more about their art, well worth tying in with a trip to the exhibition. I will be giving family tours of the exhibition on March 26th, do join me!

The exhibition runs until the 31st of March, and is located on the 3rd floor of the DLR LexIcon library.


Ulster Museum Visit January 2017

I was visiting a friend in Belfast this weekend, and I was delighted we could fit in a visit to the Ulster Museum. Their art exhibitions are fantastic, and I haven’t been doing enough gallery-going lately.

Here are a few highlights from my visit.

Bare Life: Abstraction and Figuration in 20th Century British Art

This exhibition explored modernism, and the opposing modes of abstract and figurative art. There was a mixture of paintings, photographs and sculpture.


The highlight of this exhibition for me was the Duncan Grant painting Interior at Charleston (1918) which shows Vanessa Bell and David Garrett at Charleston, the house the three of them lived in. Bell is shown painting a still life and while Garrett is translating Dostoevsky. It offers a glimpse into the world of the Bloomsbury group, an avant garde group of creatives that I have a great interest in.

This is an essay I wrote about the art of Vanessa Bell and Virginia Woolf.

The New Past: Irish Art from 1800 to 2016

I loved this exhibition. There was a wide selection of Irish painting on show, with works by such artists as Paul Henry, Sir John Lavery, Jack B Yeats, Margaret Clarke, Louis le Brocquy and Sarah Cecilia Harrison to name but a few. The exhibition is divided into sections – Invention, Theatre, Myth and After the Past.

Highlights of the exhibition for me included the wonderful Margaret Clarke self-portrait, Robin Redbreast. It was so different from other works by her I had seen (Stringbergian (1927), one of her better known paintings is also in the exhibition). This work was more realist in style. She has painted herself wearing a red waistcoat, part of the traditional dress of the Aran Islands.  Her expression is so compelling; she looks directly at the viewer and is quite vulnerable. I was captivated by this painting.


One of Sir John Lavery’s many portraits of his glamorous wife Hazel, The Green Coat (1926) was another highlight of the exhibition for me. It is a large scale work, and Hazel’s height is accentuated. She looks off into the distance and has an almost mystical quality about her, like a fairy queen.

Rita Duffy’s Titanic (2002) was another work I hadn’t come across before. It’s a small mixed media work, echoing the texture of the metalwork of the ship. This aspect of the work recalls engineering and industry in Belfast and the presence of the storm and the iceberg point to the tragic outcome of the voyage.

Another modern work I enjoyed was Elizabeth Magill’s Chronicle of Orange (2007). Her landscapes have quite an eerie, almost mystical quality yet details like electricity lines firmly ground them in the contemporary. The influence of Romantic painting is there, as is the influence of photography. Her use of colour is stunning, and I always enjoy her work.

If I had to pick an overall highlight, it would be Alicia Boyle’s Potato Washers (1949). It was a delight to see this as I had researched her sketchbooks as an intern in the National Gallery of Ireland a couple of years ago. Having seen some of the sketches for this work it was a real joy to see the actual painting, especially unexpectedly! I loved the vibrant use of colour and expressive brushwork.


There are many more wonderful artworks in both exhibitions, I would highly recommend a visit if you’re in Belfast. The Elements exhibition was also very interesting, particularly the part about poisons! Several great murder mystery ideas there…

The Private World of Sir John Lavery (1856-1941) at the Ulster Museum, Belfast

This exhibition, bringing together both landscapes and family portraits, offers a fascinating insight into the private life of this prolific painter. As both a society painter and a war artist, Sir John Lavery tended to paint elaborate and grand works. The paintings on display in the Ulster Museum are more muted, showing a quieter side to his art. The works were all part of Lavery’s private collection, and he donated them to the museum. Lavery donated 34 paintings in total to the museum, a selection of these works appear in this museum. My favourites are discussed below. I would highly recommend visiting the Ulster Museum to see this exhibition (and others!) in person.

2015-08-06 12.41.23Eileen in Primrose Yellow (1926)

Eileen was Lavery’s daughter from his first marriage, and she appeared in a number of his paintings. In this painting, Eileen is elegantly posed but there is a sense of warmth and intimacy that differentiates this portrait from society paintings. In another work in the exhibition dating from 1901 we see a young Eileen making her First Holy Communion.

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Alice (1919)

Alice was the daughter of Lavery’s second wife, Hazel. This painting is unusual among Lavery’s oeuvre not only for its small scale, but also as it is painted on board. In this painting, there is a sense of calm and repose as Alice is immersed in her reading, seemingly unaware of the viewer. The quiet mood of this work contrasts completely with The Artist’s Studio (1909-13, National Gallery of Ireland) a large scale, ostentatious family portrait painted by Lavery that has echoes of Las Meninas by Velasquez. As one of the gallery attendants pointed out to my friend and I, Alice is set in Lavery’s studio as can be seen when the work is compared to Daylight Raid from my Studio Window 7 July 1917 (discussed below).

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The Green Coat (1926)

Lady Hazel Lavery was the artist’s second wife, and frequently modelled for his paintings. Lavery was enthralled by his wife’s beauty, painting her time and time again. She even appeared on Irish pound notes in the guise of Éire, the female personification of Ireland. Lavery depicts his wife as graceful and elegant. He often accentuated her height in his paintings, as he has done here by painting a mantlepiece behind her. She is an almost ethereal figure, like a fairy queen in her green  coat. The green could be read as patriotic, and it is possible to see this as another depiction of Hazel as Éire. The way she looks off into the distance lends an air of mystery to the work. The mirror behind her shows her opulent costume to its full effect, and Hazel’s bare shoulders and neck give her a seductive appearance. She often appears wearing exotic outfits in these works – such as in the aforementioned The Artist’s Studio, in which she wears a tall feather headdress.

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Daylight Raid from my Studio Window 7 July 1917

This work can be seen as an intersection between Lavery’s private life and his work as a war artist. The painting is set in his studio, in which we can see canvases and paint brushes. The blackout blinds on the window allude to the ongoing conflict. Hazel Lavery can be seen at the sofa, looking out the window. The window and the scene of the air raid are enormous, dwarfing all other elements of the composition. This is a very deliberate decision which shows the overwhelming impact of war and how it makes everyday life seem small and insignificant. The work is rapidly painted, capturing the planes in the sky.

The Private World of Sir John Lavery (1856-1941) is an engaging and enjoyable exhibition that offers a glimpse into the artist’s life. The small number of works on display makes it possible to study each, and makes the exhibition accessible. The attendant working in the gallery when I visited was very friendly and helpful, and I really appreciated all the extra information he gave myself and my friend.

Review: Irish Women Artists 1870-1970 at Adam’s Auctioneers, Dublin


The Summer Loan exhibition in Adam’s Auctioneers showcases a century of art by Irish women. Some of the names (Evie Hone, Mainie Jellet or Lily Yeats) may be familiar, but others are lesser known, such as Lady Glenavy, Elizabeth Rivers or Hilda Geralda Van Stockum. Featuring works in a variety of media — including paintings, prints, embroidery and sculpture — this exhibition shows the breadth of creativity of often under-appreciated Irish female artists. While women artists have frequently been omitted from the canon of art history, the impact they have had on the course of Irish art is undeniable. They have founded artistic ventures such as the Dublin Painters Society and the Irish Exhibition of Living Art and helped establish modern artistic styles in Ireland. The art shown is interesting and varied, and proves that these artists are worthy of more attention than they have traditionally received.

At the Irish Women Artists 1870-1970 exhibition in Adam's Auctioneers. Photos by Ethna O’Brien, Adam Auctioneers.

At the Irish Women Artists 1870-1970 exhibition in Adam’s Auctioneers. Photos by Ethna O’Brien, Adam Auctioneers.

Previously, in order for a woman to become an artist she would have to be from a wealthy background. Painting could be considered a genteel, ladylike occupation, provided she used suitable subjects. Watercolour would be considered an appropriate medium — fittingly delicate. Rose Barton and Helen Mabel Trevor are examples of female artists working at a time when watercolour painting was first receiving recognition. These works may seem conservative now, but at the time painting en plein air and using exotic settings was different. A professional female artist like Sarah Purser, however, was a real rarity, and she became the first full female member of the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1924. Not only was she a talented artist, but she was a powerful force in the Irish art world, founding such institutions as Irish stained glass corporation An Túr Gloine. One of Sarah Purser’s works, illustrated below, has been used for the exhibition poster.

Sarah Purser, A Visitor. Photos by Ethna O’Brien, Adam Auctioneers.

Sarah Purser, A Visitor. Photos by Ethna O’Brien, Adam Auctioneers.

This exhibition also features the work of pioneering Modernists such as Mainie Jellet, Evie Hone and Mary Swanzy. This trio helped to establish Cubist painting in a conservative Irish art world, and their work remains striking today. Works are also exhibited by Norah McGuinness and Nano Reid, who were chosen to represent Ireland in the Venice Biennale exhibition of 1950, the country’s first participation in this international show. McGuinness and Reid had both exhibited extensively in Ireland and abroad, but the choice of two female artists for Ireland’s introduction to the Venice Biennale was still a revolutionary move.

Mary Swanzy HRHA, Cubist Landscape. Photos by Ethna O’Brien, Adam Auctioneers.

Mary Swanzy HRHA, Cubist Landscape. Photos by Ethna O’Brien, Adam Auctioneers.


Mary Swanzy HRHA, Eleanora’s House. Photos by Ethna O’Brien, Adam Auctioneers.

Traditionally sculpture, being a more physical art form, has been an unusual one for women to work in. However, there have been notable Irish female sculptors, some of whom are represented in the exhibition. A small bronze sculpture by Imogen Stuart is on display. It depicts a group of children dancing; a public sculpture of the same grouping can be seen in Stillorgan. The sculptures on display are small, mostly in display cases along with books showing some of the illustrative work by female artists. In terms of prints, Elizabeth Rivers’ bold and striking work stands out. The fairy tale quality of Norah McGuinness’ illustrations and the satirical humour of Grace Gifford’s work show the variety of styles to be found in this field.


Imogen Stuart RHA Stillorgan Children. Photos by Ethna O’Brien, Adam Auctioneers.

The decorative arts have tended to be a female-dominated field, and have been given a lower status. While it has been dismissed, embroidery is a time-consuming art form, requiring great skill. Some of Lily Yeats’ work is on display including her striking night time scene, The GPO. These works are on a small scale, but are impressively precise.


Lily Yeats, The GPO Needlework panel. Photos by Ethna O’Brien, Adam Auctioneers.

The works in more traditional styles are hung downstairs, with the upper gallery reserved for Modernist works. While the exhibition is rather cluttered, it offers an impressive selection of art. The fact that many of the works are on loan from private collections means this is a rare chance to see some excellent examples of works by Irish women artists. There will also be two films playing in the upstairs gallery, about Mainie Jellet and Estella Solomons. The exhibition will be on display in the Ava Gallery in Clandeboye, County Down from the 7 August to the 5 September.

Irish Women Artists 1870-1970 will run in Adam’s Auctioneers, St Stephen’s Green, Dublin until the 31  July.

 Review originally written tn2 Magazine.

Review: 184th Annual Exhibition at the Royal Hibernian Academy

The Royal Hibernian Academy’s Annual Exhibition is Ireland’s largest open submission exhibition. Over half of the works were selected from more than 2,300 entries, which are shown with work by RHA members and invited artists. With 567 works by 354 artists, it showcases an impressive array of media, styles and artists. Paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and photographs are all featured, ranging in style from traditional to modern. The exhibition is typically composed of work by living artists, however there are a selection of works displayed in memory of the late Patrick Scott HRHA including a work from his 2007 series Meditations, which makes use of embossing techniques and gold foil, and follows on from the contemplative themes seen in his earlier works.

The works of emerging artists are exhibited alongside those by familiar names such as RHA member Pauline Bewick. Bewick has four works in the exhibition. Three of these are large canvases in her distinctively linear and fantastical style, but the fourth piece is quite different and not immediately recognisable as her work. Old Woman Remembering is a collage, combining a portrait of an old woman in ink and watercolour with lacework, a doily, drawings, text and postage stamps. The effect is charming, and in a way echoes the dreamlike quality of Bewick’s paintings. Other established artists exhibiting this year include Maeve McCarthy RHA, who has several small nocturnal scenes on display, and Eilis O’Connell RHA (whose sculpture Apples and Atoms was recently installed in Trinity College Dublin) has a number of works on paper in the exhibition. The space guaranteed for Academy members who wish to exhibit can be a contentious issue, especially when an artist works on a large scale. However, the chance to exhibit alongside prestigious artists is an important one and offers status to the newer artists whose work is on show.

Prints on display include At The Stroke of Midnight by Ann McKenna, an evocative and eerie Cinderella image that echoes Harry Clarke’s style. Her etchings often use fairy tale themes, and have an illustrative quality. Esther Breslin’s Snow Blanket Silence makes striking use of a panorama format. The colour changes across the image, moving from blues and whites to warmer pinks and a yellow glow emanating from a cabin. As with the other media on display, the prints show great variety. Jean Bardon, who has exhibited in previous RHA exhibitions,is represented by  The Garden of Perfect Splendour, Peonies which is typical of Bardon’s stylein the use of a gold leaf background, panels and floral motifs, also reflecting the influence of Japanese folding screens.

In terms of photography, there are works from Abigail O’Brien RHA’s With Bread exhibition from 2013. These images, taken at bakeries around Ireland, are named after different female artists whose work O’Brien has linked with the patterns in her photographs. Another striking work is Stephen Tierney’s The Weather in Delft in which the artist has taken Vermeer’s A Lady Writing A Letter With Her Maid, and removed the figures leaving an enigmatic and curiously empty image of a seventeenth century Dutch interior.

A combination of media can be seen in Kenneth Lambert’s art. His works behind domed glass have a nostalgic feel with the use of fighter plane motifs. They combine sculpture and painting, and the narrative element reflects his experience as an animator. Sculptures on display are in a variety of media — including Colm Lawton’s The Great Palindrome, which received The ESB Moran Award for Outstanding Sculpture, a clay-based work with astonishing attention to detail in its spiralling colonnades.

This year 14 awards were given, with a total prize fund of over €41,500. One such award is The Arthur Gibney Award for Architectural Content in any Medium. This was awarded to Terry Markey’s Constructed Action, a towering structure composed of planks of wood. Its rough textures and sharp angles provide visual interest, and it dominates the centre of the gallery in which it has been placed. The De Veres Art Award – for a work of distinction – was given to Ed Milano’s Prelude, a beautiful composition of 15 small panels with images of trees with yellow leaves in a silvery light. Alan Freney’s And Once I Was So Strong was awarded the prestigious Hennessy Craig Scholarship (prize fund €10,000), open to artists under the age of 35 who have studied in Ireland and are exhibiting in that year’s exhibition.

The works mentioned above are only a small number of those on display. The RHA Annual Exhibition offers an overview of contemporary Irish art, offering a diverse selection of media, subject matter and style. From the traditional to the experimental, it offers real variety and is an exhibition that is well worth several visits due to the sheer amount of works on show.

The 184th RHA Annual Exhibition runs until the 9th of August 2014 in the RHA Gallery, Ely Place, Dublin. Free Admission.

Review originally published on tn2 magazine’s website, see the original article for some images from the exhibition.

“I go to seek a Great Perhaps” Young People Curating in Limerick City Gallery of Art


Today I’m writing about an exhibition I saw in the Limerick City Gallery of Art recently that got me very excited. I was down in Clare with my family as my sister (a harpist) was performing with the Clare Memory Orchestra, and my mum and I headed off to visit this gallery.

Look at the cool sculptures on the outside of the building! There are lots of these tiny little bronze figures – my favourite is the little guy climbing the ladder, pictured below. Other figures were reading, hanging from ledges and more!


The gallery houses mostly modern art – other exhibitions included a lot of installations and video art. The show I was most interested in though was ‘I go to seek a Great Perhaps’. The name comes from a Rabelais quote, used in John Green’s popular YA novel Looking for Alaska. This ties in nicely with the premise of the exhibition – it was co-curated by young people from the area working with Shinners Scholar Aoibheann McCarthy. The young curators, aged between 14 and 20, chose 3 works each and their responses to the works are used on the information panels.

Isn’t this just a fantastic idea? It is a great way to get young people into galleries, and to encourage them to engage with art. It’s the kind of scheme I would love to be involved with myself, and I found the exhibition very enjoyable. The responses were very well-written – describing how works linked to fears for the future or difficulties in having your voice heard as a young adult, or engaging with art historical methodologies such as feminism. I found their commentaries both insightful and interesting – Caoimhe Taylor Moloney’s analysis of Vivienne Bogan’s work Stitched Pail No.2 made me look at it in a whole new light, and I loved how Owen Mulligan connected Janet Mullarney’s sculpture Waiting for Illumination to the state of transition and the vulnerability experienced as a young person. The aesthetic responses too shows an engagement and appreciation of the works and their themes. Familiar artists in the exhibition included Mary Swanzy, Jack B Yeats, Alice Maher, Daniel Maclise and John Lavery but I was delighted to discover many new artists as well. The selection made was varied and interesting, and overall it was an excellent exhibition.

I hope this scheme will be taken up by other galleries around the country – it is a great chance for young people to engage with artworks, and learn about curating, and the resulting exhibition was a definite success. For more information, and some images from the exhibition, see: http://www.agreatperhapslimerick.com/

I would also like to say a quick thank you to the lovely staff at the gallery who were very helpful, and gave me a lovely little book about the gallery’s collection. 🙂


Papergirl Dublin Photos

Today I visited the Papergirl Dublin exhibition, in a nice café called Lurve at Lucy’s at Temple Bar. It’s a really interesting show featuring photos, poems, posters, drawings, paintings, prints, stamps and much more. Read my interview with Papergirl Dublin founder Mice Hell here. The exhibition runs until the 18th, don’t miss out!








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Papergirl Dublin Interview

Papergirl Dublin was founded in 2011, inspired by earlier Papergirl projects, the first of which began in Berlin in 2006. This first Papergirl project began as a response to a ban on putting posters in public places. Papergirl now takes place in 20 cities worldwide, and is a non-commercial venture to bring art to the masses. Art is collected via an open call for submissions, an exhibition is held (see more about the 2013 exhibition below!) and then the art is distributed paperboy/girl style, on bikes to the people of the city. It’s a cool project because artists of all abilities can take part, and have their work exhibited. In 2012 the Dublin exhibition featured 281 works by over 80 different artists. This year’s exhibition will take place from the 15th to the 18th of August in a café called Lurve at Lucy’s. I caught up with Papergirl Dublin founder Mice Hell to find out more about the Dublin project and the upcoming show of art.

Poster for the 2013 exhibition (Image from papergirldublin.tumblr.com)

Poster for the 2013 exhibition (Image from papergirldublin.tumblr.com)

Jenny Duffy (JD): When did you first come across Papergirl?

Mice Hell (MH): In 2008 when I was living in Germany.  I was studying for a year in Leipzig, which is about 1 hour away from Berlin, and I saw a Papergirl Berlin poster on a wall. Simple as that. It was a very nice poster so I looked it up online when I went home.

On a related note, I was helping out/selling ginger beer at the Dublin Zine Fair last August, after doing Papergirl a month or so earlier. One of the stallholders at that was a chap called Florian from Berlin, and after talking to him for an hour or so I found out he studied in the same class as Aisha, the girl who started the original Papergirl Berlin. Dublin is small even if you’re from Berlin.

JD: What inspired you to start up the Dublin branch?

MH: For about 2 years I kept an eye on the Papergirls springing up all over the world & sent a lot of art to them, & every time I did it I thought “someone should do that here”. And after 3 years, I realised nobody else was going to do it.

JD: Are there links between the different branches of Papergirl internationally?

MH: Depends what you mean by links. The projects are not run by the same person or people or even by any kind of central “committee”, they are set up by people who just want to set them up. Anyone could set up a Papergirl.

There’s a Papergirl World blog (papergirl-world.blogspot.com), where various Papergirls from around the world can post open calls & information about their individual projects. And because it’s a project based around sharing & general niceness, Papergirls in other countries/cities are usually very happy to mention you on their own blogs or websites.

Also, I have got art from people directly involved in Papergirl in other countries – they know how much work goes in & what it means to get something so generally they’re really good about sending things.

Papergirl Dublin gets submissions from across the globe - this one came from Sandra Rede from Mexico (papergirldublin.tumblr.com)

Papergirl Dublin gets submissions from across the globe – this one came from Sandra Rede from Mexico (Image from papergirldublin.tumblr.com)

JD: Have you been to any of the Papergirl exhibitions in other countries?

MH: Unfortunately, no! Tried to make it to Berlin in 2008 but it was postponed due to bad weather I think.

JD: What makes Papergirl different from other exhibitions, and how does it benefit artists?

MH: First of all, it’s completely non-commercial. Nothing is for sale. Someone did ask to buy a piece last year, I had to tell them no.

Secondly, and this is not necessarily a criticism – most galleries are there to show & preserve the art. There’s a lot of preciousness around keeping the art safe – often you can’t touch it, and then when the exhibition is over it is put away very carefully in a dark drawer where nobody gets to see it. None of that with Papergirl.

As for how it benefits artists; first of all, it’s a bit of free promotion. That’s always nice. Second of all, it frees them from having to worry about the piece looking perfect, and from looking after the piece once it’s been made. That can be liberating – hopefully it has encouraged someone to try making something differently.

Speaking of different, wonderful paper embroideries by Grainne Brady. (Image from papergirldublin.tumblr.com)

Speaking of different – here are some wonderful paper embroideries by Grainne Brady. (Image from papergirldublin.tumblr.com)

Drawings and poetry by Taigh Lynch (Image from papergirldublin.tumblr.com)

Drawings and poetry by Taigh Lynch (Image from papergirldublin.tumblr.com)

JD: Have any submissions surprised you? Any personal favourites of this year’s submissions?

MH: I should really say “They’re ALL a surprise I love ALL of the children”… but I’m always especially delighted to get zines. Got a zine this year by a guy called Danilo Vadis, really cool stuff.

JD: What were the submissions like this year, in terms of quantity, medium, subject matter etc.?

MH: So far (and I’m aware the exhibition is less than a week away, but people are still giving me things) there are 33 artists, 8 anonymous submissions, and at least 100 individual pieces. Quite a few people gave multiples of photographs or poetry or posters.

There are very few pieces over A3 size, a fair bit of collage work. And the subject matter is manifold. “Varied” doesn’t really do it justice.

Medium-wise, it’s almost exclusively paper-based – probably because the art does need to be rollable. The guy I mentioned earlier from Berlin gave me some 3-dimensional posters with 3d glasses included. That’s probably one of the more unusual pieces. Also myself & my flatmate Siobhán are submitting some postage stamps that we “designed” in the GPO museum at the “make your own stamp” exhibit which is probably aimed at children… those are going to be great fun.

JD: In the past, how have the ‘innocent bystanders’ who receive the art reacted?

MH: With confusion. But most of them seemed pretty happy with it after a few seconds, from what I could see.

Papergirl submissions for 2012 awaiting distribution! (Image from papergirldublin.tumblr.com)

Papergirl submissions from 2012 awaiting distribution! (Image from papergirldublin.tumblr.com)

JD: Why should everyone visit the Papergirl exhibition?

MH: Well what else would you be doing of a Thursday night?! There’ll be ginger beer. And you’ll get to see things, like them, want them, & wait on tenterhooks to see if you’ll get it when we distribute the art a few days later.


A HUGE thank you to Mice Hell for being so wonderful and helpful, she was a pleasure to interview! Below are a few of my favourite submissions (check out the Papergirl Dublin tumblr for more, where you will find everything from Danger Mouse to Kate Middleton!) The exhibition opens on the 15th of August at 6pm, don’t miss out!

I also love this owl lithograph by Rachel Likely of the Black Church Print Studio. (Image from papergirldublin.tumblr.com)

I  love this owl lithograph by Rachel Likely of the Black Church Print Studio. (Image from papergirldublin.tumblr.com)

This drawing by Sophia Murray is one of my favourites! (Image from papergirldublin.tumblr.com)

This drawing by Sophia Murray is one of my favourites! (Image from papergirldublin.tumblr.com)

I think Daisy Allen should definitely go into illustrating children's books. Just sayin'! (Image from papergirldublin.tumblr.com)

I think Daisy Allen should definitely go into illustrating children’s books. (Image from papergirldublin.tumblr.com)

Exhibition: Nigel Cooke at the Douglas Hyde Gallery

What: An exhibition of the art of Nigel Cooke. (The Paradise by Ciaran Murphy is also on show, in Gallery 2)
Where: Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College Dublin. See http://www.douglashydegallery.com.
When: Until July 17th
Admission Free.


Cooke Images

On Monday I popped into the Douglas Hyde Gallery to take a look at their current exhibition. I don’t see nearly enough modern art, so I was keen to check this out. Also the poster looked amazing. The main show at the moment is of Nigel Cooke’s art, I loved its unusual and mystical qualities. I particularly liked his large scale canvases, which all had tree themes, and the sense of power in his work. This is the first exhibition to have focussed solely on his tree works.

The image used on the cover of the exhibition booklet is Storm With Shattered Tree. I was immediately attracted to this work by the swirling lines, evocative of a giant sweeping wave, and the greeny-blue colours. I also love the disembodied heads Cooke uses throughout the works in the exhibition, there is something quite fantastical and eerie about them. In this painting, as the title suggests, a tree is bearing the brunt of a storm, and is collapsing. The sense of power is conveyed through those powerful swishes of blue and green, with their visible brush strokes. The branches of the broken tree splay out from the waves.

I was very interested in the comparison of this work with another painting by Cooke, which I unfortunately don’t have an image of, entitled Mimosa in Valbonne [Writer Slumped at the Base of a Tree] which used a startlingly vibrant yellow. The swirling lines in this work seemed to be the golden hair of the floating heads. I loved the power evident in both paintings, be it a crashing wave or crackling lightning, the impact of which was heightened by the scale. Both paintings had a beach setting, and figures could be seen. In the Shattered Tree painting, these figures were green haired women in blue bikinis – perhaps sea creatures (?) and in the Mimosa painting they were slumped and despondent figures, a mixture of males and females. The sense of despair is echoed in his painting White Orchard [With Party and Splint] of 2013, in which there is a large looming skull out of which heads are flowing. The base of the painting shows skulls with clown noses, perhaps intended as a sort of mocking memento mori, and despairing figures, some collapsed, others with their heads bowed. There is a potent sense of mortality, and again, an otherworldly element.

I liked the lack of certainty in these paintings. The title cards offer no descriptions or interpretations, and the paintings themselves are not directly representational. The viewer has to look closely at the works, and make up their own mind about what they signify. There are clearly deeper underlying themes to these paintings, but they can also be enjoyed on a purely visual level (especially in terms of the textures of the paint, or the movement evident in the brush strokes), or for their mysterious and disturbing atmosphere.

As well as the large scale paintings discussed here, there were some smaller canvases on show. View all the paintings from the exhibition, and some photos of the installation here: http://nigelcooke.net/exhibition/