Re-imagining landscape

Ann Quinn with DON’T BE AFRAID 2018 oil on canvas 97x122cm


Ahead of her show at the Custom House Gallery in Westport, Brian Fallon explores the work of Ann Quinn

Ann Quinn has, over the past six years or so, firmly established herself in the front rank of Irish painters. Talking big, perhaps, but this is not wilful exaggeration; it seems to me no more than sober fact, as is borne out by her last two exhibitions in the Taylor Galleries in Dublin. It was plain at once, from even a cursory viewing, that we were encountering not only a natural talent but something more than that – a genuine original, a ‘personality’.

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Hoare’s Collection

RICHARD COLT HOARE (1758-1838) TULLAMORE, KING’S COUNTY 1806 pencil, watercolour and ink 17x27cm ©RIA


Peter Harbison unearths the works of amateur artist and archaeologist Richard Colt Hoare during his summer in Ireland in 1806

The rise of Napoleon in the first five years of the 19th century and his belligerent attitude towards England – though lessened when he marched his Grande Armée away from the Channel right across Europe to occupy Vienna and win the Battle of Austerlitz in December 1805 – must have put the fear of God into affluent Britons, forcing them to abandon their accustomed idea of going on a grand tour to France and Italy, and deciding instead to travel nearer home. Among those who chose to be more adventurous and took a ship for Ireland was the well-known archaeologist Richard Colt Hoare (1758-1838). He was of rich banking stock and the owner of the great house and garden at Stourhead in Wiltshire, which is now a gem of the National Trust. It was there that he housed one of the greatest private libraries in Britain and where he prepared himself for a voyage that started in Wales, crossing the sea to Ireland to spend part of the summer of 1806 with his 22-year-old son, Henry. He published the account of his travels in diary form in London and Dublin the following year, bearing the title Journal of a Tour in Ireland A.D. 1806.

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Vibrant waves

Chekhov, Vonnegut, Murakami and Swift inspire the work of Natalia Black and prompt her imagination, writes Margarita Cappock

The Slovakian-born artist Natalia Black’s forthcoming solo exhibition in Dublin features a new body of paintings that are vibrant, dramatic, richly textured works that push tonal contrasts through her use of bold colours. Although currently based in Liverpool, Black has a strong affinity with the landscape of Northern Ireland, where she moved as a young artist having completed a joint degree in English and Fine Arts at Comenius University in Bratislava. This was a wide-ranging, five-year course that encompassed art history, psychology, philosophy and English literature with a view to becoming a teacher of art and English. The course included practical studies such as painting, drawing, print-making and ceramics. She also travelled widely, visiting museums and galleries in Paris, Vienna and Italy. On graduation, Black produced etchings, lino cuts and black-and-white drawings, describing her art as poetically surreal. Northern Ireland was where Black developed and established herself as an artist. She received the Outstanding Painter award from the Royal Ulster Academy in 2011 and the Emerging Artist award in 2012. She is now an Associate Academician. The Ulster landscape prompted her to move in a new direction and she started to paint, drawing particular inspiration from the breath-taking beauty of the Antrim coast.

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Paid admissions to the National Gallery



The big, comprehensive exhibition ‘Shaping Ireland’ at the National Gallery of Ireland, has received much coverage (not to say publicity) and has fully deserved it. It is, in essence, a landscape exhibition that has found room for many trends, periods and even media – photograpy is included, a sensible decision and even an unavoidable one, given the vitality of ART comment ‘art’ photography in this country over the last few decades in particular.

Landscape has a special place in the national psyche, as is shown by early Irish nature poetry, the lyrics of the Fiannuigheacht cycle, the Gaelic poets of the 18th century etc. The same is true, of course, of many Yeats poems. The purely visual aspect is something else, since Irish painting was such a late starter historically. However, with figures such as Nathaniel Hone (to quote a single example), we have made up for lost time, and landscape artists in recent decades have found no trouble in fitting landscape into a Modernist or Post-Modernist vocabulary.

In the case of the present exhibition, many of the exhibits come from the gallery’s own collection, while others included were of relatively easy access

One aspect of this Irish landscape exhibition, however, does need to be noted; that of paid admission. The NGI has mounted a number of outstanding exhibitions recently: Vermeer, Roderic O’Conor, Canaletto, etc. These, however, were travelling events (or in the case of O’Conor, had many works loaned from overseas); and big travelling shows – it goes without saying – are costly affairs. In the case of the present exhibition, many of the exhibits come from the gallery’s own collection, while others included were of relatively easy access.

The admission price for adults is €15, something of an impost on the casual visitor, who may think of the NGI as a public amenity, like the National Museum. The National Gallery is a public institution with, among other things, a recognised educational function, which, certainly, it does not neglect. But the concession of a few euros might prove a small price to pay for attracting those to whom visual art remains largely an unexplored territory.

Brian Fallon


The Book of Durrow

Thames & Hudson, 2018
pp 96 fully illustrated p/b
€19.95 ISBN: 978-0-500-29460-4
Peter Harbison

Trinity College Library was lucky in the 17th century to become the proud possessor of two of the most important early manuscripts in Ireland, the Books of Durrow and Kells. The former is something of a Cinderella, having to hide in the shadow of its more famous brother gospel book. The Book of Durrow, probably created in the late 7th century, has already had two monographs devoted to it, Luce’s facsimile edition of 1960 and Bernard Meehan’s volume of 1996, so this guide is a timely addition to bring the manuscript once more into the spotlight – and the first time, to my knowledge, that Trinity has labelled such a book an official guide.

The book is among the oldest known full copies of the four gospels and lucky to have survived. There must have existed other decorative codices that have perished, but would have shown how Durrow fitted into the pattern of developing ornamental elaboration, stretching from the Cathach in the Royal Irish Academy to the Book of Kells and beyond.

The book is among the oldest known full copies of the four gospels and lucky to have survived.

The date and provenance of the Book of Durrow have long been the subject of academic debate, and Rachel Moss skilfully summarises the arguments for the various suggested origins in Durrow, Iona and Northumbria, without coming down in favour of any one of them. She then examines carefully the various decorative elements – ‘Celtic’ spirals, Mediterranean interlace and Germanic animal ornament – bringing in the latest parallel from the Staffordshire hoard to strengthen the possibility of a Northumbrian origin. But these elements show how the scribe (and it is thought that there was only one scribe who wrote the book) was able to absorb and unite ideas from other artistic cultures. The human figure appears only in the form of evangelist symbols and a portrait.

The text is well written and researched and, above all, well illustrated, with full pages and details from the manuscript, and also some of its comparanda. We are also introduced to some fascinating aspects of the make-up of the manuscript, such as the fact that iron gall ink was used, the principal ingredient of which is acid extracted from the oak apple – the tumour that forms when the gall wasp lays its larvae on the bud of an oak tree. Clever monks to have discovered that!

This book should be read in conjunction with Susan Bioletti and Rachel Moss’s Early Irish Gospel Books in the Library of Trinity College Dublin of 2016 where, incidentally, a different option is offered as to which way up fol. 1v of the manuscript should be reproduced. Finally, the 10th-century dating of the Durrow High Cross is too dogmatic.

Peter Harbison is the Honorary Academic Editor with the Royal Irish Academy.


21st-century resource

New extension, Glucksman Library, University of Limerick Photo: Sean Curtin


The Glucksman Library at the University of Limerick is now one of the most digitally advanced libraries in the world, writes Judith Hill

When the original Glucksman Library was planned in 1994, the University of Limerick looked at a future dominated by digital technology whose ramifications were unclear. Practices that were then new, such as student laptop use, library digitisation and inter-library networking, are now part of our daily lives – a development that reveals something of the scale of the technological change that has affected libraries since the mid 1990s. The 21st-century extension to the Glucksman Library, which opened last June, was celebrated for its technological sophistication. While it is true that imaginative applications of technology have successfully infiltrated the institution and the architecture on many levels, a significant challenge was to graft innovation on to an existing structure so that the library would retain its integrity and its role as a central institution of the university.


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Through the looking glass

Eva O’Leary DOCUMENTATION (process) Archival Pigment Print


Eva O’Leary grew up between Ireland and the United States, the only child of the extraordinary painter Helen O’Leary. Like myself, Eva grew up surrounded by incredible artists from all fields and couldn’t avoid having her vulnerable young imagination tainted by all manner of high and low artforms. Growing up in a family of artists makes it both easier and harder to be an artist one’s self. Easier because you receive an honorary PhD in contemporary art by the age of 12. Harder because it’s so incredibly difficult to find your own voice in the cacophony of surrounding forms.

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Eva Rothschild at the Venice Biennale

EVA ROTHSCHILD THE SHRINKING UNIVERSE installation view 2019 Irish Pavilion, Venice Biennale Photo ©Robert Glowacki


Brian McAvera: You are representing Ireland at the 58th Venice Biennale. Concerning your exhibit, you state that ‘the work will engage with current political and environmental concerns arising from our ongoing climate of global uncertainty’. Can you elaborate?
Eva Rothschild: I am really privileged and delighted to represent Ireland; it’s something I have wanted to do for a very long time. The Biennale is different to other exhibitions as it has such a high profile and so there is a lot of publicity and talk in advance of the exhibition which I am not used to; it makes me feel quite superstitious. Press releases are useful but, by their nature, slightly reductive. The reason I make art is that I don’t have a few sentences which say what I want to say. However, while my work doesn’t have a specifically narrative thrust, our situation over the last few years has become so extreme, in politics and with the environment, that the world just creeps in. My recent show, ‘Iceberg Hits’ (Stuart Shave/Modern Art 2018), engaged more with the political context and the Venice work continues that engagement. At the time of the Brexit referendum, I made a show, ‘Alternative to Power’ (New Art Gallery Walsall, 2016), in which the works did not directly address the situation, but the framing of the whole group did. We generally communicate through speech and the written word, but I’m interested in finding different ways to communicate through making and materiality.

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The birth of Modernism 1920-60

GERARD DILLON GIRL AT THE WELL oil on board 25.4×35.5cm


After climbing the wide, richly carpeted stairs in Dublin Castle and noting the large paintings of colonising worthies on the walls, followed by smaller images of nationalising ones in the hall, it is relaxing to enter the State Apartments and see an exhibition of mainly domestic-sized paintings from private collections. The very idea of such an exhibition was inspired. This art was made by people who contributed in a lasting way to the Ireland emerging after the Great War and before we joined the European Economic Community. Different in outlook and achievements to King George IV and Lord Aberdeen or to Douglas Hyde and Seán T Ó’Ceallaigh whose likenesses we passed, the artists on view can be seen as unintentionally inscribing in their own visual language a chapter in the history of Ireland. With a strong northern contingent, figurative painting predominates in curator David Britton’s personal but quite representative selection. There is just one work by each artist and the engagements with modernism by both formally educated and self-taught artists make interesting viewing.

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Inspirational Mo West elected to Aosdána

Above: FULACHT FIADH INISHBOFIN. Right: Margaret Irwin West


Just shy of her 93rd birthday, artist Margaret (Mo) Irwin West popped a bottle of champagne with family and friends at her home in Claddaghduff, north Connemara. They had gathered to celebrate her election to Aosdána, the 250-strong artist organisation whose collective are honoured for their contribution to the arts in Ireland.

Born in India, Mo’s Irish parents returned to Ireland when she was a young girl. Her mother engaged a governess for two years to prepare Mo for school and during the same period, she also took drawing classes with Lilian Davidson. ‘From then on, I knew what I wanted to do but my mother was having none it,’ said Mo. After boarding school in Mount Anville in Dublin, Mo studied at Trinity College.

‘Four years later however I still wanted to paint. It was the local curate who my mother turned to for advice (Fr Jack Hanlon). He convinced her to allow me to go to Paris to study art under André Lhote. When she had left the room, he winked at me and said: ‘It’s alright, you’re going to a Cubist school and you’ll have a ball!’’

I don’t want people to feel entirely comfortable with what they see. I want them to look further and question

Mo West is currently working towards a solo retrospective during Clifden Arts Festival in September and a group show in AKIN, the award-winning artist group, later in the year in the Galway Arts Centre. Regarding her work, Mo says: ‘In the large, I don’t want people to feel entirely comfortable with what they see. I want them to look further and question, even the ‘flower’ – can it refer to death? Or is it about how all is re-born in Spring? Perhaps it is simplistic but that is the discourse I carry on with myself.’

Proposed by John Behan and seconded by Dorothy Cross, Mo West was elected at Aosdána’s annual general assembly in April. Further visual artists elected were Clare Langan and Aideen Barry, and architect, Niall McLaughlin.

Brigid Mulcahy