Summer 2017 Edition

Patrick Pye and Ludwig Van Beethoven

Patrick Pye

THE Arts Council’s mandate is pretty straightforward. To quote the relevant Act of 2003 the Arts Council is empowered ‘to assist in the development or advancement of the arts and for that purpose to advance such amount of monies as it determines to such persons, or in respect of such activities, as it considers appropriate out of monies at its disposal upon terms and conditions as it determines’. This year, the Arts Council has about €65 million to distribute and, as usual, the bulk of that will go to the established favourites in the regularly funded category which includes the big theatres and festivals which take the lion’s share every year. After that there is a myriad of other categories under which the council groups the smaller grants towards local ‘events’ and ‘initiatives’ and ‘awards’. Sad to say, the Visual Arts ‘sector’, taken as a whole, ranks far down in the Arts Council’s distribution of patronage. But to its credit, the AC has always allocated well over 10% of its annual resources direct to individual artists so that it also distributes multiple small awards and bursaries to individuals and, of course, the €2.5 million paid via Aosdána (An affiliation of creative artists in Ireland) goes direct to those 150 Aosdána members who also qualify for the Cnuas.

The terms and conditions under which the Arts Council allocates the many millions to large organisations throughout the country naturally calls for appropriate controls and monitoring of progress which is rightly applied in the distribution of substantial public funds. But the allocation of small amounts to individuals, and particularly to creative artists who have been recognized for their substantial contribution to the arts in this country, surely calls for a more sensitive and personal approach. Sadly, such sensitivity appears to have been lacking in the sudden cancellation, recently revealed, of the Cnuas payment to such a distinguished artist as Patrick Pye (88). True, the council had just adopted a new classification for entitlement to the renewal of his €17,000 per annum stipend. And yes, Pye had innocently and honestly informed the council about the failing condition of his eyesight. But did no one within the Arts Council’s extensive bureaucracy stop to consider its duty of care to this exceptional artist whose creativity has also been expressed through his writings on the arts such as Has Art any Meaning? back in 1962, his Apples and Angels in 1980 and his extraordinary book on El Greco The Time Gatherer in 1991? In an article in this publication in Spring 2013, the late Stephen McKenna PPRHA wrote of Pye’s ‘rightful place in the front rank of contemporary painters’. He was elected a member of Aosdána in 1981 and a full member of the RHA in 1991.*

In launching her Creative Ireland Programme earlier this year, the Minister for Arts quite rightly declared that ‘Culture and creativity are the greatest assets of any society’ and added that ‘it is our duty to do everything we can to unleash the full creative potential of our people’. Surely it is the duty of the Arts Council to treasure and protect the relatively few truly creative artists we have in this country? As we all know, if Beethoven’s patrons had neglected him after he lost his hearing, he might never have created his Ninth Symphony.

John Mulcahy

In the Summer 2017 Edition of the Irish Arts Review (Subscribe here):

New frontiers Angela Griffith applauds Blaise Smith’s award-winning portrait, Eight Scientists, the recipient of the Ireland-U.S. Council/Irish Arts Review Portraiture Award
Night watch New paintings from John Shinnors at Taylor Galleries, Dublin, achieve a balance between narrative and abstraction, writes Stephen Murphy
The impossibility of an island Donal Maguire explores the science underlying David Beattie’s understated installation currently on view at IMMA
Only connect Stephanie McBride views Paddy Cahill’s arthouse film Long Now, based on performance artist Amanda Coogan’s acclaimed six-week run at the RHA

Bitter candy Susan Campbell considers Shane Berkery’s use of colour ahead of his first solo exhibition at Chimera Gallery, Mullingar

One year on Gerry Walker looks at painterly influences in the work of Julia Dubsky as she prepares for an exhibition in Dublin based on a year of artistic investigations

Out of Africa Eddie Rafferty’s survey show at the FE McWilliam Gallery encompasses a variety of media but people and their stories lie at the heart of his practice, writes Riann Coulter
Touchstone Frances McDonald reports on the creative flowering of Ceramics Ireland as they celebrate their 40th anniversary at Farmleigh this summer
From the ground up ‘One of the hardest things in sculpture is to make things stick together and not fall down’ Eilís O’Connell tells Brian McAvera in a wide-ranging interview
Icons for moderns New works from sculptor John Gibbons at Hillsboro Fine Art, Dublin, exploit the expressive qualities of metal, writes Luke Naessens
Marine commission From West Cork to Antibes, the sea has had an indelible impact on the career of sculptor-designer Eoin Turner, writes Mark Ewart
Seven ages At seventy, John Minihan is still seeking adventures with his camera, writes Fiona Kearney, as she examines some gems from his recent portfolio
Homecoming Brian P Burns is circling back to his ancestral home, perhaps with an eye to adding to his outstanding collection of Irish art, writes John Mulcahy
Vox Hiberniæ Christian Dupont presents the first in a series of articles on the bibliographic and artistic treasures of the John J Burns Library, Boston
The National Gallery needs a new ‘mission’ The NGI must turn its attention to accumulating the finest possible collection of Irish artists of the past two centuries, argues John Mulcahy
The National Gallery revisited James Howley is impressed with the refurbished National Gallery where old design flaws have been overcome and new light-filled galleries with lucid circuit routes lie within
Sketches of Spain On the centenary of George Campbell’s birth, Brian Fallon recalls the artist’s love of Spain
Out of the shadows Carla Briggs examines the aspirations behind Margaret Clarke’s most intense period of creativity as the exhibition of her paintings continues at the National Gallery
Renaissance woman Anne Crookshank taught us all not just to look, but to see, writes Edward McParland
Restless spirit  Life and art were inextricably linked in the extraordinary career of Clare Sheridan, as recalled here by Peter Murray
Gothic Revival James Horan reports on the award-winning restoration of Humewood Castle, County Wicklow

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