Category Archives: ireland

From a bulletin of the Visual Artists Ireland

Arts Council Study Reveals Poor Living and Working Conditions of Artists

The average professional artist living in the Republic of Ireland earns just €14,500 a year from his or her art, despite having a higher level of formal education than the wider labour force, new research shows.

The data, published today by the Arts Council and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, reveals how many artists are now working on the island, and the challenges they face as they pursue their chosen professions.
In the most comprehensive study for a generation, the two arts councils have shed critical new light on what it means to be an artist, writer, painter, musician or performer in modern day Ireland, north and south.
The Living and Working Conditions of Artists in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland shows that artists are an exceptionally highly educated group, with over two-thirds having attained a university degree. They are also hard working, putting in more than 55 hours per week and frequently holding down extra jobs to support their creative endeavours.
In stark contrast to their academic achievements and evident commitment, however, the overwhelming majority of artists still earn just two-thirds of the average income for all others workers. Lack of provision for pensions also spells financial hardship ahead for the current generation of artists.
The findings of the report will influence how the arts councils continue to provide support and the measures they take to improve conditions for artists on the island.

You can read the full report here


Studying Art (19) – Recent Work

On this Work (Artist’s Statement)

What do we know about the universe and how do we know it? How does nature maintain its order and beauty being a maze of random matter and forces? What is the origin of life and what is its essence?

This work bridges my theoretical interests in science and philosophy with the practical challenge of the visual studies. The paintings have evolved in a long process of a natural selection by obliterating ‘weaker’ expressions in order to form integrated entities.
These ‘survivors’ are endowed with a definite, yet fragile presence of organic creatures.

Structured complexity and ordered randomness of nature becomes an epitome of the creative process. Art is asked to take a part in the universal quest to address the questions, which everything starts with…

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Creature (Ego), oil/mixed media on board

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Creature (Ego),  details

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Creature (Albus), oil/mixed media on canvas

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Creature (Albus), details

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Creature (Silva phallum), acrylic/oil/mixed media on paper

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Creature (Digitus), acrylic/oil/mixed media on paper

More images: My Work – May 2009

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This work is a challenge in itself – challenge to be accepted just as it enfolds for its own ‘maker’… The paintings are, at the same time, a sort of a pleasant surprise and a disappointment for me (don’t ask how is it possible, don’t know). They are like shadows of those images, that I didn’t manage to extract from my mind, my imagination and my experience in order to ‘write them down’ on the canvas. Yet, they also have an expanding quality – as a concept/intent they may possess just enough energy and potential to act against the contracting forces, to survive and – time will tell – to develop in the future…

I like their frail and complex tissue of appearance, I dislike their  elaborateness, which I’m tempted to name as ‘redundant’… I cannot help thinking that nature would make ten perfectly functioning organisms out of one of mine, nature doesn’t know what the indulgent expression is… Do I make things more complicated that they actually are… or – perhaps – it’s a valid approach, when one has the very first date with those puzzling scientific and philosophical questions from above?…


The story of Bacon’s studio

ks317ks3222Well, the story is simple, yet it remains, as for my current knowledge without a precedent in the contemporary art history. It goes like this:

At 7 Reece Mews in South Kensington, London; at the last floor in a shabby, industrial-looking building Francis Bacon has lived and worked for the last thirty years of his life (1961-1992). It was there, where a big chunk of his works of had been created – in solitude and in the ‘ordered chaos”, as he would call the towering pandemonium of his workshop.

John Edwards, the artist’s old companion became a heir of the space (and its contents) and after its main occupant’s sudden death, he has donated Bacon’s studio to the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Contemporary Art in Dublin. For three long years art historians and conservators, supported by archeologists were documenting, removing and reconstructing every inch of the room and every bit of dirt in the new ‘home’.

In May 2001 the studio was open to the public, drawing significant numbers of visitors – art students/researchers/admirers to the gallery. However, some bitter discussions and arguments has sustained for years over that ‘transplantation’ as London’s art world – never truly giving any credit to Bacon’s Irish roots (artist was born in Dublin, then moved to London in his teens) had to swallow a bitter pill indeed, after Edwards had decided against everyone’s expectations (of leaving the treasure where it was). Irony adds a grotesque element to the whole story – the perpetrator of the mess, the painter himself had nothing to do with all that phenomenon germinating as happily and unstoppably as the mould has been in his beloved studio. He remained loyal to it despite numerous offers of much better (objectively speaking) locations, and never truly concerned what will happen to it after he’s gone.

But, what is that phenomenon all about? Does it exist at all beyond the claustrophobic circle of Bacon’s fans and London-Dublin microcosm of the local politics? What is the matter – after all?

A relatively tiny attic space, gray and dark, with no widows except of a skylight. Its contents – beyond any description (hence photos). Treated with awe, respect and a sort of a silenced admiration which one adopts facing a great artwork. Is Bacon’s Studio an artwork on its own? There are many, who have never doubted it… If so – can a significant artwork be created without its creator’s conscious will, sometimes – even against it; as Bacon would ‘fight’ his chaos from time to time, removing a part of the mess? What sort of the methodological and aesthetic tools one needs to approach ‘an artwork’ of this kind? Questions just keep flowing raising some controversial issues on the nature of art, its very core/sense/meaning…

I remember seeing it at Hugh Lane, with a long, elegant corridor of a very well-behaved art decorating the walls leading to it – the contrast was almost sublime, yet – all the project of that post-mortem ‘repatriation’ seemed pointless to me, even cruel for some reason. Great artist’s spirit locked in a maze of his belongings was right there – mocking mercilessly all the ‘gentile’ surroundings, yet – paying an unfairly high price at the same time – the price of being the perfect stranger, the alien “Other”… Packed in a sterile cage of a gallery’s room like a bizarre gift and a trophy for the visitors – that intensely private (Bacon would never let anyone to enter this space, except the closest friends), and – must say – profoundly moving and in a deep sense beautiful room seemed like the loneliest, the most misunderstood space within the art-world. An amusing ‘freak-show’ for some, a perfect epitome of the genius-artist’s workshop for many…

What else can be said – would you ever consider a couple of your old socks, you’ve had used as wipes  becoming a gallery/collection jewel?… would you ever give a thought, that your online ‘studio’ – your ‘e-space’ may look as madly creative, legendary and desired to ‘possess’ by dozens as 7 Reece Mews had been? Would you… this makes all the art-creating business even more interesting… Doesn’t it – after all?…

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Both photos above of F. Bacon’s studio by Perry Ogden; scanned by me from 7 Reece Mews; Francis Bacon’s Studio, Thames and Hudson, London, 2001.


Polish Theatre gets the clapping!

I just couldn’t miss this great opportunity to dive in the memories of my family town – Krakow (‘Cracow’ as it is misspelled sometimes).

The annual,  intensely energetic festival of theatrical performances – the “Divine Comedy” hosted by Krakow’s stages has made the arts news in the Irish leading newspaper. In the recent edition of the “Irish Times” Peter Crawley reports from Poland in all the acclaiming terms, tinting the relation with a bit of jealously (‘why something similar cannot be done here, in Ireland?’ – one can read between the verses).

To emulate the success of the cultural event is equally difficult like – I guess, to gamble if a transplant will be accepted by the ‘mother’-body or not. In Krakow, as far as I can remember, there were at least three major national theaters (independent companies) functioning all year long and few minor ones – all employing the set of full-time and excellently prepared professionals – actors, directors, stage design artists and so on. To be a respected theatre personality in Poland has meant to be more than the talented painter, even some of the writers didn’t get the same devotion; some of the poets only (mainly Nobelists and other great-s) would equal or surpass the actors and directors on the Pantheon of the ‘moral’ and ‘existential’ guides. The most famous academies for the future ‘theatre people’ have got the magic aura around them; fine art centers only rarely could have matched them in the sky-high level of the artistry in their principles and the artworks produced.

Above that, Poland’s social, political and cultural life has been always evolving around the drama-comedy sweet-sour swing – it’s been full of a struggle, bloodshed, brain-washing, oddities and bizarre elements, hate and vanity – a bit like in Ireland, yet – in Poland there is ten times more hands to meet the challenge of becoming a professional playwright or a performer. Adding to it the long tradition and the comparatively recent excitement with the ‘showing Europe who we are’ (Poland joined the EU in 2005) – and you got a high-quality international festival, prepared and ‘powered’ mostly by the young generation and – what’s important – getting the claps!

Well done Krakow. Looking forward to hear more good news.

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Read the original article here.


Let it shine… (Whilt 6)

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I have to confess – I took my camera with me one Christmas-time evening specifically for this reason – to collect the ‘evidence’ of the tastelessness and prodigality, which flourish in the Irish (and I suppose Polish, French, Spanish… everywhere) towns right from the beginning of November. Why someone would like to keep three Christmas trees under one roof – doesn’t it ridicule the very sense of having it (slightly like celebrate three bonfires in the Roman home)? Why does someone find it attractive and/or desirable to display twenty or so flashing, twinkling, glaring decorations – every one of them kitsch – if even one quarter of these make their point quite clearly (I would say – ‘plainly and blatantly clear’)? Why everyone lets the commercial/consumption machine to devour all the magic and beauty of the season? Why – I’ve been keeping asking finding myself astonished and confused like a newcomer from a far country…

But, after giving the issue a bit of a deepen thought (and what I have learned today) I came to a conclusion that there won’t be probably any straightforward and satisfying answer to these dilemmas. Not only because one is not supposed to discuss the taste of others (De gustibus non est disputandum), but due to the complexity of the whole phenomenon. How a particular culture, country, region and a family responds to the public celebrations/mythologies is deeply rooted in its history and habitual imprint, spiritual/religious background, psychological/mental DNA, economic and even political conditions, as well as the contemporary, today’s challenges and ongoing (that’s why very difficult to analyze) transformations. And even grasping all of these wouldn’t necessary help to decipher why this particular culture/region/house has chosen to celebrate in such a way. One could be completely mislead judging the Roman ancient culture by the Dionysian Festival or the contemporary Spanish nation by their Bull Running pandemonium.

Looking at my photos I have to underline – it was a short walk and no more than a dozen of pics taken – yet, in a strange way, some of them translate an obscene, common or even bizarre scene into a charming image of a welcoming, cheerful or even contemplative environment where – who knows, the true spirit of this time lives on… If a camera is like a ‘dream catcher’ of our thoughts and feelings – I must have found myself unable to expose all the shallow ugliness of the environment, as I was planning to do. Too bad? Well, who knows where the true lies – in my criticism or in these images’ sweet dreaminess?

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Impressions of Galway – a spontaneous visitor notes…

A number of reputable guidebooks praise Galway, the capital of the West of Ireland as a ‘delight’, a home for a bohemian ‘crowd of artists, musicians, intellectuals’. Well, it’s probably the matter of a taste, but I couldn’t experience that ‘delight’ – maybe – encouraged by such a promising intro I was looking too hard to see it embodied. On the other hand, my main aim was to reach Ireland’s two wonders of nature – Connemara and Aran Islands, both further west of Galway. Yet, being a spontaneous visitor I hit the wall – it proved to be impossible to leave the city in those directions after 12 o’clock (by public transport), contrary to what most of the booklets say. I wonder – it’s the a peak of a tourist’s season!

Letting myself flow with the crowds of visitors (for I just couldn’t come across that ‘crowd of artists’) I set off to explore the city. Its first striking feature was the tourists-orientated display of ‘Irish-ness’ – unfortunately in its most shallow, cliche, kitsch rendition. But that is easily explainable, for this area is virtually flooded with foreign guests, not all of them necessary recognise Oscar Wilde in a sitting figure, whose sneering grimace decorates the main street (my interest in the sculpture caused a little gathering of passersby… all asking themselves who was it).

But pretty alarming was a virtual lack of an acceptable (not to mention ‘high’) visual art to view/ buy. Commercial galleries are not even worth mentioning, in the City Museum the wall-space usually reserved for paintings and artefacts has been taken by informative boards describing, in huge writing, the history of the region. It looked like the lack of an actual objects of interest had to be ‘filled in’ that way. Arts Center was in the middle of installing something quite average (as for my taste). And it’s difficult to imagine than now, when I’m writing these words Galway hosts international Arts Festival (14-27 July).

Its programme looks reassuring, yet what I would propose to organizers is a sort of a carnet-system, an all-events ticket with a proper discount. It’s frustrating that in a country as wealthy as this one the access to some more ambitious cultural phenomena is restricted due to the considerable charges. Ancient Greece should serve as an example here, where free-access amphitheaters were built in dozens to cater for everyone willing to participate in an artistic feast. Maybe that’s why this civilization could ever been a birthplace for tens of highly sophisticated souls and minds. An from my own experience I know about many delectable concerts, street-theaters or other artistic performances available still free to the public throughout the Center and East Europe. For there is something deeply wrong with that, so popular now procedure of pushing arts, which are designed to be public by its raison d’etre (there is a different case with usual theater or opera performances) on a highly commercial route and virtually selling it like any other commodity. Indeed, one cannot help thinking that those hugely promoted summer Arts Festivals are meant to squeeze money out of the public, just like modern, well-organised shopping centers do.

To finish more optimistically: even being deprived of going far West to the touristic “must-s”, it’s enough to make one’s, usually long way up to Galway to experience those moody, watery lands, hauntingly hilly and rocky from the South and North, deliciously open, airy and green from East as unique and unforgettable. It was on a bus back – we got caught into a ferocious storm, I watched mesmerised like streams of water unified empty sky with the empty land beneath and filled it at once with a strange and wild presence of a dream-like reality. I’ve got a felling of my journey being like a dream, and each of ours journeys being like a transitional suspense in what’s life and human beings’ duty. Just being carried away… the destination at the same time known and a complete mystery… Probably that’s why so many former passengers, just off-the bus, train, plane have that melancholic air around them. For the trance is gone and they are obliged to look and behave like those who know exactly where and why they go…

St. Nicholas (Market St.), one of the illuminating places in Galway

Despite their rather stony appearance these street-performers (and many others alike) help to keep the city alive with some creativity.

Woody, human-made places are not a threat in Ireland; fortunately one is always close to some good quality open spaces…

Watery lands, dreamy lands…


Crawford College of Art Graduates’ Exhibition (2008)

There is one special week in the whole year, when my college (Crawford College of Art, Cork, Ireland – see photo below) changes beyond any recognition. Cluttered studios are being cleared, stained in all colours of a rainbow (and mud) walls are painted in a laboratory white, all sorts of artistic experiments don’t obstruct corridors any more, the body of students almost disappears to be substituted by the body of their work. This charming, quiet and intimate in a sense environment, where everyone knows everyone, becomes a public venue – the yearly exhibition of the final, 4th (BA Hons) year is being to be open. A crowd of social activists, artists, dealers, ‘civil’ art lovers, common ‘bargain hunters’, ex-students gallops through the newly arranged galleries looking for an ‘Enlightenment’ – this one or these few ‘promising’ enough to have their names remembered and their work bought.

It could be also a good researching ground for a culture/society/ideas theoretician, since these still sincere and young emerging artists echo truthfully whatever bothers, confuses or simply – turns them on in the world around.

I made my own little analysis of themes/thesis popular among my peers/older colleagues:

* Identity : loss, exploring – national (being a foreigner, being Irish), cultural (through meeting with Japan, Hindu and other civilizations), sexual (e.g. exploring ‘gay’ identity, sexual abuse, romantic relationship), personal (what is artist?, who am I specifically?) – this appears to be the most popular and art-provoking concept

* Nature – landscape (seen in more/less traditional way) – often seascapes, animals (relationship with them, appearance), cruelty (‘stronger eats weaker’ law)

* Existential/Modern world – journey, void, chaos/tension, existential/emotional pain, communication (disturbance, loss), city (-scapes, dangers), technology, plastic world (pop-culture), kitsch

* Memory – childhood, meaning of the past

Above that, there appears to be a wild and creative enjoyment of all available media – from very traditional oil/canvas and sculpture, going through acrylic/watercolour and mixed-media, then some sorts of an assemble and installation to the comparatively ‘young’ means of video art and multi-media projects. If there is a place, today, where pluralism, tolerance and freedom exist and co-exist with some interesting results – it happens within and thanks to the contemporary art. It’s here, where one can reach beyond ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, ‘conservative’ or ‘modern’, ‘beautiful’ or ‘ugly’ – what really matters is the message and how successful, mature and self-aware an artist is in getting it through.

Above: Crawford students, their friends/relatives and teachers giving an applause to an awarded colleague

Above: Visitor of the Crawford Art Graduates’ Exhibition


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