Tag 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

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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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Cohen, Waits, Cave, Schubert and others… Whilt (3)

I’ve noticed that unique, intense and rather strange connection I feel between the music, I used to listen frequently in different periods of my life with the very particular space and time it happened to be played in.

So, then goes Franz Schubert and his “Death and the Maiden” (“Der Tog und das Madchen) from 1824 – the mastery String Quartet in D minor, with its so characteristic, brooding melancholy, lyrically sweet, almost cheerful in moments and powerfully sorrowful at the same time – this musical piece will forever remind me about my first months spent in Ireland. When the first notes come from a record/radio the images come as well in a flow – so vivid and real that I can even feel the smell of the places, hear the voices of those, whom I met and I can see myself sitting on a navy sofa in a place, one wouldn’t count into pleasant ones, listening to this second-hand record I found in a charity shop.

Translating Leon Cohen’s songs I would teach myself English (the same is true with reading Agata Christie’s criminal stories), till now I know many of them by heart and I feel the aura of a little Irish town, West Cork where I spent few years each time “Sisters of Mercy” or “The Famous Blue Raincoat” is being played.

In the same spirit I always think about a little island I used to live on for a year, with its swampy, neglected terrain and its extremities (light there used to be either very bright or very gloomy due to the surrounding waters) when I hear Nick Cave’s bold gothicism. The dark passions and an intense love for life/for another human being (usually beyond the reach) – these always come through the same way I felt them at that time, listening to the songs, the stormy winds howling all nights and rains pouring during those long winter months.

Finally for the repertoire of today, and for my little ‘show off’ – Tom Waits and only him is being played when I take a ride in my 1971 classical Jaguar XJ6 – no other music seems right for this car – Waits’ ‘rotten’, gutsy voice bringing to life his gangsters, crooks and all sorts of freaks imaginable and the moving artwork of English design – they feel like they’ve been made for each other. Whatever will happen to the Jag and whatever will happen to me – I can be pretty sure that, thanks to that magical bond between sounds/words and images cooked in one meal by emotion and preserved by memory (M. Proust would put it better, I guess) in 10, 20 or 40 years time – hearing (…) How do your pistol and your Bible and your Sleeping pills go? Are you still jumping out of windows in expensive clothes? Tell me who are you, who are you this time? (…) I will still distinctly remember that car, places I visit, and the people I met at that particular time in my life.

Well, this is what I have learned today (whilt) – art (here in a form of music) is a mighty ‘shaper’ of the human’s soul, it soaks it like an invisible, eternal rain of images, sensory stimulants and emotions – after some time one is unable to remove or even modify the impact – it stays there, ready only to accept yet another stream. The power of the human memory, the power of what has happened to us… Never to be demeaned or overpriced, it has its own rhythm, art proves to be one of the very capable triggers – equally, if not more intoxinating and unavoidable…


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


The Art of Deception


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I’m strangely attached to those photos I’ve made few weeks ago in a one gorgeous day when traveling by a train from an island when I live to the ‘mainland’ (frankly speaking – what a silly idea, to connect an amazingly wild part of an island with the rest of the land by … the railway; you can see the steel construction cutting up the waters of the harbour in half…)

They display clearly what an art of deception may be – what you are most likely to spot immediately in those images is the reflection of a view from an opposite window (which is, obviously, not visible there), the actual view being seen and photographed is either too evident or too blurry (as in a case of the last photo) to catch our eye and attention.

My intuition for today is that the art of deception understood in the above-mentioned way is probably the Art per se. Because what the Art is suppose to ‘show’ is that ‘something’ and ‘everything’ that tends to remain invisible and unaccessible in an immediate contact. That art projects what is the most important onto that what is plain to see and undisguised, and more significantly – it makes that invisible so clear and attractive that we lose ourselves – our perception and feelings just for that. Why is it deceptive, why the art of the ‘deception’ ? I’m not that sure – maybe we are not able to accept some aspects of our humanity and the world around in their absolute pureness and strength, maybe they will ‘blind’ us once seen or endanger our sensible powers and the rational sense ? … Maybe we naturally adapt self-defensive psychological mechanisms to protect ourselves from going ‘too deep’ , to not to struggle too much? So we make our way through our life convincing ourselves and/or letting others to convince us that, once our existence is more or less ‘meaningful’ and comfortable we are not bound to look for anything more, we can just ‘enjoy’ being mothers, husbands, lawyers, artists, farmers (whomever)… All sort of condensed spirituality and throwing oneself into deep waters almost on a daily basis is the ‘job’ of monks, priests, mystics, madmen… Indeed, the entire existence of an average contemporary man is ‘the art’ of deception – but – but this skill conceals rather than reveals, simplifies instead of looking for a fuller view. There are deceptions that make invisible visible and those which shut up the entire worlds.


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