Tag Archives: Dublin

Street Art @ Dublin

Maybe I wasn’t looking in the right locations to see the best of Dublin’s graffiti. It is hard to know where to look when you are visiting a city for the first time; the sheer quantity of new visual information in any city is confusing. I didn’t see much and what I saw was mostly tagging and bombing; of course, quality work is always less common.  I saw almost as much of buffing, especially along the DART railway line. There was even the buffing of paste-ups in the city.

I saw some quality street-style aerosol artists doing decoration commissions in the Temple Bar area but I didn’t see the places where these artists practice and gain experience.

There was a bit of aerosol work (freehand & stencil). I was impressed with the use of paste-up techniques were used in a street art installation about child abuse by the Catholic Church in Ireland – the whole report was pasted across hoarding around a vacant lot. There was a commercial advertising campaign employing reverse graffiti stencil technique (removing grime to create a lighter area) around St. Stephens Green.

Dublin’s graffiti is mostly punk in style, rather than hip-hop style. And the best of Dublin’s graffiti is witty and political rather than great artistic quality.

The grenade stencil was placed on the side of the Royal Heberden Society building – perhaps expressing a desire to blow up or bomb this academic art establishment.


Dublin’s Art Galleries

This is a guide for visitors to Dublin who are interested in the visual arts. I have been looking at Dublin’s art galleries for the last few days while my wife attends a conference.

The galleries that I have visited are (in the order that I would recommend visiting): National Gallery of Ireland, Hugh Lane (Dublin City Gallery), RHA Gallery, Douglas Hyde Gallery, the Gallery of Photography, National Photographic Archive, and finally the Irish Museum of Modern Art. My recommendations are based both on the quality of the gallery, its exhibits and convince of the location. There are many commercial galleries around Dawson and Killdare streets but none of them were really worth visiting unless you like conservative, contemporary art designed to specifically to sell. I did see the outside of the Temple Bar Gallery and National College of Art & Design Gallery but both were closed so I couldn’t form an opinion or recommend them to others.

The National Gallery of Ireland is a very large gallery and will take most of a day to see all of it. It also has a very confusing layout, rather like the streets of Dublin. It has European paintings from the 16th to 20th century, concentrating on the 17th and 18th centuries. The famous Caravaggio was on loan to another gallery when I visited but there are plenty of other excellent paintings in the collection. The collection does not have many modern artists and only two abstract, non-figurative paintings (both by Mainie Jellett who exhibited the first abstract painting in Ireland in 1923).

Along with many French, Italian, and Spanish paintings there are Irish paintings in the National Gallery of Ireland, although not as much as you might expect. There is a gallery of paintings by Jack B. Yeats (father of the poet W.B. Yeats) whose later expressive figurative paintings done mostly with a palette knife are rather unique in style. There is also a gallery of Irish portraits; including more paintings by Jack B. Yeats.

I have already written about the Hugh Lane (Dublin City Gallery) in my entry about Francis Bacon’s Studio. It is worth a visit if you like modern and contemporary art.

I was glad that I did visit the RHA (Royal Hibernian Academy) Gallery even though it was once a conservative institution because this is where I saw the best contemporary Irish art. It has two floors with large modern gallery spaces. When I visited it had its 180th Annual Exhibition and was exhibiting hundreds of paintings, drawings, photographs and sculpture by local artists. Some of the work was political art with a critical comment on current economics or anti-war, some of the work referred to Irish literature but I only saw two paintings with a religious theme.

The Douglas Hyde Gallery at Trinity College has temporary contemporary art exhibitions. When I visited they were exhibiting works by the American photographer, Stephen Shore and the American minimalist, Agnes Martin.

The Gallery of Photography and the National Photographic Archive are both small and conveniently located opposite each other at Meeting House Square in the Temple Bar area. The Irish Film Institute is also at Meeting House Square and the Temple Bar area is Dublin’s arts area.

Finally there is the Irish Museum of Modern Art is only for people who like a lot of walking. There wasn’t much to see when I visited; half of it is devoted to bookshop, coffee shop, reception, lecture rooms, toilets etc. and half of the galleries were closed for installation. The building a former military hospital in Kilmainham is not really a suitable building for a gallery. It will make a good sculpture garden when there is more on exhibition. It has the feel of a government make work program given the number of gallery attendants especially compared to the National Gallery.


Francis Bacon’s Studio

The most important thing that I can think of seeing in Dublin is Francis Bacon’s Studio. Not that Francis Bacon is an Irish artist – he left the country when he was 16 and never returned. And his studio was in London but it has been moved, posthumously to Dublin City Gallery. Bacon is, in my opinion the most important post-war painter, his use of paint to create images are powerful with progressive and experimental techniques.

On a rainy Sunday, at 10:45 I am standing with one wet shoe at the door of Dublin City Gallery, the Hugh Lane Gallery, although it is actually at 22 North Parnell Square. Addresses in Dublin are so confusing, streets will change their name every block, although why this should be confusing for someone from Melbourne where a street will change name when it goes into a different  suburb or just have two different names, I don’t know. Actually the gallery is named after its founder, Sir Hugh Lane, not a street by that name.

15 minutes later I am let into the gallery, there is no queue, just me and three French women and one Irish man.  I go to the bathroom to dry my wet Dunlop tennis shoe and the sock on the hand-dryer. I fear that I might kill the machine before it dries outs the shoe but it does.

Then I go upstairs to see the Francis Bacon studio. The studio is behind glass, you can look in through the door, the two windows and two new viewing holes that allow close up views of paint on the wall and paint brushes. The studio is still a mess, Bacon never cleaned it up his studio (he did keep the rest of his small flat tidy), but every object has been documented by a team of archeologists. So as well as, looking at the actual studio I spent time looking at the computers with the documentation of the studio. Of interest to the street artists who read this blog Bacon did use Krylon and Humbrol spray paints, as well as, basic stencils of arrows and the head of Bacon’s lover, George Dryer.

There are photographs of Francis Bacon and his friends in another room; and unfinished Bacon paintings on exhibition in other rooms. It is a powerful experience and after looking at Bacon’s studio the rest of the gallery seems to be designed around Bacon’s art. The raw canvas of Patrick Scott’s “Large Solar Device” (1964) or Edward and Nancy Kienholtz “Drawing from ‘Tank’” (1989) with empty tin cans, photos etc. All the rough paint, all the drips or splatters, all seem to be influenced by Bacon, of course, this is not true but the effect is that powerful.

Other exhibitions in the Hugh Lane gallery, a room of Sean Scully paintings with their large, rough, geometric brick shapes of paint, and a surprising number of paintings by Canadians. There is an exhibition of portraits of artists by artists: “The Perceptive Eye: Artist Observing Artists”. Whistler paints Sickert and many self portraits, including a late, unfinished self-portrait by Bacon (1991-92). And an exhibition of Ellsworth Kelly “Drawings 1954-62” – Ellsworth Kelly is my least favorite artist, he is so boring but at least his drawings do not take up as much space as his large minimalist paintings.


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