Tag Archives: Ireland

Travel Notes + Jetlag

Relaxing on the green grass of Ireland

I’m back from my European Economic Basket-case 2010 tour of Dublin and Greece trying to get over my jetlag, get through the hundreds of emails, downloading travel photos, Facebook, the handful of snail mail, shopping and washing. Under this stress I’m trying to put together blog entries from the jumble of notes in my travel journal.

What is this gibberish that I’ve written?

“Beware of Greek’s building bathrooms.”

“Dubliners are to fashion what the Eurovision song contest is to music.”

“I arrive in Greece on the 21st of May the birthday of Apollo; his twin sister Artemis was born the day I departed Melbourne.”

I wasn’t looking at art galleries for most of the trip, sometimes I was even trying not to look at the horrors in the tourist focused art galleries that I passed in Greece and Dublin. Or trying not to look at the same thing hung on the wall of the hotels that I was staying at.

Then there is the art in airports. I should write something about the similarities between international airports and art galleries. There is always some art on display at the airports – I remember as a child seeing an Alexander Calder mobile at Toronto International Airport. Nationalism at international airports sometimes demands displays of art and the architecture wouldn’t really work without it. However, the art, like hotel art, can’t be too confronting, too political, too expressive, too anything. At Melbourne Tullamarine Airport there are mosaics. Then in the departure lounge there are these funky, shiny and colourful steel, bronze, aluminium and fibreglass sculptures by Akio Makigawa “Journey West” and “Journey East” 1996. There is one Australian aboriginal painting by David Blanasi “Two crocodiles, the same yet different” 1994 in the departure lounge at Gate 7. Why is it the only painting in the departure lounge? Is it a token piece of Australian aboriginal art at the airport?

Looking back through my travel journal there are more notes about the art at Adelaide Airport and Singapore Airport but the art is pretty much the same. But maybe the content is more suitable for the blog my wife and I write: Who Buys This Stuff?

At some points in my travels I was on a similar path to the 19th century grand tour. What is the point of the “grand tour” as a contemporary experience? No, someone else (Kevin McCloud’s Grand Tour) has already made a TV series about that.

Maybe I should write something about Mykonos given that The Kings of Mykonos movie has just been released. It was also released in Greece when I was there. I can put a tag on it and get a few more readers. Maybe not… but the exchange of contemporary Melbourne and Athens Greek culture is worth noting.

Maybe I should write about travel guides. “In Your Pocket – Essential City Guides” they proved to be a more practical travel guide than my old favourite Lonely Planet. For one these guides actually fit in your pocket and don’t overload the reader with information. The editorial information was accurate, informative and critical…

I am just raving now… jet lag will do that to your brain. I will be writing more about my travels – I just have to do some more writing and research before publishing them.

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.

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