Twenty years ago Brian O’ Doherty, the artist, writer, theorist and author of the collection of seminal essays Inside the White Cube, thoughts on the gallery space and its role in the development of twentieth century art, created a series of murals in a square gallery space in the then young and under funded Sirius Art Centre in Cobh in Co. Cork. The Centre is beautifully situated on the water and the room with O’Doherty’s murals has one wall of windows looking out onto a stone terrace, only its balustrade operating the viewer form the sea. On a bright day you could be on the Cote D’Azur, the old hunting grounds of Cezanne and Picasso.
The work had been painted over but this year the One Here Now project has seen them restored and there will follow a year of projects and collaborations with artists and the public.
The mural is executed in primary colors-red, blue with some yellow-and green. Green for Ireland maybe, as the starting point for these murals was O’Dohertys ex-pat status. He had emigrated from Ireland, from Cobh in fact, in the 1950s. These murals, situated as they are in an Art Centre on the harbour in Cobh, the last sight of Ireland many emigrants would have had of Ireland over the centuries, served to re-align O’Doherty with his roots. Cobh of course was the last port of call for the ill-fated Titanic ..
…”she was fine when she left here..”
Anyway, the Ogham alphabet also forms a departure points for this nine-part mural. A code for the alphabet, which is made up of units of lines that were carved in rocks, or ogham stones and which was developed and used by the celts, lines the top of the walls.. Each of the nine parts is centered around a square shape using different combinations of lines and colours. The whole effect is quite trippy and I was glad I didn’t have a hangover.
I would like today I got this information form the hours long talk but unfortunately, though Miranda O’Driscoll is one of the clearest speakers I have heard, I soon began to flag. I was exhausted from two days of listening to-or trying to hear-people and I hit my hearing wall fairly fast and ended up sitting on the floor trying not to look at the bright and zippy walls. Most of the information here I have taken from other sources, the links for which you will find below.
This is not to say the murals aren’t worth visiting. They are, for their historical significance but also for their impact. The series of projects will be ongoing until the Spring of 2019 and are well worth checking out. I had been looking forward to a day of drawing and contemplation but all the verbiage put paid to that and I headed out into the town to get some food, to feel normal again.
Also at the centre was the beautiful Sustainable Futures show which included work form a past pupil of the MA, Fiona Kelly as well as growing pieces in the form of spheres of moss and other organic matter, suspended from the ceiling of high, light filled space. Fittingly, considering the O’Doherty project, these pieces, activated the whole gallery. In fact both gallery areas that hosted this show, even the one that had more wall pieces, seemed to hum with the work as you can see from the cast above () and also from the beautiful map below. It is created using imagery from Google maps but blown up in such a way as to preserve the quality of the image. The duplicating and mirroring of the map, such a simple idea, is an extremely effective way to emphasise town planning and our effect on the landscape as well as bringing the attraction of the map and the aerial image into sharp focus.
Sources & References
O’Byrne, Ellie, Cork Gallery Restores Brian O’Doherty Murals Hidden for 20 Years, 2018, in The Irish Independent [online], February 13th, available at https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/lifestyle/culture/cork-gallery-restores-brian-odoherty-murals-hidden-for-20-years-827758.html
One Here Now, The Restoration Project, 2018, [online], available at https://www.oneherenowrestoration.com [accessed 23/3/2018].
Sirius Art Centre, One Here Now, 2018, [online], available at http://www.siriusartscentre.ie/one-here-now %5Baccessed 23/3/2018].
Tipton, Gemma, Art To Make You Shiver:Ghostly Visions Appear in Cobh, 2017. in The Irsh Times [online], May 10th, available at https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/art-and-design/art-to-make-you-shiver-ghostly-visions-appear-in-cobh-1.3075393 [accessed 23/3/2018].