Paul Cotter

Réamhfhocail Aduaidh

Paul Cotter
Réamhfhocail Aduaidh

Réamhfhocail Aduaidh

Ealáin ó Thrioblóidí an Tuaiscirt

I ndeireadh na seachtóidí agus sna hochtóidí, bhí dhá choincheap, docht agus gaolmhar, ina mbunchúis leis na gnóthaí ealáine éagsúla. Is iad sin áit agus féiniúlacht.  An áit ina bhfuil muid, an dearcadh atá againn, na rudaí a chruthaíonn agus a mhúnlaíonn ár ndifríochtaí – is iad seo na ceisteanna a d’fhiafraigh agus a d’fhiosraigh ealaíontóirí Thuaisceart Éireann. Bhí ré úr d’fhéinfhiosrú dian faoi lán seoil, le cois mothú muiníneach áite a bhí ag teacht chun cinn. Rinneadh éascú agus spreagadh ar a leithéid i gcásanna áirithe mar gheall ar aird agus fiosrúcháin na meán ar feadh corradh agus fiche bliain, agus siocair an easpa de dhul chun cinn polaitiúil a chonacthas do dhaoine. Ar an tséala sin, is féidir a rá gur ghníomhaigh na trioblóidí polaitiúla i ndáiríre mar chatalaíoch gasta goimhiúil san athrach ó na híomhaí liriceacha, ach éifeachtacha, de shaol na tuaithe a bhí a léiriú ag ealaíontóirí na glúine roimhe sin ina gcuid saothar go dtí  an ealaín dhioscúrsach fhiosrach intleachtach atá le tabhairt faoi deara i saothar na n-ealaíontóirí atá faoi chaibidil anseo.  

I saothar Dermot Seymour,  tá a chuid críocha droimníneacha – atá scéiniúil, tuarúil agus as áit – ar maos i miotais, agus úsáidtear focail le taiscéaladh a dhéanamh ar chruacheisteanna, ar chastachtaí agus ar neas-suíomhanna aisteacha. Ní shamhlófá go bhfuil rud ar bith mar atá sé i ndáiríre. Más amhlaidh go bhfuil fadhb an Tuaiscirt ag baint le talamh, is ionann í is a bheith ag baint le mothúcháin neamhshláine. Cuireann Seymour brandaí agus comharthaí ar a bhailiúchán áiféiseach de chaoirigh, eallach agus púcaí  sa dóigh nach dtagann  siad ach ar strae isteach ina chuid pictiúr anois is arís, díreach mar a mharcálann agus mar a dhéanann páirtínigh críochachas ar thírdhreach Uladh. Is maith le Seymour suaitheantais mhíleata, bratacha agus graifítí mar fhoirmeacha eile den mharcáil agus den chríochachas, ach is iad teidil a chuid pictiúr a aibhsíonn na tomhaiseanna. Tagann na teidil sin go nádúrtha ón bhaile fearainn. Ní go díreach acomhal atá i gceist le crosbhealach ach áit ar scaoileadh duine áigin, ag a ndearnadh luíochán roimh phatról, ag a ndéantar ceiliúradh gach uile bhliain ar eachtra a tharla 300 bliain ó shin nó áit ag a ndéantar monatóireacht nó faire ar thrácht. Sin an nádúr atá ag baint le ceist na talún. Tá baile fearainn Seymour i mbearna bhaoil i gcónaí. 

Is ionann tírdhreach do Micky Donnelly agus domhan éagruthach atá ar snámh agus inar féidir siombailí agus samhailchomharthaí chultúrtha éagsúla, a bhfuil baint acu le poblachtánachas / náisiúnachas nó aontachas, a leagan anuas air. Baineann sé úsáid as suaitheantais macasamhail Lile na Cásca, hata James Connolly, babhlaer éigeantach an Fhir Bhuí, agus an lile oráisteach. Déantar iad seo a shéideadh suas go comhréireach, tógtar amach as comhthéacs fíor ar bith iad agus cuirtear i láthair an lucht féachana iad díreach mar na rudaí atá iontu.  Má tá na trioblóidí polaitiúla i dTuaisceart Éireann fá dtaobh de rud ar bith, tá siad fá dtaobh den dianseasmhacht in easaontas féiniúlachta ina mbaintear úsáid as suaitheantais mar chineál de phointí buachana cultúrtha.

Is iad Béal Feirste agus Doire an dá chathair is mó i dTuaisceart Éireann.  Ach neamhchosúil le cathracha eile na hÉireann agus na Breataine, tá siad faoi dhaingniú láidir. I gcathair Bhéal Feirste, cur i gcás, déantar focail a phéinteáil ar bhallaí ach ní fada go mbíonn díshealbhú déanta orthu agus freagraí tugtha orthu ar bhallaí eile, i bhfocail eile. Déanann focail an balla a cheastóireacht. Sníonn siad iad féin isteach i struchtúr an bhalla mar a dhéanfadh taibhsí. Déanann Willie Doherty, ó Dhoire, taiscéaladh ar choincheap na nithe seachtracha seo, ag teilgean téacsanna i riochtanna radhairc. Leagtar téacs anuas ar ghrianghrafanna, ceann amháin in ainm is a bheith ag treascairt an chinn eile. Is ionann é agus modh ceastóireachta eile, ach ó dhuine ón taobh istigh atá ag obair amach as agus fríd a eispéireas ar áit.

Dhírigh dornán de chuid ealaíontóirí Thuaisceart Éireann a n-aird ar an chathair, ag déanamh teagmhála lena hanás sóisialta, a himeaglú, a heasaontas, a teannas agus a cuid rithimí feiceálacha – a tarraingteacht agus a déistineacht. I sraith de phortráidí sóisialta a rinne sí go luath sna seachtóidí, dhírigh Catherine McWilliams a haird ar mhná aonaracha leo féin. Insíonn an spás a fhágann sí timpeall na mban tréigthe uaigneacha seo an scéal iomlán. Ní amháin go bhfuil siad ann ach tá siad faoi chuing ann. Is fíorbheagán smachta nó rogha atá acu ar an bhail atá orthu. Tá pictiúirí dá leithéid seo suite go hiomlán laistigh de thaithí agus de thuiscint phearsanta ar an áit.

Maidir le cnuasach saothar ghrianghrafadóireachta Victor Sloan, atá bunaithe ar shéasúr máirseála na nOráisteach, is ionann ‘siúl’ agus comhartha corparáide do léiriú saoirse, ach fosta léiriú ar idé-eolaíocht. (Ag deireadh thiar thall, tá sprioc na máirseála ionann le ráiteas, le díluchtú na hidé-eolaíochta i  gcoincheap ‘an chuibhrinn’ mar thalamh mothúchánach). Is féidir an teicníocht a úsáideann Sloan, i.e. ag scríobadh agus ag uaspheinteáil  claonchlónna agus dearbhchlónna fótaghrafacha, a chur i gcomparáid leis an teannas atá go smior in eagrú céadfaíoch na bparáidí Oráisteacha.

Baineann cuid saothar Rita Duffy le Béal Feirste. Díríonn sise ar dheighilt, ar mheon ionsaitheach,  ar chultúir creidimh a théann thar fóir, chomh maith le saincheisteanna a bhaineann le hinscne. Tá na fórsaí in a saothar cruthaithe d’aon ghnó do léamh ciorclach, rud a léiríonn ciorclú na dáighe agus an traidisiúin. Go minic is ar an tsráid a imrítear an gníomh. Ní áiteacha do mhachnamh ar chreideamh atá sna sráideacha i mBéal Feirste atá léirithe ag Duffy. Tá gríosadh nó corraí grúpa ag gabháil ar aghaidh orthu  i dtólamh. Faightear striapachas i ngach uile chathair, i ngach uile am, agus tá spéis ag Duffy sna róil a bhíonn ag na mná nó a chuirtear d’iallach orthu. Mar a dhéanann sí ina cuid saothar go léir, pléann sí leo le trua agus le greann. 

Fiosraíonn Jack Pakenham téamaí macasamhail ionramháil, imeaglú, soineantacht, idéalachas agus breabaireacht, ach go háirithe coimhthiú. Bíonn a chuid ‘aisteoirí’ go léir ag aisteoireacht laistigh agus lasmuigh dá  dtuiscint féin ar choimhthiú. I ndáiríre, níl siad choíche ar an stáitse céanna ag an am céanna, in eascairdeas mar atá siad ina gcuid monalóg seasta féin. I dtaca leis an ‘stáitse’ de – coirnéal sráide nó seomra uair amháin –  tagann forbairt air go dtí sraith ilghruach de chnámhscéalta comhcheangailte. Tá bábóg an bholgchainteora - alter ego agus íospartach ionaid an ealaíontóra  – i gcónaí ansin á cur féin i mbaol maoithneachais agus fiú ró-thaispeánadh. Níl sé/sí ach in inmhe dreach amháin a bheith ar a (h)aghaidh, aghaidh an áilteora, ach tá sé/sí timpeallaithe ag anamacha na ndaoine a díbríodh agus atá caillte folamh gan dreach. Níl bealach éalaithe ar bith á thairiscint agus is fíorbheagán dóchais a ligtear isteach sna scarúintí pictiúrtha .

I measc rudaí eile, tá iniúchadh déanta i saothar Joe McWilliams ar na cumhachtaí caomhantais atá ag cuimhne roghnach. Chuige seo, bhain sé úsáid as samhailchruth ar mhaithe le scrín a chur thart ar íomhaí de cheannairí polaitiúla, ó thraidisiún na ndílseoirí agus na  bpoblachtach araon, leithéidí Edward Carson agus Pádraig Mac Piarais. Cuireann seiseann i láthair iad mar íomhaí laistigh de phíosa amháin. Tchíonn muid a n-íomhaí ag meath agus ag feo diaidh ar ndiaidh laistigh den tsraith, díreach cosúil le duine ag dul anonn in aois, de réir mar a shroicheann siad riocht níos ‘naofa’. Méadaíonn ar a gcumhacht imeachtaí an lae inniu a dhreasú, mar sin féin, de réir mar a thagann forbairt ar a stádas íocónach. Fosta, tá an mothú ann go bhfuil gá le híolbhriseadh fríd athbhreithniú a dhéanamh ar an stair chun a gcumhacht a dhíbirt. Cuireann McWilliams ar ár súile dúinn gan aon dhearcadh rómánsach a bheith againn den am atá thart nuair a deir sé: 

“Déantar laochra polaitiúla ghlúin amháin a chanónú ag na glúnta a thagann ina ndiaidh agus d’fhéadfadh na naoimh seo agus a gcuid rosc a bheith chomh 

hábhartha do fhadhbanna an lae inniu is atá asarlaíocht na ndraoithe do chleachtas leighis nua-aimseartha..... is cinnte gur filíocht spreagthach atá in  ‘terrible beauty’ Yeats, agus in óráid Emmet ón ghabhann cúirte, ach folaíonn siad foréigean le grástúlacht agus bás le caithréim.” (i)

Dúirt an léirmheastóir, Lucy Lippard, go géarchúiseach agus ag an am céanna, go sólásach:

‘Is faoi na dromchlaí éagsula go léir atá gá an ealaíontóra le tuiscint a fháil ar cá háit a bhfuil sé/sí, agus le theacht ar réitigh ar cad é a chiallaíonn na Trioblóidí do mhuintir na hÉireann uilig, ní miste cé chomh tuirseach  is atá gach uile dhuine daofa. Agus i ndiaidh an iomláin, ar ndóigh, sin an rud atá i gceist le ‘healaín pholaitiúil’ – cuibhreann comchoitianta.’ (ii)

Tugadh an aiste as leabhar an Dr. Liam Kelly, leabhar a d’fhoilsigh Gandon sa bhliain 1996. Ar fud fad leabhair  Liam Kelly, agus mar a léiríonn na saothair atá ar taispeántas sa Ghailearaí, tá sé soiléir gur tharla turas cruthaitheach inmheánach ar mhaithe le theacht ar a mhacasamhail de chuibhreann comhchoitianta – machnamh fada.



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Northern Prepositions

Art of the N.I.Troubles

Two deep-rooted and related concepts underline various art concerns during the late seventies and eighties. These are place and identity. Where we are, what we stand for, what has formed and continues to inform our sense of difference – these are the questions Northern Ireland artists asked and investigated. A new period of intensive self-interrogation had begun, together with an emergent and confident sense of location. This was facilitated and provoked, in some cases by media attention and enquiry over more than two decades, and by the perceived lack of political progress. It can be said then that the political troubles have indeed acted as a raw and hasty catalyst in the shift from a lyrical but potent pastoralism in the work of a previous generation of artists to the searching intellectual discursive art produced by this represented generation. 

Dermot Seymour’s lurid, ominous and displaced drumlin borderlands are myth-laden, and words are used to explore conundrums, complexities and bizarre juxtapositions. Nothing seems to be what it is. If the Ulster problem is about territory, then it is about insecurities. Seymour brands and marks his absurd menagerie of sheep, cattle and pookas so that they only stray into his pictures, just as partisans mark and territorialise the Ulster landscape. Seymour is fond of incorporating military insignia, flags and graffiti as other forms of marking and catagorising, but it is the titles of his paintings that set the riddles off. His titles arise naturally from the townland. A crossroads is not just a junction, it is where someone was shot, a patrol ambushed, a 300th anniversary celebrated each year or where traffic is monitored or surveilled. That is the nature of the land question. Seymour’s townland is always on the brink. 

Landscape for Micky Donnelly is a floating amorphous world in which to place various cultural symbols and emblems associated with either republicanism/nationalism or unionism. He includes emblems such as the Easter lily, James Connolly’s hat, the Orangeman’s obligatory bowler hat, and the orange lily. These are inflated in proportion, taken out of any real context and allowed to confront the viewer for what they are. If political troubles in Northern Ireland are about anything, they are about the persistence with the clash of identities, in which emblems are a kind of cultural score board.

The two main cities in Northern Ireland are Belfast and Derry. Unlike other Irish and British cities, they are heavily fortified. In a city like Belfast, words are painted on walls only to be dispossessed and answered on other walls, in other words. Words interrogate the wall. They insinuate themselves into the wall structure like shades. Willie Doherty, from Derry, explores the concept of the extra-mural, casting texts into states of seeing. Text is superimposed on photographs, one to subvert the other. It is another form of interrogation, but by an insider working out of and through his experience of place.

A number of Northern Ireland painters have focused on the city, encountering its social deprivation intimidation, divisions, its tensions and visual rhythms- its attraction and repulsion. In a series of social portraits during the early 70’s Catherine McWilliams focused on single, isolated female figures. The space she depicts around these forlorn figures does all the work. They are entrapped by it rather than simply being in it. They have little control or choice over their circumstances. Paintings like these are rooted in the direct experience of events and the intimate understanding of place.

In Victor Sloan’s series of photoworks, based on the Orange marching season, walking becomes a corporate symbol for expression of freedom, but also the parading of an ideology. (Eventually the march leads up to a declaration, an unloading of ideology, at and in, the concept of ‘the field’ as an emotional ground). Sloan’s technique of scraping and overpainting of photographic negatives and prints parallels the tensions inherent in the emotional apparatus of the Orange marches.

Rita Duffy’s work is about Belfast. Her concerns are about segregation, siege mentality, cultural religious extremes, together with issues of gender. The forces in her composition make for circular reading, reflecting the circularity of entrenchment and tradition. The action is often played out on the street. The streets of Duffy’s Belfast are not places for religious contemplation. They are perpetually in a state of arousal or group agitation. Prostitution is an activity to be found in all cities, in all times, and Duffy is interested in all roles that women have to or are forced to play. She has, as in all her work, treated them with compassion and humour. 

Jack Pakenham explores themes such as manipulation, intimidation, innocence, idealism, and corruption, but especially alienation. His ‘actors’ all act within and from their own sense of alienation. They are never really on the same stage together, estranged as they are in their fixed soliloquies. The ‘stage’ itself, once a street corner or an enclosed room, develops on to a multi-faceted series of interconnecting scenarios. The ventriloquist’s doll - the artist’s alter ego and surrogate victim – is there always risking sentimentality and even over-exposure. He (she) is capable of only one expression, the clown’s face, but is surrounded by the expressionless, lost souls of the banished. There is no escape offered nor much hope let in to these pictorial detachments.

The work of Joe McWilliams has explored, amongst other issues, the preservative powers of selective memory. To do this, he has adopted the use of the icon form to enshrine images of political leaders from both the loyalist and republican tradition, such as Edward Carson and Padraig Pearse. He presents them as multi-haloed images within one work. We see their images progressively fade and decay within the sequence, paralleling a physical aging process as they reach a more ‘sanctified’ state. Their power to fuel current events, however, increases as their iconic status develops. There is, too, the sense that an iconoclasm is required by way of revisionist history to exorcise their power. McWilliams cautioned against any romantic view of the past when he said: 

“Political heroes of one generation are canonized by later generations and these saints and their slogans might well be as relevant to today’s problems as witch craft is to modern medical practice.....Yeats’s ‘terrible beauty’, like Emmet’s speech from the dock, is stirring poetry, but they cloak violence with grace and death with glory.” (i)

Critic, Lucy Lippard astutely and yet comfortingly said:

‘Beneath the diverse surfaces lies each artist’s need to understand where she/he is, to come to terms with what the troubles means for everyone in Ireland no matter how tired of them everyone is. And that, after all, is what ‘political art’ is all about – common ground.’ (ii)

The essay has been extracted from Dr. Liam Kelly’s book ‘Thinking Long’ published by Gandon in 1996.Throughout Liam Kelly’s book, and as evidenced by the works exhibited in An Gaielaraí, it is clear that an imaginative inner journey has taken place to find such common ground – a thinking long.

(i) Artist’s statement, Joe McWilliams – A Troubled Journey 1966-1989 (Cavehill Gallery, Belfast, 1989)

(ii) Lucy Lippard, Divisions, Crossroads, Turns of Mind: Some New Irish Art, (Ireland America Arts Exchange Inc., Madison, Wisconsin, 1985)

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