Odyssey in progress – new works

In the ‘Circe’ episode of the Odyssey a group of men are sent inland by Odysseus to explore the island of Aeaea. This turns out to be the home of the sorceress Circe who enchants the sailors and turns them into swine (when Joyce came to write this chapter in Ulysses he made Circe the proprietor of a famous Dublin brothel). Odysseus has obtained an antidote to Circe’s magic and is able to rescue his crew and get valuable help from her. I have used the colours and vernacular imagery from the tattooist’s repertoire here, and the doppelganger composition of the playing card. The images are worked in thin acrylic on a pair of French 19th c. cotton drawers.

While work on the Death of the Collaborators is not yet fully resolved, several strong pieces have come out of that theme. Homer’s metaphor for the slain handmaidens ‘like birds caught in a net’ is something that has evaded me visually. I think it has just been too tempting to try to create hybrids from the elements of woman & bird, fabric & feathers. In the end I think that collage (a medium I rarely use) may provide the best vehicle for this synthesis.

Death of a collaborator (2012) gouache, pigment & collage on paper 65 x 50 cms.

Death of a Collaborator(2012) fresco panel 65 x 38 cms
Circe (2012) acrylic on antique cotton drawers
Neuro Introduction of the ‘Neuro’

The ‘Neuro’ is a hypothetical currency for British people with a neurosis about Europe. ‘Neuro’ notes will be donated to selected museums and galleries via their transparent collection boxes.As a British/Irish cultural hybrid I have always been bemused by the contrasting relationships my two nations have with the union they both belong to. While the Irish embraced Europe like a long lost rich uncle, the British have always tended to treat the EU as someone you do business with but don’t invite into your home.

I have long felt that the divisions in my homeland, Northern Ireland, are not so much a political problem now as a psychological one.  The same could be said of the curious reticence most Brits have about their European identity.  While historical enmities and alliances account in some way for these national attitudes, there is still a strong visceral reaction to the very idea of any authority taking precedence over the British Crown.

In 1999 when Britain first had the option of adopting the €uro I recall joking that this would only happen if the Queen’s head were part of the design.  Feeling that now is a good time to psycho-analyse Euro-skepticism, I have adapted a Euro banknote to accommodate Her Majesty’s portrait.  Distribution/display of this artwork will be limited for legal reasons.  The notes will be ‘donated’ to museums and galleries via their transparent collection boxes, to create a public display of the work and give the museums concerned a potentially collectable asset.

Recent Interview; Irish Arts Review, 2013.

Extracted from the Summer 2013 edition of the Irish Arts Review. The Irish Arts Review is Ireland’s leading art and design publication. Selected articles and further details are available on www.irishartsreview.com


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