Opinion

The Write Life: Art in the City 

Karl Parkinson portrait
Karl Parkinson

Karl Parkinson is a poet and writer from the north inner city. His works include The Blocks (New Binary Press, 2016) and Litany of the City and Other Poems (Wurmpress, 2013). His work has also appeared in several anthologies and journals.

The National Art Gallery, Nassau Street

The Bernard Shaw statue greets me bearded and regal as always. The art gallery white walls, the Melville/Moby Dick all-pervading whiteness of the “Art World”. I slip in through the heavy door and into the European art 1850-1950 collection, seen it many times before.

The Jack B. Yeats, Morning in a City, the splashing red, the meridian red city, wine dark, I cross it back and forth, I drink it in. Picasso’s Still Life with a Mandolin, is, to be honest, not very impressive, I feel I could paint it without much effort, doesn’t have the powerful horror, the tremor of his Guernica, nor the style and strangeness of his Two Women Running on the Beach.

Münter’s Girl with a Red Ribbon reminds me of a girl I know, the poet Annemarie Ni Churreain, is it her transmigrated soul, from paint to flesh, and flesh to paint and back again? Ah, the Monet, fresh, orange burst, blues and pinks, the small boat on the water, the shimmering, the light.

Paid the ten euro in to see the Beyond Caravaggio exhibition. Into the dark lit, red-walled, church: Boy Bitten by a Lizard, boy has my son’s hair, has my youth-self’s hair, I always see myself in paintings, former me, me now, as a child, me not yet alive, the all inspiring I in the us.

The main event is the two large, spectacular works of unquestioning genius: Supper at Emmaus and The Taking of Christ, nothing else here, nothing else in this building can compare to them.

Picasso is not in this league, they compel one to silence, awe, fright, exhilaration, majesty. The light on the armour, it’s the knowing in the face. Stillness in the rapidity of flesh and armour. The prayer-locked fingers, the artist’s light shines on the beatific kiss. The hand of the master knows all.

Caravaggio was a true artist, full of fire and realness, mad and murderous yes, but his art was sacred. What divinity mixes such qualities up in a man? Is it to show the game is full of entertainment for it is own amusing? A trick of the light.

I walked back out to the city streets, full of the master’s fire, his hand at my back, pushing me on to make my own art.

Street Art, Dublin 8

On John Street West off Thomas Street: a huge graffiti art mural adorns the wall, a giant green-eyed, white, mad-out-of-its-head cat, one paw raised, a bone in its pocket.

A slim hipster chick with green shades, and a spacey, Silver Surfer-type of a man with abstract splashes of red, yellow, green, blue, and pink all around and on him, he seems to be throwing down a bolt or a missile of some sort, to the street below.

A Japanese geisha woman, yin and yang symbols, and surreal floating dog-men heads. A tag: Marcamix evolve urban art.

NCAD and Eblana House

I am in the world of conceptual art/of young Irish art students/it’s mad and weird/I walk into a small pink house of love/a 10-inch TV screen plays Aoife’s show, the artist interviews her self/A steel shopping basket hangs from the ceiling, dripping plaster in a pool on the floor/CIÉ bus chair on a white wall/a woman’s mouth, full lips and pierced, speaks from a small mobile-phone-sized screen/a microwave full of eggs that is also a stove, which has a pot with an egg boiling in it/cold chips wrapped in The Sun newspaper/an ashtray full of butts/ugly puppets at a nightmare tea party, the table full to absurdity, with tea-bag boxes, saucers, tea pots, cups, whiskey bottles, glasses/a painting of two African boys looking dejected in a field of yellow grass, two leafless trees in the background/again the white walls of the art world, I sit and watch a film projected onto the white wall, early morning council workers clean the Dublin city streets, cameras attached to the machines they use, and to the clothes of the workers, Thomas Street, the lights of the city shine red, then green, then orange, then red again.

Lucian Freud, IMMA

My lover and me are at the Lucian Freud exhibition in IMMA, Kilmainham. On the way in, as we walk together up the long pathway towards the museum’s entrance, the garden grass on each side, signs representing various animals, rabbits, sheep, dogs.

“What’s that all about?” she asks.

“Most likely an art exhibition, it’s hard to tell with them, these days,” I say.

“Really, that’s not great art is it?”

I must agree with her, no, it’s not great art.

Lucian Freud, on the other hand, did make great art. The art of skin, flesh, the human body in all its small, tall, round, lumpy, slim, hairy, saggy, taut, beautiful, ugly, harmed, delicate form. The three-floored exhibition, is all pink, milky white, bag-eyed, tensile, sexual, primal, and very much grounded in the everyday reality of men and women living and working on the earth, ageing, full of faults, no fucking filters!

The bottom floor, is a dark-lit room, containing a whole collection of masterly rendered caricatures of people, some famous, that recall Di Vinci’s, but done with a less standoffish eye, more love of the faces drawn, more wit in the exaggerations of the noses, chins and foreheads.

Looking at one of the staff, who sits in the corner of the room: a woman, on a chair reading a book. I remark to my lover from behind a shielding hand, “Sitting around art galleries reading books, good job to have.”

“Yeah, you’d be good at that, wouldn’t you?” she says and smiles.

“Yup, I would actually, ha ha.”

We walk outside around the gardens, taking pictures, and then head off home for dinner. Another master observed up close, another hand pushing, pushing me on, and on, to make art in this sometimes dark world that is made of naught but light.

 

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