Champions of the World!

Wigan 22 Cronulla 6:

Almost 30 years ago, on 7th of October 1987. I was one of the 36,895 Rugby League fans who Packed into Central Park to watch Wigan take on Manly, the Australian Rugby League champions in the first Rugby League World Club Challenge. It was a memorable occasion. A hard fought. very aggressive, contest which Wigan won 8 – 2. No tries scored, but decided on penalties (unusual for a game of Rugby League). I was there in Liverpool in in 1991 when they beat Penrith and watched on TV with hundreds of other fans at the RIverside Club at the former Central Park in 1994 when they defeated the Brisbane Broncos on their own turf to lift the trophy for the third time.

And I was there on Sunday afternoon this week with over 21,000 fans when Wigan won the trophy for a record 4th time defeating Cronulla 22-6, scoring 4 tries. A particularly important victory as the World Club Championship had not been won by a British Club for 5 years.

It was a good weekend for British Rugby League as Warrington had turned over the Brisbane Broncos 27-18 the previous day . Two nil to the Super League!

Waiting for the match to start.

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Entrance of the Gladiators

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The final score

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Receiving the trophy

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Applauding the fans

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A happy coach

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Showing the trophy to the fans in the South Stand

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A great day and electric atmosphere.

The Táin Wall

Last Sunday, while I was over in Dublin, walking down Nassau Street from the National Gallery I happened to glance down a little side street between the Kilkenny Shop and Reads bookstore and . I’ve passed by many a time in the past, but on this occasion I spotted something and thought I’d take a closer look.

This is what I saw

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A quite stunning mosaic mural on the wall behind a car park.

There was no information about the mural or the artist, but it appeared to show mythological characters. In the 1970’s I had a copy of  the Táin , a concept album by the Irish folk rock band, Horslips which was based on the Irish epic, Táin Bó Cuailnge (The “Cattle Raid of Cooley“) so I guessed it had something to do with the legend. After a little research on t’internet I managed to find this blog post about the wall which revealed that I was right.

The mosaic was created by Desmond Kinney in 1974 for the owners of Setanta House which is opposite the wall. Since a change of owner, it seems to have been rather neglected and tucked away off busy Nassau Street it doesn’t appear to be well known.

The mosaic shows key scenes from the story of the mythological hero Cú Chulainn– the Hound of Culann, whose original name was Setanta, and how he defended Ulster from the forces of Queen Medh who had invaded to steal the prize stud bull Donn Cúailnge.

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The Táin by Horslips was released in 1973 . The most popular track, driven by a rather excellent guitar riff based on from a traditional folk standard, “O’Neill’s Cavalry March”, was “Dearg Doom” (“Red Destroyer”) , yet another name for Setanta / Cú Chulainn.

A Tribute To The Irish Community Butte Montana 1916-1919

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This was the the third exhibition by a female Irish artist I saw at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin last Sunday. On display were cartoonish like drawings based on the family history of the artist – Amanda Jane Graham – in particular her Grandmother’s childhood memories.

Butte, Montana is a former mining town in the Rocky Mountains. In there 19th century it was a major destination for Irish emigrants who travelled over to work in the Anaconda copper mine owned by one Marcus Daly, himself an Irish emigrant from Co Cavan. By 1900 a quarter of the town’s residents were Irish, including the artist’s great grandparents and their young daughter, Mary.

Her great grandparents, like many of the emigrant community in Butte, were supporters of the Republican Fenian movement.  At the age of three her Grandmother unknowingly smuggled money raised by the women of Butte for “The Cause” into Ireland to aid the 1916 rising in Dublin – hidden in the mattress, pillow and quilt of her dolls pram. It had been decided by the Fenians in Butte that this would be the best way to get the money across the Atlantic.

The very pram was on display as the centrepiece of the exhibition.

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The drawings illustrate the both the journey to deliver the money to the Rebels and the history of the Irish Community in Butte, showing life in the main street and the Speculator Mine disaster of June 8, 1917 when 168 miners were killed.

The drawings portray the events as seen through young Mary’s young eyes. So they’re like cartoons in which people are replaced by animals, Daleks and strange half human forms. They reminded me a little of the the cartoons that Terry Gilliam used to produce for Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

This drawing illustrates the visit by Éamon DeValera to Butte in 1919 to thank the community for their support for the Republican movement with horses replacing and representing the spectators.

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Graham can visualize her Grandmother as a child enjoying cowboy shoot outs or enduring the over crowding in cars as the community traveled vast distances to listen to DeValera at the rallies.She can still sense the apprehension when she recalls the stories of the mine bell ringing as her Grandmother witnessed one of the worst mining disaster in American history. (artist’s website)

Art Deco Building in Dublin

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Architecture in the centre of Dublin is mainly Georgian and Victorian and I haven’t seen many examples of early 20th Century Modernist style buildings – Art Nouveau, Art Deco and the like. Perhaps not surprising as Ireland went through difficult times during the first half of the 20th Century – Uprisings, Revolution, Civil War and economic difficulties. However, last Sunday while heading back to the car from the National Gallery I spotted a building at the bottom end of Kildare Street, near St Stephen’s Green which had some features that were clearly Art Deco inspired.

In particular the long vertical windows on the front and side of the building

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and the murals depicting idealised labourers – almost “Socialist Realist” in style

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A little research revealed that it was originally built for the Department of Industry and Commerce, being completed in 1942. and is now the headquarters of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. It was designed by James Rupert Boyd Barrett after a competition.The Buildings of Ireland website describes the premises as “one of Dublin’s most interesting twentieth-century architectural gems.” However, for the archiseek websiteThe exterior is robust and austere with the exception of the art deco relief sculptures

The murals were designed by a female artist, Gabriel Hayes. There’s an interesting post about her work on the murals here.

Dublin Fanlights

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Georgian houses in Dublin are relatively plain with little ornamentation. Typically, the front is fairly plain brickwork, only broken up by long windows. In these houses, the main decorative feature tends to be the door and the semi-circular fan-light, which present an opportunity for some individuality.

Fanlights are, as the name implies fan-shaped windows above the front door which illuminate an otherwise dark hallway. In Georgian times, natural light, candles and oil
lamps were the only means of lighting the darker parts of houses, such as the hallways. They’re both a functional and a decorative feature and in Dublin there are many different designs.

During my latest visit to the city, due to the weather I didn’t spend much time wandering around the streets but even a short walk in the streets to the south of the Lifffey takes you past plenty of Georgian squares and streets. I spotted this rather unusual example near to the RHA Gallery.

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During a relatively short walk, I snapped a number of other examples – all different.

This is a relatively simple example

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A much bigger window with a more complex pattern

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This one is a little like a spider’s web

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This one is really fancy

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This one has a glass box built into it which would hold a lamp or candle to light the outside of the house

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As does this one – a grander version

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Shot Crowd

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After looking around the Emotional Archaeology exhibition at the RHA in Dublin, I had a look around the exhibition in the next couple of galleries on the upper floor – Shot Crowd by Joy Gerard.

In the first room a series of images, some small with other larger pictures, of crowds of people viewed from above lined the walls. They looked like black and white photographs, but on closer inspection it was clear that they were drawings – Japanese black ink on linen.

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The artist, Joy Gerrard was born in Ireland, being bought up in Co Tipperary. Currently she lives in London with a studio in Shoreditch. The monochrome drawings, depict dense crowd scenes, viewed from above, from tall buildings or from news helicopters, of protesters from The Arab Spring, the Ukraine, “Black Lives Matter”, and the recent Anti-Trump demonstrations.

The buildings, vehicles and street furniture are detailed and quite realistic, but the people merge into the mass of the crowd, there are no individual features discernible. To create the drawings she takes photographs from newspaper and online images of mass urban protest

Gerrard’s images present a topographical view of people contained within or spilling out of huge civic spaces in a kind of calligraphic active groundswell. Hundreds of intense, tiny brush marks draw the viewer into particular incident within the works, but equally, they are immediately recognisable – being derived from powerful images that have proliferated via the mass media of the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, mass actions across European cities, US inner city demonstrations and many others. These are all part of our recent history. (artist’s website)

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Describing her technique

I have rules, which are followed for every piece. The crowd starts at the back, at the furthest distance from the eye of the camera, when each person is just a minute dot, or a blur of grey. Here is the fracturing, the edge of the crowd, where there is no containment, and no line of building. It is an uncertain space. As, I work through the crowd towards the centre, the image darkens, and becomes more dense. The image is stationary, but there is a sense of animation in the multiplicity of tiny marks. Depending on the nature and angle of the image, sometimes there is figuration in the foreground of the crowd. When I am close to finishing a piece, most important is the balance between black and white. This tonal balance, often has no relation to the original photographic image, and is about making the image ‘right’. The image will not function, it cannot become an autonomous thing, until this is correct. Memory, for me, is always in black and white, the blacks becoming denser with elevated levels of emotion, doubt or belief. (Material Editions website)

In the second room a video was showing – Shot Crowd , after which the exhibition is named.

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The video shows a model of a city shot from above. Completely deserted at first. Gradually what appear to be ball bearings start pouring in from one side moving into spaces, gathering in clumps around the “buildings” – behaving just like a crowd of people gathering for a demonstration

The “ball bearings” are actually lead shot gun pellets – so the title can be interpret is that it’s showing a crowd of shot or is a crowd shot with a camera. Clever. The pellets finally come to a halt and then after a short pause, the film goes into reverse until the city is deserted again. I thought the video really captured how crowds form, move and accumulate.

All the pictures in this exhibition are of protests and demonstrations that took place in 2016. As the artist says in an interview (see the film clip below) demonstrations occur all the time but 2016 was particularly notable for the mass demonstrations taking place across the world including the United States. And with instability created by Trump’s election and erratic actions, Brexit and potential events on the borders of Russia (with Putin likely to be emboldened by the election of Trump), 2017 is likely to be a vintage year for protests and demonstrations. Joy Gerrard is going to have plenty to keep her busy, I think.

Emotional Archaeology

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One of the exhibitions showing during my visit to the Royal Hibernian Academy, Emotional Archaeology is a retrospective of the work of Irish artist, Daphne Wright, born into a Protestant family in Co Longford but based in Bristol for nearly 20 years, dividing her time between the city and Ireland. The RHA’s website tells us that she

engages a series of conceptual ideas and sculptural languages, which have been quietly influential. Her work is the result of a relentless curiosity into the way in which materials can create an involvement with often unspoken human preoccupations.

Casting, sound recording, filmmaking and drawing result in a series of works that explore issues such as parenting, aging and mankind’s complex relationship with animals. Wright is not afraid to embrace domestic and familial subjects in order to encourage
a genuine psychological commitment from the viewer; this is a retrospective look at Wright as an emotional archaeologist.

She was elected as a member of the Aosdana, Irish Association of Artists in 2011.

The main part of the exhibition is in the galleries on the first floor, but In a cabinet at the bottom of the stairwell, there’s a collection of small objects – some knitted, some ceramic and some cast in polyurethane resin. Home Ornaments was originally produced as part of a public art project during the redevelopment of the Gorbals housing estate in Glasgow. They were placed in each of the newly built flats on a specially built shelf, prior to the new residents moving in. Some of the residents kept them as ornaments, others ignored them or disposed of them.

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Home Ornaments (2002–5)

Entering the main gallery at the top of the stairs I was greeted by the sight of this striking, disturbing piece

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Stallion (2009)

A full scale stallion – dead and partially flayed – cast from marble dust and resin. It made quite an impact. it’s one of a series of pieces of casts of dead animals – there was also a monkey and a lamb in the exhibition – extremely “lifelike” (if that’s the right word to use to describe dead animals) and intended to explore mankind’s complex relationship with animals.

My favourite piece was probably this

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Domestic Shrubbery (1994)

A small room with the walls covered with a very delicate lace like floral pattern – you had to be careful not to damage it on entering the space.

The complex decorative form in the work, inspired by Victorian plaster, resembles the work of English textile designer and poet William Morris. The artist combines a living wallpaper, incorporating tiny shrunken hearts, in the form of a suspended floral relief.

There was a soundtrack playing – the voice of a woman imitating a cuckoo which was rather spooky and disconcerting.

Immediately outside this room there was an installation comprising seven cacti fabricated from strips of tin foil, accompanied by a series of nine photographic prints of nuns and performances by children, displayed on the walls (reproduced from Kodak colour slides found by the artist in a second hand shop) with Country and Western songs describing broken hearts and murder playing in the background.

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Where do Broken Hearts Go? (2000). Cacti, tin foil, glue, resin, series of 9 intaglio plates

Round the corner three more pieces. A video work and two sculptures.

The first showing two boys sitting at and on a kitchen table. Apparently representing the artist’s own children, cast in jesmonite.

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Kitchen Table (2014)

And a creepy set of abstract heads made from unfired clay

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Clay Heads (2014)

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Overall a series of thought provoking but unsettling pieces.  Reflecting the title, it certainly was an emotional experience – I think the majority of visitors would have a strong reaction to most of the works on display.