Perseverence: The Creative Strength of a Community in the Face of Recession
Public Arts Manager
Cavan County Council
On the day I went to visit the Rianta visual art exhibition at The Backyard Studio at Moynehall, the skies unleashed a torrent of hailstones. Those caught short on the streets dived for cover but were already soaked to the skin. Their bid for self-preservation seemed pointless. Given the price of a bottle of water they might as well have just stood there, turned their chins to the skies and opened their mouths to make the most of a bad situation, or break into a Gene Kelly inspired dance. As it turned out, this was almost analogous of what I was about to experience.
Upon entering the studio, the flood of colour along the walls stood in stark contrast to the heavy grey skies outside. I was immediately drawn to Imelda Bradley's painting in acrylic entitled "Perseverance"; a brightly-coloured painting in acrylic depicting two crows flying acoss a blue sky, while a third standing on the yellow ground below dangles a diamond encrusted stone on a long thread.
In Bradley's painting, the glittering prize hangs dead straight down from the bird's beak like a dead-weight on a fragile thread, creating an air of tension. Will the bird swing the pendulum or will it simply drop it and fly free into the blue sky?
The work simultansouly brought to mind Focault's Pendulum: the device conceived by the French physicist as an experiment to demonstrate the rotation of the earth, and Edgar Allen Poe's gothic horror story 'The Pit and the Pendulum', an exploration of the effects of terror and anxiety.
Since all artwork is open to interpretation, to my mind this surmised the bravery of the creative spirit in the face of recession as one that swings between optimism and terror, or flies free like a true creative spirit.
Rianta, in its entirity, reflects the preoccupations of a community. In a gallery of almost 60 individual pieces, vastly different styles, techniques, uses of colour, range of mediums, compositions and scales are remarkable. Thematically there are depicions of everything from landscapes, people, old buildings and wildlife to imaginary creatures, abstract patterns and alternate worlds.
Some of the creators are self-taught while others have undertaken formal studies. And some, such as Pauline Halton, Freda Young and Paul Galligan work quickly and spontaneously, while others such as Caroline Fay, Mary Prior, Avril Gould and Amna Kiran work in a more metohodical way. There are many in between, such as the quirky digital prints of Jackie O'Neill, one of which has embroidered whiskers on the almost cartoon character jowels of a "Bohoo Bunny".
Muriel Wray Allen's "Past Times… Old Boots" captures a moment in time where it depicts, quite simply, an old pair of boots hanging from a wrought iron bed.
"Late Great Alex Higgins" by Eamon Reilly is composed of flat colours undisturbed by detail, giving it an aggressive and eerie stillness like Higgins himself. By way of contrast, the delicate pen and ink drawings of Sandra Vernon depict a secret garden world of magpies and floaty round-hipped women.
The Backyard Studio exhibition has a much smaller representation of work than that which could be experienced at the College Street exhibition during the recent Fleadh. Yet Rianta is constantly evolving in its themes and content. Its first outing was during Fleadh Cheoil 2011 and in the current climate it's remarkable that three exhibitions later, to celebrate Culture Night 2012, the artists are unflinching in their dedication to their work.
In the face of recession and the somewhat black humour characteristic of a border county, the creators of the works that comprise this exhibition have one thing in common: an unflailing passion for what they do. The same can be said for Gonzo Theatre, The Trans-Art artists and curtators, Breandan de Gallai creator of 'The Rite of Spring', John Byrne, creator of 'Casting Light' 2010-2011 and 'Good Works', and the many other artists and creatives, too many to list here, who contributed to the last three years Fleadhanna to make it a truly unique experience in Cavan. The spirit of perseverance and optimism in the face of adversity is something of which all Cavan people can be proud. However, it's important that creativity and innovation continues to be supported and promoted since they are two assets that are essential to achieving sustained progress, both culturally and economically.
'Rianta' runs at The Backyard Studio, Moynehall until the end of October. To arrange a viewing please call Terry Crowe at 086-1591354.