For some reason I headed to Sligo with an expectation of a few hours strolling around funky shops and having coffee in sunlit cafes. I had this picture painted in my head, I think because of remodelling of The Model, Sligos state of the art gallery that set the tax payer back €500,000. Mind you, according to The Model it wasn’t revenue money…
“The funds that paid for the rebuild come from a different place than revenue funding – it was paid for by particular capital funds that can only be used for building things.”
Still sounds like public money to me and they are certainly funded for running the place by public money.
A friend of mine tried to get into it after what she had thought was the opening night only to be told by someone on reception that the opening had been a “soft opening” and they were, in fact, still closed. In other words only selected important people had been allowed in at that point and she and her children should come back another time. Publicly funded eh?
Soft opening me bottom. What a load of arty-farty nonsense but at least, I thought, it would mean the town would be of a standard to keep all the self-important people happy. I never learn.
I pulled into the first public car park I came to beside The Model, near the centre of town only to find myself in the middle of a Travellers encampment populated by scattered groups of dead-eyed males looking not very happy to see a strange car in their midst.
I did a quick U-ey and screeched straight back out onto the street again and parked down near the river, which is kind of pretty and has a nice little foot bridge over it. I wish I had a footbridge, I’d never be off the thing.
I walked up to the Model, following the signs through a car park as there seemed to be no clear-cut path way to the deserted looking entrance of this big grey block. I was convinced it was closed but, the doors slid open and down the steps I went. It’s nice enough I suppose as these spaces go, all clean lines and shiny surfaces. There is a Cafe in the reception area. I headed upstairs to Yeats & Son. Admission was free though a donation was suggested which I think was fair enough.
I enjoyed the room of John B. Yeats pencil sketches as he was a masterly draughtsman and his portraits hummed with life. I was intrigued at the size of them, they were very small. When I draw a face it’s always the same size, three-quarter the size of my own face, unless I consciously alter it which takes an effort. Maybe this is to do with distance. I could only conclude that he sat a long way from his subjects. Maybe large roomed stately homes were a factor…
I am not a fan of Jack B Yeats at all, especially his later work. I like all sorts of painting as long as it has some quality about it but Yeats journey from the figurative to the impressionist always looks to me like the result of laziness, a giving up on form rather than an exploration of it. I found it hilarious when watching a documentary on Barrie Cooke(I think, one of those chaps), he described trying to like Yeats as being a huge effort but, after years he finally got there. He made it sound like such a chore and as if it was compulsory for Irish artists to likeYeats.
I’m always game for a look though and I did come away from the show with something more than what I had come in with. I liked the strength of his earlier figurative work. Of his later stuff I actually did find some of them gave me that tickle or shiver I often feel in my chest when looking at something that has touched me. Many of the ones I liked had to do with death and passing, an attraction similar to the one I have for his brother, WBs work I suppose. The Singing Clown, Funeral, Island Funeral, Walking The Far Point, A North Western Town and The Shower were a few I liked. Still not reconciled to the muckiness of it though.
Looking at shows can be really draining and often not possible to do properly in the space of a day. When I walk into an exhibition, I do a quick sweep before going back to work that has tugged at me.
There have been times when I have come to like paintings only having being around them for long periods. One case in point was the collection at The Bank of Scotlands Headquarters in Edinburgh where I was a cleaner for 8 months. The tiny landscapes that adorned the walls only gradually crept into my consciousness and by the time I had left I was convinced of the potential for power a small work has. It was an experience that changed the way I painted.
But, alas we cannot spend such time around work and we must make judgments as we can. So I judged that the contemporary show at The Model, Up The Walls, was a load of old shite. Some of the big paintings I suppose were OK but I could not see the point in them and, like a lot of big stuff(including “big” people) they seemed to be working over time to overpower. Of the rest all I could see was the modern disdain for attention to detail or quality.
I left the Model by the old front entrance which has a grand facade in a state of disrepair and decay. I even think there was grass growing on the steps that led down to the street. The Irish contempt for the past, the eagerness to seem modern, has struck again and the grand facade is the back door while the new entrance looks like a supermarket loading bay.
Onto the Yeats Memorial Building. I eventually got in through the heavy door after a bit of a struggle with only a slight injury to one hand(there are disadvantages to old buildings I suppose.)It was a quaint exhibit. Pictures and handwritten titles were stuck onto parallel partition boards that bisected the room.
There was video playing on an old boxy set but I preferred to look at the pictures. Before I could do that a tired, scholarly looking man appeared. He reminded me of a republican Irish language teacher I had at summer school when I was a child, with his wire framed glasses, tired eyes and grey hair that touched his collar. I paid him the €2 entrance fee. He went away, coming back with a handwritten receipt and bade me, whisperingly, for a second time, to watch the video.
I didn’t want to see it as my hearing is bad, the set was small and I WANTED TO LOOK AT THE PICTURES GODDAMNIT!!!But I went in that direction until he disappeared and then went back to the pictures, at which point he reappeared again to send me back to the video. So I walked out and I cannot tell you what the show was like at all. I guess it made me more grateful for places like the Model where I was free to roam. I did get a picture of the toilet though, which I liked. I often take pictures of toilets.
I had some cottage pie in a nice enough cafe, intending to shop but when I came out of the street the sight of all the tired, bloated, track-suited Irish staggering around dispirited me and I headed for the car to cross Sligos drumlin plains to the hilltop megalithic tombs of CarrowKeel.