I arrived in 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.
A friend of mine tried to get into it after the opening night only to be told by someone on reception that the opening had been a “soft opening” and they were still closed. In other words only selected important people were allowed in and she and her children should come back another time. Public funding~don’t you just love it?
At least it would surely mean the town would be of a standard to keep all the self-important people that obviously lived there very happy.
I pulled into the first public car park I came to beside The Model near the centre of town only to find myself smack 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-turn and screeched straight back out onto the street again Bullitt style and parked down near the river which is kind of pretty and has a nice little foot bridge over it.
I walked up to the Model through a car park as there seemed to be no clear-cut pathway to the deserted looking 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.
Yeats & Son an exhibition of Jack B and John Yeats work was on display upstairs. Admission was free though a donation was suggested.
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.
Barrie Cooke~another artist of dubious talent~ described trying to like Yeats as being a huge effort but after years he finally got there. He made it sound like a chore, as if it was compulsory for Irish artists to like Yeats.
Still I’m always game for a look and here I found things to admire. I liked the strength of his earlier figurative work. I was also surprised that some of his later work gave me that tickle 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 brothers poetry.
The Singing Clown, Funeral, Island Funeral, Walking The Far Point, A North Western Town and The Shower were a few I liked. I am still not reconciled to the muckiness of his colours.
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. Once I was a cleaner at The Bank of Scotlands Headquarters in Edinburgh where their art collection hangs. 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 to have that time is a luxury and we must make judgments as we can so I judged that the contemporary show Up The Walls at The Model was a load of shite. Some of the big paintings I suppose weren’t bad but I could not see the point in them and like a lot of big paintings 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. There was grass growing on the steps that led down to the street symptom of the Irish contempt for the past. The facade is the back door while the new entrance looks like a deserted supermarket loading bay.
I continued on to the Yeats Memorial Building which was in contrast an old building untouched by any recent renovations. I got in through the heavy door after a bit of a struggle and only slight injury. It was a quaint exhibit. Pictures and handwritten titles were stuck onto parallel partition boards that bisected the room.
I ignored the video playing on an old boxy set and went to look at the pictures. A scholarly looking man with wire framed glasses, tired eyes and grey hair that touched his collar appeared. I paid him the €2 entrance fee and he instructed me to sit and watch the video. He went away returning a minute later 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 and watching anything without subtitles is a pain but I went in the direction of the tiny TV until he disappeared and then went back to the pictures at which point he reappeared for a third time to send me back to the video.
The signs may have been quaint but petty bureaucracy is not and I decided to leave so I cannot tell you what the show was like. It made me more grateful for the modern 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 on the street the sight of the bloated, track-suited Irish staggering through the tired streets dispirited me. Sligo was not the town I had expected it to be. It was grotty and down at heel with one foot in the past and one in the future straddling a chasm into which its identity had fallen. I drove out of town and across the drumlin plains leaving confused modernity for the uncomplicated past at the hilltop megalithic tombs of CarrowKeel.