Exhibition Review: Placing the Word (Dolores Lyne and Margaret Irwin, Black Gate)

CĂșirt art exhibition of images and words runs until May 25

Blasket Islands Journey (detail0 by Dolores Lyne.

Blasket Islands Journey (detail0 by Dolores Lyne.

PLACING THE Word, the art exhibition mounted as part of the Cúirt Festival programme, and featuring work by Galway artists Dolores Lyne and Margaret Irwin, continues at the Black Gate Cultural Centre, St Francis Street.

Comprising paintings and prints, the show is not only a collaboration between the two artists but between the worlds of visual and literary arts as many of the pieces are paired with writings by prominent Irish authors. Among the writers featured are Theo Dorgan, John B Keane, Bernard O’ Donoghue, Ellen Cranitch, Eileen Sheehan, Nell McCafferty, James Martyn Joyce, and Richard Murphy.

Nearly all the works, both written and visual, relate to Ireland’s western seaboard, from Kerry to Connemara and including landscapes, seascapes and still life rendered in both monochrome and colour.

lyne charlei black gate exhibition

Lyne’s painting ‘Journey to the Blaskets’ is full of lively dramatic contrasts; the bright summery blue of scudding waves against the paler almost white-blue of the backdrop sky, and those humped triangular parallel rocks foregrounded against softly undulating distant slopes. A verbal contrast is added by Ellen Cranitch’s poem ‘Blasket Sound’ which evokes a journey taken on a dark-skied day where ‘The boat of ourselves rises and falls./Troughs tower like something out of Exodus./In the pit of the wave, weighted dark, / from which we’re delivered each time to a glimpse/of the Great Blasket, its cataclysm of gulls.”

The poems and artworks in the show do not merely serve as illustrations of each other but often work as dialogues and counterpoints. Another of Lyne’s paintings shows an idyllic country meadow but, placed alongside an excerpt from John B Keane’s The Field, its peaceful sunny vista takes on the shadowy cast of a murder scene.

lyne charlie black gate exhibition

Irwin captures the archaeology of High Island [as in the above detail from one of her works at the show] with the knowledge of someone who has sailed around its challenging waters to then climb skyward to the chapel on the top of the island, a friend of Richard Murphy, the familiarity and love they both have for the coast and islands is evident in her fine copper etchings, of Inishbofin and High Island, in particular. She also has lovely prints of plants such as ‘Ragged Robin’, ‘Sea Thrift’, and ‘Mountain Ash’, while her ‘Famine Soup Pot’ subtly imbues that mute object with the sombre freight of history.

The writings themselves often have painterly vividness as when Eleanor Hooker’s wonderful poem ‘How to Splice a Rope’ notes how a swirling flock of starlings ‘form an eye through which the setting sun stares’.

Admittedly the Black Gate currently lacks ideal conditions for display of visual art–particularly in terms of lighting but doubtless this will improve ere long and the show is well worth dropping by for a leisurely look-see and a perusal. The exhibition continues until Thursday May 25. There will be a free artists’ talk about the creation of the show at 2pm on Sunday May 21 at the venue.

The Black Gate also announced the line-up for Inish: Islands Conversations 2017 festival, which runs from Thursday June 1 to Sunday 4. Among the artists winging and sailing their way Bofinwards are actors Barry McGovern and Kate O’Toole, film composer Trevor Jones (Last of the Mohicans, Excalibur ), leading contemporary music outfit Crash Ensemble, and writers Pat McCabe, Lisa McInerney, Kevin Barry, and Vincent Woods. Weekend tickets are €80, available until tomorrow [Wednesday May 10].

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