Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Hunger in Havana?

Simon Carswell may be a former journalist of the year but he's got his facts very wrong on Cuba. In an otherwise competent piece on US/Cuba relations in the Irish Times last Saturday (26 September) he tells us that "children with bellies swollen from hunger play in the streets" of Havana. In two lengthy recent visits to Cuba where I travelled all around the island, steering clear of the tourist traps, I never came upon a malnourished child. On the contrary, I was repeatedly surprised at how, even in the smallest villages, you'd encounter well-nourished children turned out smartly in their school uniforms. But don't take my word for it. A World Food Programme Report in 2015 stated that: "With its comprehensive social protection programmes, Cuba has largely eradicated hunger". It's true that their diet may not be very exciting, consisting mainly of beans and rice, but nobody goes hungry. Perhaps Washington-based Mr. Carswell has been spending too much time with Republican politicians from Florida.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Oliver Comerford - The Longest Road

An edited version of this review appeared in the Sunday Times Culture magazine on 13 September 2015

The title of Oliver Comerford's new show, The Longest Road, invites speculation. It could merely refer to his extensive travels during which he takes the photographs that underpin his paintings. Or it could perhaps refer to another kind of journey. A journey beginning and ending in darkness with occasional flashes of light in between. Such is the suggestiveness of these atmospheric works. Comerford selects a group of images from the thousands harvested on his road trips and uses them as the foundation for a coherent set of paintings. These are not photorealist exercises. They are more about recreating the mood of a passing instant than of capturing the minute physical details of place. They reflect the artist's experiences as seen through a car window, darkly. There's a sense of alienation and isolation in these works. It's mostly dusk, a distant glow in the sky is being overtaken by darkness. Oncoming cars approach blindingly. A smudged moon illuminates the indifferent landscape. An ominous mountain looms, a road curves into the unknown, a troubled river threatens. These are glimpses of an evanescent world. We are just passing through.

Kevin Kavanagh Gallery

Tel: 01-4759514

John P. O'Sullivan


Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Charles Tyrrell - New Paintings

An edited version of this piece was published in the Sunday Times Culture magazine on 30 August 2015.

It's fitting that the West Cork Arts Centre has honoured the memory of Jim O'Driscoll, naming its ground floor gallery after a man who was an indefatigable supporter of art in the region. It's a shame it refers to him as "James" however. He was known as "Jim" throughout the art world - and the legal world. He would have loved to have been around for the current exhibition where Charles Tyrrell, who he much admired and collected, continues his manoeuvres on aluminium. Tyrrell refers to his painting as "a dance within a structure". The metal is engraved with a grid and then scored loosely - allowing the paint to circulate sinuously. When we view Tyrrell's work we keep looking for signs of the spectacular landscapes and seascapes around his home in Allihies. An easy option he righteously avoids. He works from a studio with only a skylight - like Ulysses negotiating the Sirens. Occasionally we think we've caught him with his defences down - as in A5.15 (above). That's surely an elegiac sunset over the Atlantic framed within a dark coastline. Also, a number of the smaller pieces with their strong horizontals contain intimations of landscapes. But mostly this stern, stately, abstract work exists in a realm beyond the painted veil of mere appearance.

West Cork Arts Centre