I like the old expression “there is a time and place for everything”. Sometimes, however, everything seems to happen at once.
This last month, I’ve felt like a juggler with oranges that all went splat on the ground. It was nice to see and to be conferred with regarding recent commemorations of Arthur Griffith, although circumstances unfortunately prevented me from taking part. Personal and professional timetables do not always meet. Although blogs can be confessional, there hardly seems reason to explain.
I think it was last month that I blogged about how historians do not always succeed in evoking a time and place, and that there is an irony in the fact that artists may succeed in evoking a time and a place without ever picking up the pages of a history book. Maybe that occurs most often when the artist takes a contemporary theme?
I’ve often felt that Irish folk music, or even Scottish folk music, evokes the sense of being in Ireland better than any other art form. It is rare that I’ve been exposed to anything to lead me to believe otherwise, and that includes most celebrated works of Irish fiction. A book I picked up as a teenager, however, reminded me of one artist that seemed to me to have succeeded where few or none had before.
The time and place of the works that I was exposed to all dated from the 1980s. It was nice to see recently that most of these can now be seen online: I’m talking about the work of Martin Gale. Early twentieth-century Irish writers sometimes spoke about “lost Irelands” or “hidden Irelands”; a sense of place, or time, that was fading away. Does Gale’s work reflect a living Ireland or an Ireland that was only evident in the 1980s and may already be unrecognisable to a younger generation? I doubt it. I guess what I like about his work is that his depictions of rural or semi-urban settings evoke underlying tensions that to me reflect a way of looking at life that is very familiar to me: the contrast between urban and rural mindsets is a lens through which I repeatedly view people, events, landscapes and, yes, history. Maybe that is even a characteristically Irish mindset or, at least, has been. So, for what it is worth, having little to blog about at present, this month I would simply like to highlight the works of a painter who seems to have perceived what few have perceived but many have known. If you have a minute, check out the work of Martin Gale at the link above!