It covered modernity in Ireland from the 1900s to the 1970s through the visual arts mainly, but with photographers, film-makers, composers, architects, designers – and writers – all featured in a major interdisciplinary collection.
I was interested in the smattering of exhibits connected to Irish writers and showing the crossover of the literary and the visual arts. These were some of my highlights:
Samuel Beckett’s ‘Film’, written in 1962 and filmed in New York in 1963. It can be viewed here on YouTube.
John Millington Synge’s Photos from Aran, Connemara, Wicklow and Kerry. Synge bought his first camera from a fellow visitor to Aran in 1898 and it became a constant on his travels along with his bicycle.
Jack Yeats’ Book Illustrations. He and Synge spent a month together in 1905 on a tour of the Congested Districts in the west, Synge writing his series of articles for the Manchester Guardian and Yeats providing the illustrations.
Robert Flaherty’s film documentary Man of Aran (1934) The work was inspired by Synge and the wheel has come full circle with Martin McDonagh’s drama The Cripple of Inishmaan – currently on tour with Druid Theatre – set against the backdrop of Flaherty’s film.
Paul and Grace Henry Paintings of the West. The couple stayed in Achill for close to a decade and most of Paul’s autobiography An Irish Portrait (1951) centred on the island.
Elinor Wiltshire’s Photo of Patrick Kavanagh picking potatoes in Inishkeen in 1963.
Pity the exhibition is over. Another visit, I feel, would have revealed many more gems. And I loved this TV commercial for the exhibition:-
There are a host of literary things to do in Erris – the area in the north-west corner of County Mayo, Ireland, bordering the Atlantic Ocean. A thrilling place for the literary inclined. Here are a half-dozen suggestions of things to do and texts to read:
- Read Seamus Heaney’s poem ‘Belderg’ at the Ceide Fields – the most extensive Stone Age monument in the world dating from 5000 years ago: ‘A landscape fossilized, / Its stone-wall patternings / Repeated before your eyes / In the stone walls of Mayo / Before I turn to go.’
- Follow in the footsteps of JM Synge and Jack Yeats who visited Erris in 1905 on their Congested Districts Tour. Read Synge’s account: ‘Belmullet itself is curiously placed on an isthmus – recently pierced by a canal – that divides Broad Haven form Blacksod Bay. Beyond the isthmus there is a long peninsula some fourteen miles in length, running north and south, and separating these two bays from the Atlantic.’
- Walk the six-mile Children of Lir Loop at Carrowteigue in the North Mayo Gaeltacht near Benwee Head after you have read the legend of the childrens’ wanderings until they found rest on Inishglora out in the Atlantic west of the Mullet Peninsula. View the one hundred metre long earth and stone mound sculpture that is part of the North Mayo Sculpture Trail.
- Take a boat from Blacksod to the deserted Inishkea Islands off the Mullet Peninsula armed with Brian Doran’s, Mayo Lost Island: The Inishkeas. View the remnants of the whaling station. Visit Ionad Deirbhle Heritage Centre at Aughleam to see wonderful film footage of men at the whaling station a century ago.
- Drive across the strand to the island of Claggan and read the words of poet Derek Mahon (‘Disused Shed in Co. Wexford’) engraved on a stone at Marion O’Donnell’s sculpture at the burial site of the anonymous dead: ‘They are begging us you see in their wordless way, / To do something to speak on their behalf, / Or at least not to close the door again.’
- Visit Geesala where JM Synge once boarded and watched girls picking cockles on the strand at Doolough which gave him the inspiration for the ‘village girls’ – Sara Tansey, Susan Brady and Honor Blake in The Playboy of the Western World. Druid Theatre group visited here in 2004 while rehearsing a 21st century version of The Playboy.