April 26 – May 30, 2024


Odyssey: The baggage of our times

A monochrome figure many times his own weight and mass, on his bent, drawn back. The image is resonant of medieval depictions of ‘Folly,’ which often showed the Fool with the world on his shoulders, or of classical depictions of the mighty Atlas, holding up the world on his bent back for his sins. But the figure in this image is neither Fool nor Greek God. The work, titled ‘Diaspora,’ is a watercolour from 2023 by Brit- ish artist Paul Harbutt (1947-), and its title, in combination with the baggage it depicts, intimates its meaning. ‘Diaspora,’ is part of a retro- spective of Harbutt’s graphic work which I had the pleasure of seeing in Antwerp over carries a netted bundle of colourful baggage, Easter, at Museum De Reede, a gem of a gallery devoted to works on paper. Harbutt’s show, titled ‘Odyssey,’ displayed on

the first floor mezzanine, acted as a contemporary counterpoint to a show of etchings by Fran- cisco Goya (1746-1828), a few steps lower on the first floor. Goya’s dark, brooding prints are amongst the most outstanding in the history of printmaking. On show in the museum were a se- lection from three different se- ries: the ‘Disasters of War,’ the ‘Follies,’ and the ‘Bullfights,’ all of which held fascinating reso- nance with Paul Harbutt’s work on the mezzanine above. Baggage, both physical and psychological has never been more potent a symbol, and the disasters of war seem more a constant now than ever before. Where Goya’s work evinces the stark terror and violence of warfare, however, Harbutt’s drawings and prints hold the burden of loss and despair in playful, yet poignant, relief. Images such as ‘Man as a Suitcase,’ ‘Rain of Stones,’ ‘The

sometimes blind, sometimes sexual, and sometimes violent protagonists in Picasso’s work. There is no mistaking Harbutt’s formal debt to Picasso, but in Harbutt’s drawings we see the image of the bull as sexual aggressor and violent beast turned on its head. Where Goya and Picasso rage, Harbutt heals. There is continuity of form, but also transformation of psyche, energy, intent. Discovering new work is, for me, one of the joys of travel. One need not go so far as Antwerp, however, to discover something fresh and energising. Blue House Gallery in Schull opened its exhibition season earlier this month with a group show of gallery artists, followed by a mix of solo and group shows through its myriad of rooms and levels. The gallery has, like Museum de Reede, a small ‘museum’ quality to it; sensitive curation, excellent hanging, and a diversity of art- ists through multiple rooms give the visitor a sense of discovery and an element of surprise. Cnoc Buí in Union Hall has also launched its 2024 pro- gramme with work by Lesley Cox, Tom Weld and Sandy Hicks currently on show. The arts centre has, in a short space of time, gained an excellent reputation and is well worth a visit as the weather warms. So if the continent is too much of an odyssey at this point in time let the sun and the road guide you to the treasures to be found in West Cork’s galleries. We don’t have many so we need to treasure them in turn. T he art of the late Susan O’Toole will be on display this summer in Ballydehob Arts Museum. Susan is best known in Ballydehob for carving two huge mermaids, 20 years apart, to repose on an island in the estuary below the Twelve Arch Bridge. This exhibition will tell the stories of the mermaids, as well as display carved heads and smaller pieces, plus paintings, drawings and photographs of the artist’s life and work. The exhibition opens on Thursday, May 2 at 5.30pm and is then open from 11am to 4pm, Friday to Monday, until May 6. Maps will give details of where to see Susan’s public works in Ballydehob, Lowertown, Goleen and Crookhaven. During the summer Susan’s exhibition in BAM will be acces- sible whenever the Bank House/ Tourist Office is open but as it is staffed by volunteers it is best to ring 028 25922 or 086 320 7553 to check before visiting.

THE SHAPE OF THINGS James Waller James Waller is an Australian born artist and poet based in West Cork. Through this column James explores the world of art, introducing the reader to major works of art and artists and reflecting on what makes them so engaging.

‘Diaspora,’ Paul Harbutt

ART CAMPS! Our art camps have been designed as enjoyable weeks of imaginative learning; students create their own drawings, prints, paintings and designs whilst learning about great artists of the past. TEEN ART CAMP: 8 – 11 JULY Screen-Print & Paint! 3-6 pm (ages 13-18) €120. Printmakers will be learning all about screenprinting and kitchen lithography, with the aim of creating their own colourful compositions. Painters will be given an introduction to oil and acrylic painting, looking at a variety of subjects. JUNIOR ART CAMP: 15 – 18 JULY Faeries and Gargoyles! 3-6 pm (ages 9-13)

Flight,’ and ‘Field of Despair,’ are given levity and hope by the inclusion of a consoling panda bear, who accompanies Har- butt’s protagonist either by his side, or hanging from his tower of baggage. Levity is of course already present in the incongru- ity of the images; one cannot help but smile at the impossible task of carrying, like an ant, a hundred netted bags on one’s back. The very playfulness of Harbutt’s drawings lightens the load, whilst at the same time inviting us to reflect.

Another important motif in Harbutt’s ‘Odyssey,’ is that of the bull. Goya’s etchings of bullfights on the level below found, for me a poignant counterpoint in Harbutt’s ‘KC consoling the Bull,’ ‘Loving the Bull,’ and ‘Animal Cruelty.’ Goya’s dark and beautiful etch- ings prefigured Pablo Picasso’s later fascination with the theme. Picasso went much further than Goya, however, and made of the bull a stand-in for his own masculine psyche. The bull, and by extension the Minotaur, were

€120. Drawing inspiration from fairy tales, book illustration, manga and medieval gargoyles, students will embark on a week of drawing, printmaking, painting and book binding. All materials provided. | 087 7184399 |

Susan O’Toole and the Ballydehob mermaids

‘T hat They May Face The Rising Sun’, adapted from John McGahern’s novel about life in rural Ireland, has been crowned Best Film at this year’s Irish Film and Television Academy (IFTA) Awards. Directed by West Cork’s Pat Collins, the film is released in Irish cinemas this week. Collins said it was “a great privilege to win Best Film at the 2024 Irish Film and Television Awards. An award for Best Film is a recognition of the whole team, the entire cast and crew behind the film. It’s also great to get this recognition so close to the release of the film, arriving in over 70 screens across Ire- land and over 80 cinemas in the UK from Thursday, April 25.”

West Cork director Pat Collins takes home Best Film award from IFTA Awards

Director Pat Collins and actor Barry Ward

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