Seeing things

My faith in ‘Charbonnel 55985’ has suffered under a new scrutiny, this black etching ink, the crème de la crème of unctuous noirism, has served my purposes for many years but suddenly I’m no longer convinced. Cool, warm, opaque, transparent, gradations of soft and stiff. Am I dancing on the head of a pin?

Able to draw, or at least able to make things look like the things I was looking at, when I was a kid mimetic pleasure was matched equally by pleasure in the materials themselves. Pencils, without HB value, were simply either stubby or long. Markers ran dry but you could remove the interior tube of colour-impregnated sponge and use them like paint. And crayons, the smell of a new box, a window in the yellow packaging anticipating the range of colours within. Multiples of twelve, twenty-four, thirty-six! Once I had a box that made room for a crayon of pure white – an object whose mystery will never be unraveled. Paper sheets were standard but to work big you had to improvise. A roll of unused wallpaper was two feet wide, working on the reverse side you could unroll it to whatever length you needed – the limit set by the length of the dining room table.

Remembering other things I had then, toys, bikes, a transistor radio with a one-piece earplug, two objects resonate particularly. I had a torch and couldn’t wait for it to get dark. Twisting the plastic collar around the housing of the bulb focused the beam or made it wider. Hidden corners became illuminated, objects on the bedroom shelf newly mysterious in its tube of light. Lifting an edge of the living-room carpet, the space beneath the floorboards revealed no hidden safe, only a subterranean world of complex cabling and dust. A telescope was a present for Christmas or a birthday. I had no interest in the night sky – though I fantasized about a torch powerful enough to penetrate it – and trained the lens instead on the houses across the park. Pebble-dashed surfaces, the details of a wrought iron gate, examined closely, their banality seemed strange from a distance.

Contemplating the purpose of life the philosopher John Gray notes how other animals don’t need one. At the conclusion of Straw Dogs he writes, “Can we not think of the aim of life as being simply to see?”

Repeat patterns

On Tuesday evening ‘i.e. Patterns of thought’ was launched, a book of, ‘writings and reflections on the subject of (Irish) architecture and spatial practices’. The publisher used an image of mine for the cover and I enjoyed seeing my work transcribed in this way, becoming a wrapper for the words, a fragment image dislodged from the rarified world of art and making its way in the world of things.

(Texts compiled and edited by Ellen Rowley, published by Architecture Republic)

A little over a week ago I participated in a panel discussion following the opening of Colin Martin’s exhibition, ‘The Garden’. Fragments from the four texts commissioned by Kate Strain were projected on the wall behind our heads. The projected words allowed the audience a sense of the textual framework and helped give structure to the discussion. It seemed to go well, though I wondered afterwards had we spent too much time waffling about gardens and not enough about the particulars of Colin’s work? Sometimes the ostensible subject is easier to address than the underlying one. I’ve added my text to the ‘Writing’ section. Information about the exhibition can be found at

Liz Caffrey, Alice Lyons, and myself, curated an exhibition of graduate work from the fine art course at ITSligo. It opened at the Dock, Carrick-on-Shannon, last night. ‘As of Now’ is the first public showing for most of the student-artists, and the pleasure and fun (pressure too) of that was palpable. And no art-world cynicism, hooray!

















Poster image; Nala Kanapathipilliai

Watching percussionists is as much fun as listening to them and after the show some of us watched the Can Percussion Trio play beer kegs, blocks of wood, and laminated menus (!) – they played drums too. The music of Steve Reich featured prominently in the programme; repeating and overlapping patterns of tightly focused sounds. The Colin Currie group will perform Reich’s ‘Drumming’ tomorrow night at the National Concert Hall, the weekend beginning and ending with a bang!


A few years ago, making an important decision about the direction of my studies, I wrote to a lecturer for advice. I didn’t get an answer. Some time afterwards the lecturer rang me and apologized for his lack of response, “I’m sorry I didn’t get back to you before”, he said, “… it’s just that, well, … things happened”. I didn’t know what those ‘things’ were, but I found out later, and I understood that things do happen. However busy, whatever plans you may have.

Haven’t done a tap in the studio for almost three weeks.