Thursday, August 27, 2015

Language Unbecoming A Lady to go to New York

Language Unbecoming A Lady is a play written and performed by Limerick actor and playwright Myles Breen, who is something of a gay icon in all senses of the expression, and directed by Liam O'Brien. There's just one character, a drag queen, and the entire play takes place in her dressing room, as she tells her story of growing up gay, finding herself within himself (or vice versa), her life and loves, and how she is inspired by the great divas. This is a tough but very moving story to watch, especially when you consider that homosexuality was not decriminalised in Ireland until the early 1990s. So, within the context of the history of homosexuality in Ireland, and its place in society, this play is important.

Myles has been active in drama for many years, and you'll see him in films set in Limerick, including Angela's Ashes, possibly not the best vehicle to sum up the sense of enthusiasm and vitality that typifies 21st-century Limerick city, but it's the most famous one I can think of. Myles works with Bottom Dog Theatre Company, and also holds drama workshops in the city and county, and was recently awarded Limerick Person of the Year for his services to Drama and Theatre - recognition that many agree was long overdue. He's been in several Christmas pantomines as an ugly sister, a villain, and a long-suffering mother to the hero. He's also in the brilliant Choke Comedy performances with several other outstanding performers, which involve a lot of improvisation and audience participation and are the BEST antidote to workweek stress ever, you laugh so much you're high on endorphins for two days afterwards; and of course anyone who has been to Limerick Gay Pride festivities will have enjoyed Myles leading the now (in)famous Tea Dance, which is just great fun to participate in too.

Myles and the Bottom Dog Theatre Company have been invited to bring Language Unbecoming A Lady to New York, as part of the very prestigious Origin's Ist Irish Theatre Festival over there, but owing to cuts in the arts in Ireland in recent years, funds are low, hence the need to crowd-fund. In Limerick city, there is a gala fund-raising event taking place tonight in Dolans of Limerick, the details of which are available here, and the online crowd-funding campaign can be accessed here, through Indigogo. Every little bit helps.

In its own right, the play is the story of an individual at odds with the society in which he has grown up, but he still finds his place - or her place. It's funny, it's sad, it's hopeless in places, yet overall very hopeful for a more inclusive future in a more open and tolerant society. It's human. It speaks to those who inhabit the fringes, yet is confrontational. At the risk of throwing in a cliché that's been done to death: it's a story about someone coming of age. And perhaps more significantly, in the light of developments in Ireland in 2015, it reflects the story of a country coming of age, shaking off the yoke of social oppression disguised as spiritual dogma, and moving forward.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

July 2015, exhibitions and looking up plurals

It never rains but it pours. In a fit of madness I submitted 3 little paintings for a group show in the eastern half of Ireland, then suddenly I'm offered a solo exhibition in the midlands, Gallery Revival in Moneygall, to be exact. The crowd who sold my painting in March. And because the gallerist Joseph-Philippe Bevillard is a real jack-of-all-trades, I'm bringing some with frames that need a little remedial TLC, I know he'll do a good job of touching them up and making them look pretty again. In addition to analogue photography, Joseph restores antique furniture. If the three little paintings for the group show aren't accepted, I'll add them to the solo project in Moneygall.

As I write, I'm taking a break from the day job, today it's translating interviews with prostitutes who live and work in the city of Amsterdam, or, as my friend and translation agency project manager Caby calls them, the 'sex texts'. I have had to look up the plural of the word 'dildo', and for anyone who's interested, there are two options: 'dildos' and 'dildoes'. I'm going with 'dildoes', because it kind of makes sense, it's consistent with the spelling rule that applies to other nouns that end with an 'o', like 'potatoes' and 'tomatoes'. I think I'll cook rice for dinner tonight.

I've also been looking at old photos again, and have come across a couple of nice ones of me as a child on my mother's old horse. Kind of scary looking at them now, as the horse was in her paddock and I had climbed onto her back from the fence - the joys of being a farm kid - and she had no bridle or rope or anything on her for me to control her. Thankfully she was very gentle. Of course, I am fully aware of the nostalgia possibilities of this, so the old cynic in me is saying 'make a painting or three of this'. So I probably will. Most of us make a concerted effort to think back fondly on our childhoods, I am largely successful in this, and I suppose the nostalgia element in a thing is a way of exploring that option.

UPDATE: Oh, and another thing I learned as part of working on the 'sex texts' as we now call them, is the difference between a 'budplug' and a 'buttplug'. It's quite eye-opening, this series of texts. I realise that I have lived a pretty sheltered life .... and it's astonishing what you can find on the Google.

Jean in Moneygall has told me that there is considerable interest in my paintings, but nobody is brave enough to buy any yet. I use the word 'brave' in a very loaded manner for two reasons: I am largely unknown among collectors, and a very private person who prefers to keep out of the limelight; and I think it's understandable that prospective buyers are still watching their pennies and being careful about what they buy, given the unsettled state of the world economy. But we will still make art :-).

That aside, aspiring curators should go see how Joseph has hung the exhibition, how he lights the space, and how he dresses the empty areas around the paintings. I love it. And I will exhibit there again.

The next exhibition planned for Gallery Revival in Moneygall is Nudes & Still Lifes, and details on how to submit are on their Facebook page.

And a couple of pieces in my exhibition that's on for the remainder of August 2015:

Sailing to Ischia I

Dún na Gréine: French and Italian

Caloptric Chamber: Hall of Mirrors

Monday, June 8, 2015

Finally, it's here! My invite on Facebook for my exhibition in Dooradoyle next week.

Here's the text from the Facebook invite:

I like watching people, speculating about their lives - very innocently, of course. I like sketching them, possibly catching a moment of great importance in their lives. I like the snapshot element that's possible in painting, and how suggestive it is of what might happen next, and how it is open to interpretation. Some of these paintings were taken from drawings and photographs made in other countries, but the people in them could be anyone - someone you know, perhaps. The world is a village, people make their own stories.

Official launch of the exhibition is 18 June between 6.00 and 8.00 pm, but the paintings will be available for viewing from 17 June until 27 June during Library opening hours. The launch speaker is photographer Dolf Patijn. The launch is sponsored by The Treasury restaurant, Limerick city.

This exhibition is supported by Limerick Arts Office.

Now to go figure out how to get this sorted on Twitter.

I've also been invited to participate in a group exhibition in Moneygall, County Offaly again, which I'm pleased about. It's a good gallery, and the curator/owner is VERY particular about lights and framing and presentation in general. Now to figure out WHEN I can take the car and get the four little paintings to the gallery, which is an hour away from my house.

As for the book that I had hoped to have ready for the Dooradoyle exhibition: not yet. I have had so many ideas for it, I need to work through them, and pick some that will work together. It's taking on a life of its own, which is rather exciting.

In the meantime, some paintings.

Monday, April 13, 2015

John McNamara

I believe it was the late Maya Angelou who said "people will never forget how you made them feel."

I only knew John for a few years, but in that time he became a great friend. I came to appreciate his intelligence, his calm, his love of beauty and fashion, his ability to listen, his wisdom, and his great, great kindness. I also learned to appreciate his particular sense of humour - very dry most of the time, but occasionally very smutty, which initially was not something you'd expect from someone so genteel and cultured. In fact, the first time he revealed that particular aspect of his personality I was driving on the motorway around Limerick and momentarily lost control of the steering wheel, but however.

I'd walk around the city centre with John many times, and we'd go to lunch on Saturdays, and everyone seemed to know him. He seemed to know a lot about many people - but he was discreet. So it came as a huge surprise to me just this weekend, immediately after he left us, to learn that he was even more private than I had assumed. He was friendly to people in general, it was part of him, but he liked his own house, his own space, and his few close friends for whom he loved to cook. Not many others were allowed in.

I know that he loved his work as a bespoke designer. I like to think that it was part of his kindness - he had the ability to make women look and feel beautiful on their special days, and he loved being able to do that. After he wound down his business, he and I and a friend of ours went exploring through Brown Thomas here in Limerick, and we came across a designer I'd never heard of - "very few women can pull this designer's work off, but I think it would really suit you," he told me, and then talked into trying on a very odd garment that closed with a giant pin. I am a hard person to get to try on clothes anyway, but he was very firm ... and he was right. I DID look good in it. "There now," he said "You should buy that. It's 370 Euro now, but it will probably be only about 200 in the sale." This was in 2012, I didn't have the funds for it, but anyway. In the summer of 2014 my niece Emma from the Netherlands came to visit, we all went shopping, and he picked out a lovely jacket for her. Emma was thrilled to meet a fashion expert like John. She is shocked to learn he has passed.

I know he enjoyed his involvement in, for various reasons. It meant he kept in touch with what was happening in the city and the various people involved in those events, and he so enjoyed Richard's company as well, and I think was very helpful to ILoveLimerick in so many ways. John's calm and measured approach to things also helped Richard personally, and in turn Richard brought out John's fun, naughty side, and we could appreciate John's dry and smutty sense of humour I mentioned earlier.

Dolf and I loved to meet up with John and we'd go out for lunch of a Saturday, or I'd call John and we'd go grocery shopping, have coffee, and catch up. He didn't have that many very close friends, I realise now, but those he loved, he loved deeply. I know that he loved and missed his mother Nora very much, and that he was very attached to his brothers and sisters-in-law and their children and grandchildren.

But back to the how John made people feel. He was curious about people, remembered things about them, and liked to tell you if you were looking well. You came away from a brief exchange feeling a little happier, a little more attractive, a little special. That was John's gift. He was kind enough to share his infinite inner beauty with everyone he knew. He was in my life for just a few years, but I know I will miss him for a very long time.

Me and John McNamara, photo courtesy of, photographer Dolf Patijn