Monday, 10 December 2018

Secret Dublin

We’re back from a day out in Dublin. The city was thronged with Xmas shoppers. T joined them. I spent four hours in a Concern Worldwide Board meeting, which discussed the implications of Brexit for the charity’s work. Every scenario was negative and a distraction from the core mission of helping the poorest of the poor. Afterwards, to clear my head, I went walking in Iveagh Gardens, one of Dublin’s secret places. On the way home, we visited two intriguing exhibitions at the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

The Iveagh Gardens are hidden away between Camden Street, where Concern’s offices are located, and Stephen’s Green. Entirely surrounded by buildings and a wall, it is a small public park in the centre of Dublin that is always peaceful and quiet. The space was once the private garden of the Earl of Clonmel, who accessed it via an underground passage from his Georgian townhouse so as not to have to encounter the great unwashed. Later the gardens were sold to the Guinness family who kept it as their private domain until it was donated to the State as a public park. Iveagh Gardens contains lawns, mature trees, statues, a waterfall and a maze. There is a sunken lawn, which is Ireland’s only purpose built archery field, under which is reputed to be buried the body of an elephant that died in Dublin Zoo.

My walk was bracing, it cleared my head from the madness of Brexit very effectively. Unfortunately, I knew this would only be temporary as the lunacy would keep on going all around us. Cool rain fell and spattered the gravel paths which were already somewhat puddled.  It took me about ten minutes to do a circuit of the park and I saw no-one else. I decided on another lap. The only sound was a bell, which I took to be from one of the trams in the street outside, but it kept tolling until I realised it was the bell of the park keeper who was about to lock the gate.

IMMA at Kilmainham is a little out of the way, but always worth a visit. The two current exhibitions are interestingly related. Mary Swanzy was an Irish Cubist who exhibited at the Paris Salons alongside Pablo Picasso. This retrospective covers the range of her work from cubist pieces to more recent symbolist and allegorical paintings. Wolfgang Tillmans is a German photographer who won the Turner Prize in 2000. His work is intriguing, odd landscapes and portraits that are framed in unusual ways. I really enjoyed his large-scale images from Africa, the USA and South America, especially one of the Sahara. He also had one room sparsely filled with smaller images of an open-heart operation. Several were close-ups of machines with complex arrays of piping, filled with blood, that were keeping the patient alive. Having had this operation seven and a half years ago, it sent a shiver down my spine.

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