Writing on the Walls!

During our travels around Ireland I have been noticing – and recording – some very striking street art, particularly a number of eyecatching murals, such as the one above in Killorglin. If that place-name sounds familiar, it could be because I have mentioned in the past the town’s great event of the year – Puck Fair – which is taking place right now! But – you might say – that’s all about a goat, so why the honeycomb? I’m afraid I can’t answer that, but I can show you that goat, brilliantly painted on a nearby wall:

The month of August is called Lúnasa in Ireland. In past days, because it heralded the harvest – and, hopefully, a good one – it was an important time for festivals and fairs. On my bookshelf is a large volume (707 pages) all about The Festival of Lughnasa – subtitled: A Study of the Survival of the Celtic Festival of the Beginning of Harvest, written by Máire MacNeill and published in 1962. It’s one of the most comprehensive works on Irish folklore that I have yet come across. I started reading it two years ago, and haven’t finished yet! But I’m beginning to understand the significance of this season.

This one – half hidden in a passageway in Dalkey – reminds me of the works of Banksy, the elusive street artist in Britain, whose images are always political. I’m not sure if there’s a message behind the portrayal, but it was an unexpected find.

There’s a definite message in the one above, however: also in Killorglin. Some of the murals we have seen have been very arresting – impossible to ignore, in fact. These two (below) were seen in Waterford City – you’d think they are probably related to each other, but I can’t find out who made them (edit – I now know they were made by Smugone – see the comments to this post – many thanks, Dave). Waterford is THE place to see street art, during the Waterford Walls Festival between August 22nd and 25th this year. We might get along to that.

Anyone who was interested in my post of last week, illustrating Finola’s special window, might like to see this mosaic mural inspired by the Children of Lir story – it’s in County Antrim.

These murals are real works of art. Other murals are, perhaps, more decorative – with the purpose of brightening up an otherwise blank wall within a streetscape; or the means to get local information across. For me, all are collectible.

There are murals with connections to local lore and custom. The one below in Dingle has references to the curraghs of the Blasket islanders, while further down are aspects of Ireland’s  traditions and culture: mermaid and musicians.

Not forgetting poetry! Last week we saw the anniversary of the death of poet Francis Ledwidge: he died at Ypres in the Great War, on July 31st 1917 at the age of 29. There is a museum dedicated to him in the house where he was born in Slane, Co Meath, and this mural commemorates him:

Finola has written at length on present-day Ireland’s love of colour in towns and countryside. I’m all for it! Why not be vivid and exuberant, especially in a climate which has been noted for its propensity towards grey days (although I must say Irish weather seems to have take a turn for the brighter recently)? Let’s celebrate – get out the paint!

12 thoughts

  1. An astonishing burst of creativity and colours all round the country – wonderful to see. I especially love the bearded chap in Waterford. Sadly Phlegm’s work in Bantry, which was commissioned, has been whitewashed over – an act of vandalism for they were wonderfully weird and charismatic.

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  2. Hi Robert – I always love reading the posts by yourself and Finola. Both the portraits in Waterford, the young female and the bearded gentleman are by an Australian artist called Smugone who lives in Glasgow at present.

    The next street art festival in Waterford due to start in just under 2 weeks time and has a very impressive line up of artists

    That colourful goat is by Irish artist Dan Leo.

    In Bantry there was a stunning set of murals by street artist Phlegm from Sheffield hiding away in a small yard just off the junction between Main St and Market St, behind the West Cork Development Offices (if they are still there!). Although I passed through Bantry just a month or so ago I didn’t get to check up on its condition, it would be interesting to see this is still there.

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  3. Thank you Robert, I enjoyed your trip around the street art. Yes, some are superb! James Early is another really wonderful young street artist. He is making a great name for himself as an artist here and abroad. I ehibited the works of his grandfather and Grandmother in the late 1970’s and 1980’s – Leo and Maura Early. The family had a stained glass studio in Camden Street in Dublin from the 1800’s and made windows for Churhes around Ireland for many years. Breda Smyth, Kilcock Art Gallery (est. 1978)

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    • Thank you for the comment, Breda. I certainly didn’t know about James Early: I will look out for his work. Finola has pointed me to some Early family windows. Great that so many strands link up!


      • If you do find James Earley you will see the clear influence of that stained glass pedigree in his street art, it really stands out. Among a few pieces in London he has painted a shop shutter in Whitechapel here in London in collaboration with Dan Leo…who did that goat painting in your post. It all speaks to the rich wealth of Irish street artists making their mark internationally. In Bantry you may find some street art by Eoin, it was in Bantry I first came across his art. See also the amazing Conor Harrington.

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