We had a mammoth week of Culture Club undertakings with three sessions taking place in the National Gallery of Ireland, the National Library of Ireland and the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks, last week.
To cap off the week, we visited our local gallery; the National Gallery of Ireland with our merry band of participants to view some of the ‘Stars of 20th Century Art’. However, as our tour guide Mary led us around we couldn’t help but get a little side-tracked along the way…
The group found it fascinating to hear about the recent renovations to the space and the ‘unseen’ parts of the building, such as the UV filters on the glass to protect the paintings from the natural light and the operations room buried into the ground.
Once we delved into the collection it was hard to pull ourselves away. We were whisked into a world of thick impasto, luminous colour and juicy stories of artists and their subjects. Some special moments of the day included hearing a Culture Clubber comment on William John Leech’s painting ‘A Convent Garden’. It was lovely to hear her speak about Leech’s ability to ‘create sunlight from paint’, and how it was an extraordinarily unique skill to have.
Another participant mentioned how interesting it was to hear about the political symbolism in a lot of the paintings. She felt she could connect with the narrative of each painting more after hearing about their political context, and the stories associated with the works, along with the public reactions to the art at the time. Danby’s ‘The Opening of the Sixth Seal’ and Maclise’s ‘The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife’ really held the groups attention. From tales of women fainting at the sight of Danby’s work, to the painting being attacked with a knife – the paintings were suddenly viewed with fresh eyes.
Two of the group said that their favourite work had been the Jack B Yeats painting ‘Grief’. They had both seen the painting before but had never understood it. Having the elements of the painting pointed out to them made them really connect with the painting when otherwise they would have walked passed it. The group then discussed how having the tour guide help you interpret the works changes how you view art going forwards. It was wonderful to hear the feedback in our Tea & Chats session afterwards, of how those who had attended would now look at other paintings in a new light, and look for things within them that perhaps they would have missed before.
The Tea & Chats session also conjured up stories of playing in the National Gallery of Ireland and the ‘Dead Zoo’ as children. But it wasn’t the animals or paintings they were admiring…it was the vast sense of space. We heard of sliding down long polished corridors and being kicked out by the attendants but always being let in next time.
Our aim of connecting each cultural organisation to Dubliners in a way that makes them feel like these spaces ‘belong to everyone’ is a relationship we have been steadily building. As emphasised by the tour guide Mary, the National Gallery of Ireland is ‘YOUR Gallery’ and open to all. This really struck a chord with some of the group who now felt more comfortable to attend the gallery in future, leading to discussions of where to head to next and for the explorations to continue! What really resonated from the day was hearing that each Culture Clubber’s eyes had been opened. One commented that it was ‘amazing’, ‘going to places you’ve known all your life and to see the change…to see things in a new light…It’s like a new Dublin!’.
Culture Club connects people to the city’s cultural venues in a fun, relaxed way. We invite individuals and community groups for a guided tour followed by complimentary tea, coffee and chats. If you would like to find out more email us at firstname.lastname@example.org