dublin // day 1 // part 2

The weather is perfect, and I decide to have my lunch on one of the benches along the Liffey River. I then continue walking along the Liffey until I reach the National Museum of Ireland for Decorative Arts & History. The institution is located in repurposed military barracks, which ties in perfectly with the fact it currently hosts a huge exhibit on the history of Ireland’s military. It’s certainly a very comprehensive exhibit, but I’ve mostly come for the ‘Decorative Arts’, so I pass through it rather quickly. On the first floor, I find a small gallery with an exhibit called ‘A Journey: Twenty seven years of the work of Irish wood turner, Emmet Kane (1970)’. The only other people in the exhibit are a man and a woman who appear to know a great deal about the works. In fact (yes, I unavoidably eavesdropped), the woman is enquiring which pieces are available for purchase. Many times, she praises the man she is with, saying things like “You’re amazing!” At the end of the exhibit, there’s a sign with a photo of Kane, and I quickly realize the artist is standing in the same room as me! It turns out he is giving the woman a private tour of his works, a tour that I have actually just experienced secondhand. I’m a little starstruck, and resist telling Mr. Kane how much I appreciate his creations. The National Museum pamphlet argues that “the work epitomizes the classic ideals of wood turning - extreme simplicity, patterns of wood, thin and taut walls and good proportions”, and though I know absolutely zero about wood-working, I can’t help but agree. Not to mention, Kane is self-taught!

The Museum of Decorative Arts & History also has great reconstructions of period rooms, as well as an entire gallery dedicated to Irish Country Furniture.

Emmet Kane

Emmet Kane

I walk over to Phoenix Park, which is pretty much a less-crowded version of Central Park. There, I see the 62 meter tall Wellington Monument. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an imposing obelisk. Even more impressive is the fact that the Irish didn’t steal it (*cough cough* the Luxor obelisk in Paris).

Around fifteen minutes south of exiting the park stands Kilmainham Gaol, a prison for men, women and children built in 1796. My tight schedule doesn’t leave me time to go inside, but it’s probably a fun stop for kids.

From there, I head to the IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art). Though two major temporary exhibits have just ended, the museum still has a number of galleries for me to visit. I really enjoy ‘IMMA Collection: Conversations’, an eclectic selection of works from the last hundred years or so. I discover fantastic pieces by Elaine Reicheck and Antony Gormly. In the opposite wing, I watch Bernadette, a 40 minute documentary by Duncan Campbell on the life of Northern Irish activist Bernadette Devlin. I fall in love with Bernadette’s character, and her drive to fight for her underprivileged and oppressed community. Plus, we’re currently studying the documentary genre in Contemporary Cinema class, so I’m really in the mood for this type of film. (On a side note: the IMMA really needs to rebrand. Just take a look at their hideous website. Does that scream modern art to you? Didn’t think so.)

American artist Elaine Reicheck is concerned with issues of national and cultural identity, which she investigates from a position informed by feminist theory and practice."

Still Falling I (1991). Antony Gormly. Cast-iron, air. “The work is made from the artist’s body diving earthwards and expanded consistently into space until its bounding condition becomes fruit-like.”

On my way back to the Trinity College area, I walk along the south side of the Liffey, which allows me to get a closer look at the Guinness factory. Kinda depressing, but I hear the museum’s not too bad if you’re a beer fan.

It’s 5pm and I have just enough time to make a quick stop at the National Gallery of Ireland. Most of the museum is closed for renovations anyway, so the only exhibit I get to see is ‘Lines of Vision: Irish Writers at the National Gallery’. I discretely try to photograph some information cards next to the paintings so as to read them later and share them with you all, but one of the guards stares at me very ominously the entire time and discourages me from doing so (hence my lack of photos of the National Gallery). Oh, and I also see ‘Masterpieces from the Collection’, which I imagine is a ‘best of’ the National Gallery’s catalogue.

I then visit the Douglas Hyde Gallery at Trinity College (it hadn’t open yet in the morning). A vast gallery downstairs displays large-scale paintings by Rose Wylie. They’re not my favorite, but if you’re lucky the exhibit will be better when you’re there. A second, smaller gallery shows a collection of Indian Matchbox labels. Random, I know. But if you’re into graphic design, bright colors or packaging at all, then you’ll really enjoy this display. For some history, here’s some background info on Indian matchbox design:

“Early Indian matchboxes carried beautifully designed labels showing images of Hindu deities and legendary scenes; over time they took on a multitude of themes, ranging from the mundane (keys, lamps, fruit, farm animals) to the exotic (lotus flowers, glamorous beauties, fighting tigers and elephants) and the comical (a pair of monkeys smoking cigarettes, a baby with a moustache, and a portrait than can be read upside down or right side up).
In the 1970s, the Indian state introduced a scheme to reduce unemployment by allowing small businesses to claim state support; numerous new producers of matches emerged, a large number of them being subsidiaries of better-known companies. As a result, countless new labels were produced, many based on existing classic designs with slight and occasionally very bizarre alterations to the text or imagery.”

Following a pleasant sunset dinner on a bench at St. Stephen's Green, I return to St.Patrick’s Cathedral for an impromptu organ recital. The performer, David Briggs, is actually a pretty big deal. He’s the artist-in-residence at St.James’ Cathedral in Toronto and Organist Emeritus (whatever that means) of Gloucester Cathedral in the UK. The programme is a wonderful assortment of four famous pieces: Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Mahler’s Adagietto and Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. I’ve been to organ concerts before, but this one is a whole different experience. Briggs truly manages to make the instrument sound as if it is an entire orchestra! The organ simultaneously takes on the role of the trumpets, the flutes and even the percussions - this is particularly impressive in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. If you ever head to Dublin and are looking for something to do, definitely take a look at St.Patrick’s calendar of events - it seems like they host many events similar to this one throughout the year!

I check into Isaacs Hostel, meet the two lovely Aussies with whom I share my 8-bed dorm, and quickly fall asleep. Long day ahead tomorrow!

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