When i go into the school at Ballythomas, for a meeting of the Board of Management, or when we’re setting up the stage for the Gap Arts Festival, or for one of the Festival’s workshops, I’m fascinated by the drawings and paintings, the model-making, and the stories and poems and projects that line the walls.
We didn’t do painting or drawing when I was in school. I remember one day in Primary, a teacher telling the class that ‘there was no art in Ireland. No art and no minerals…’
In Secondary we learned passages of prose, plays and poetry by heart. And we memorised the literary terms such as litotes, synecdoche, pathetic fallacy—words of literary analysis that could get you high marks in exams, even if you never really understood what they meant.
I used to go to the Hugh Lane Gallery, and look at the paintings. And although there were many I didn’t like, and more I didn’t understand, I thought that this was the sort of thing a teenager should do.
Then one day I was walking down the road near where I lived, and something caught my eye. A glass fanlight above a Georgian hall door. I’d seen these fanlights all over Dublin. But never like this. The teardrop shapes in the glass lay on top of each other like… Like shapes I’d seen in the Hugh Lane Gallery.
The Irish artist Michael Farrell had painted canvasses that
spilled from the walls onto the floor like giant white teardrops.
And I had stared at them, year after year, with not a clue what
they were or what they meant.
It took a couple of years, but that day walking down my road, a road I had walked down a thousand times before, I stopped in my tracks. Because I had seen something that I saw every day in a new way.
We used the word metaphor in our Leaving Cert English analysis: a figure of speech in which one thing is compared to another. But they never told us that metaphor comes from two Greek words. And that they mean to carry, or to cross over. And that to me, is what art can do. It can carry us over into new worlds, worlds with different ways of seeing.
This Inter-Generational Writing Course is central to the Gap Arts Festival’s aim of developing skills in the community and collaborating with artists in telling our own stories in our own landscape. I thank Wexford County Council’s Arts Department for all their help and support under the Creative Communities Programme.
I congratulate all the participants and mentor Sylvia Cullen. And I look forward to their stories, their different ways of
looking at the world.
Garrett Keogh, Director, The Gap Arts Festival, June 2019