Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Art Source 2017

David McGlynn from Bray, Co Wicklow with his sculpture titled 'Flight of the Financier'. David will be featured at Ireland’s premier art fair Art Source which will be held at the RDS from November 10-12. Over 15,000 people are expected to view exhibits from artists across all genres, and try their hand in a series of workshops, at the year’s biggest art show.

Irish art lovers have the chance to get their hands on 100 pieces of original artwork for €100 – as well as works by Banksy – at Ireland’s premier art fair Art Source, which will be held at the RDS from Friday 10- Sunday 12 November.

Over 15,000 people are expected to view exhibits from artists across all genres in the year’s biggest art show.
This year’s Art Source sold out in record time and features over 130 contemporary artists and 20 Irish and international galleries gathering together to showcase painting, sculpture, photography, illustration, prints and ceramic art.

From cutting edge contemporary art, realism and portraiture, to abstract art and landscapes, Art Source 2017 will showcase it all in one place and give visitors a fantastic opportunity to meet the artists and to buy directly from them for three exciting days in November.

And there is an opportunity for visitors to the show to own a piece of original artwork in Art Source’s unique 100 for €100 project, with pieces available on a first-come first-served basis.

“Art Source offers visitors the opportunity to purchase a one-off affordable original artwork to make their home unique and also the opportunity to meet the artists and hear about their work,” said show organiser Patrick O’Sullivan.
There is a huge emphasis on visitor involvement at Art Source, and this year the show features interactive oil and resin painting demonstrations and there are free children’s art workshops for under 12s.

Among the artists featured at Art Source is Michelle O'Donnell whose inspiration from the sea stems from her time working as a deckhand on a fishing boat. The descriptive artist and sculptor behind Glasshammer Designs has had her colourful works presented to Queen Elizabeth II and to former US President Barack Obama.

Banksy’s Flying Copper 

Gormley’s Fine Art will be showing a selection of original screen prints by the anonymous British-based artist and political activist Banksy who has built a huge following despite his identity remaining a mystery.
Among the pieces being shown by Gormley's are Banksy's iconic Flying Copper image of a policeman with a yellow smiley face, his Girl With A Balloon and his Tesco Tomato Soup Can parody on the work by Andy Warhol.
"We get Banksy's work through an external company and each piece comes with a certificate of proof that it is an original piece by the artist," said Oliver Gormley.

Galway-based Chinese visual artist Jin Yong is making a name for himself in brilliantly portraying a personality with the characteristics of their Chinese animal year of their birth.
Earlier this year, he was commissioned by the Mayor of Dublin to draw 15 Irish icons, depicting their 'animal' traits, including boxer Katie Taylor, mixed martial art champion Conor McGregor, jockey Ruby Walsh and actor Daniel Day Lewis.
A world-first cookbook is going to be a recipe for success at Art Source as two brothers undertake to raise funds to change the lives of impoverished children and displaced people abroad.
Andrew and Calvin Sweeney, the founders of Syrias Vibes, will be selling The Artist's Cookbook which features creative recipes, illustrated by the artwork of 100 Irish and international artists.
Art Source takes place at the RDS, Dublin, from November 10-12, admission is €10 adults, €8 OAPs. Children under 16 free only if accompanied by a parent or guardian. Check on more info on their website
Opening times: Friday Nov 10: 11am-9pm, Sat Nov 11: 10am-6pm, Sun Nov 12: 10am-6pm

Monday, 1 May 2017

Concrete & Shopping

During my trip to Rome last year I made a point of visiting Valentino's new flagship store in the historic Piazza di Spagna. It was not for the textiles it contained but for the tectonic quality of the space. This haute couture building which officially in July 2015 was designed by David Chipperfield Architects in conjunction with Valentino's creative directors Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli is Valentino's largest store yet at 1,470 (1,865 including basement) square metres providing a whole new boutique experience. Upon entering the shopper is greeted by extremely sculptural marble columns and altar-like display tables defining the entrance. The massive 6-metre atrium and two marble staircases reinforce the feeling that one is in a monumental space. 

I couldn't of had less interest in the clothes and the sales assistants could sense this, telling me to make sure I saw the staircases. They must have been used to people coming in with their gaze skirting beyond the clothes and mannequins. The marble staircases are so beautiful, almost as if they rose up from the earth. Every sleek surface beckons you to touch it. The grey Venetian terrazzo with Carrara chippings oozes luxury with simple black leather armchairs and timber tables complementing the cool oyster and pearl tones of the walls and floors. The palette of colours is completed with suspended oak shelving and brass fixtures for the full length mirrors and rails. This wall treatment stops at door height with uplighting to soften the lines. Internal doors have a sculptural quality with flush pull handles. This store is the perfect stage to make the clothes sing. A new attraction for this ancient city. 

All images taken by author

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Concrete proof that brutalism is beautiful ( first published in Sunday Times 5 March 2017)

In the 2015 British dystopian thriller High-Rise, Tom Hiddleston caresses a concrete pillar in his new concrete-walled apartment before taking to his concrete balcony to sunbathe naked. The film, based on a 1970s book of the same name by JG Ballard, creates a world where the rich live on the top floors of a high-rise apartment block and the working classes live on the lower levels. Before the storyline descends into chaos and violence, the beauty of brutalist architecture shines through.

The release of High-Rise coincided with speculation about the future of the 1970s Central Bank building, as Fitzwilton House and the AIB Bankcentre in Ballsbridge and Hawkins House in Dublin city centre all faced demolition. Despite the curiosity and nostalgia aroused in younger and older generations about this form of architecture - characterised by huge forms and unadorned concrete - many of these buildings remain undervalued and under threat.

English architects Alison and Peter Smithson are believed to have coined the term “brutalism” in the 1950s, influenced by “b├ęton brut” (the French for “raw concrete”) — used by Le Corbusier in the late 1940s. Unfortunately, its meaning in English has made it a target for denigration, as if it were a synonym for “provocative” or “crass”.

Brutalism challenged traditional notions of what a building should look like by showing its construction and not disguising the materials. The key features are “raw”, unfinished materials; bold geometrics and massive forms defying conventional proportions; and expression of different functions, services and structure. The key to a love of brutalism is celebrating its raw honesty in an era of faked brickwork, stone and marble with cladding.

True Brutalism

Even though brutalism’s movement was short-lived, falling between modernism and post-modernism, it is hard to define. Dr Ellen Rowley, editor of More than Concrete Blocks: Dublin City's Twentieth-century Buildings and their Stories, explains that not all brutalist buildings were created equal, and for every great building there was another that undermined the movement.

“There’s true brutalism and then there’s derogatory brutalism,” she says. “The former is about roughcast exposure of materials and often even mostly handmade buildings that set out to be expressive and often irrational. The latter is about over-scaled, prefabricated, bombastic buildings.” The most celebrated examples of brutalist architecture in Ireland are on university campuses and owned by institutions with budgets to maintain them.

In 1966, architectural critic Reyner Banham described brutalism’s aesthetic as “a violent revolutionary outburst”. The endless possibilities of its “plasticity” allowing it to take on the imprint of other materials. These include timber marks (think of Trinity College Dublin’s Berkeley Library); rope (the external finish of St Fintan’s Church in Sutton) and a ribbing effect (Connolly House, North Strand VEC).

Celebrated bunkers

In Ireland, most brutalist monoliths are civic buildings and housing projects, which were usually commissioned by local authorities. These were built from concrete that was functional, affordable and had become readily available with production in Limerick and Drogheda from 1938.

They include the dormitory block in Limerick’s Mary Immaculate College, designed in 1955 by RKD Architects, and the 1972 water tower and administration building at University College Dublin Belfield, by Andrzej Wejchert.

It is hard to imagine walking through the grounds of Trinity without the arresting site of the concrete Berkeley Library, designed in 1967 by Ahrends, Burton & Koralek (ABK Architects).

In Belfast, meanwhile, the Ulster Museum extension displays raw concrete harmonised in tone and colour with the existing Edwardian building.

Why the bad rep?

In 1982, ABK produced a prize-winning project for the National Gallery’s Hampton extension in London. It was described by Prince Charles as a “monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend”. The design was discarded and replaced by the Sainsbury Wing extension in 1991.

While in Europe brutalist buildings replaced earlier ones destroyed in the Second World War, in Ireland Georgian buildings were often wilfully knocked down to facilitate the brutalist aesthetic. The ESB headquarters replaced a Georgian terrace on Fitzwilliam Street, for example.

Sam Stephenson won Dublin Corporation’s competition in 1968 to design the new civic offices at Wood Quay, comprising four monumental granite-clad blocks linked by a glass atrium.

After construction began, the remains of a Viking city were found beneath the site, as well as a long section of the medieval city walls. There was an unsuccessful public campaign to halt the development — and the site’s destruction has tainted Irish brutalism ever since.

Brutalism’s functionality made it the perfect fit for cash-strapped European countries seeking to rebuild urban centres after the war. The aesthetic of choice for many low-cost housing projects in western Europe, it became a symbol of poverty.

Unfortunately concrete does not age well in Ireland’s damp climate. As these blocks fell into disrepair, they became bywords for antisocial behaviour and poor urban planning.

In Ireland, schemes such as the 1960s St Michael’s Estate, in Inchicore, and Ballymun towers shook people’s faith in high-rise social-housing.

Contemporary brutes

Brutalism is not synonymous with cheap or crude. Dublin’s Grafton Architects won an award for the world’s best new building in 2016 for its concrete university campus in Lima, Peru. Brutalist but not brutish, the building was described as “modern-day Machu Picchu”.

There is a homage to brutalism emerging in young Irish architectural practices such as Lid Architecture (Canal House, Galway), Broadstone Architects (Heytesbury Street extension), Gottstein Architects (extension Ormond Road ) and ODOS Architects (extension at Carysfort Road in Dalkey). Polished concrete floors or terrazzo are making a comeback. Once the preserve of schools and hospitals, concrete is finding its way into homes.

The future

Many great British brutalist buildings are listed, including Trellick Tower in west London — which is said to have inspired Ballard’s novel — Battersea Power Station and the British Library. In Ireland, brutalism lives on the brink.

Some examples face the wrecking ball — such as Fitzwilton House, AIB Bankcentre and the former Bord Failte headquarters on Dublin’s Baggot Street — as developers realise they can profit by replacing unpopular concrete buildings with shiny new ones. The future of what remains looks bleak as long as Dublin city council and other local authorities refuse to add 20th-century buildings to their records of protected structures.

Brutalism is a democratic, civic- spirited form of architecture. It radiates optimism with a celebration of man-made materials, at times defying gravity. If architecture is music then brutalism is atonality, a sound that does not conform to tedious tonal norms. Preserve it.