The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Everywhere The Past



Anthony McIntyre • The Vacuum

Being showered daily with pictures drawn by my five-year-old daughter is just about the sum total of my interest in art. Nor did a visit to the former Ormeau Baths rekindle any long repressed or subconscious desire to cast an untutored eye over the oil, water and charcoal images that others derive pleasure from. The old pool area may well have been the site for the Royal Ulster Academy to showcase its 125th annual exhibition but I preferred it when water rather than watercolours constituted the magnetism that pulled us inside its walls.

As a child I had often made my way to 'the swimmers' in Ormeau Avenue which housed two pools. Then, leisure centres were something that had yet to be inflicted on a pseudo religious Belfast public bored into attending churches and chapels on Sundays. In the Ormeau Baths at the age of nine I mastered the art of staying afloat unaided. It remains the only art I ever mastered in the same premises. 33 years after I first entered it I was tempted to revisit the venue. The works of Gilbert & George were on display there. Both men had provoked much interest, often controversial. The aesthetically challenged, myself amongst them, perhaps preferring the controversy to the art, nevertheless resented the idea of being told that the drawing of boundaries was somehow more important than drawing images.

In the current exhibition being hosted by the Ulster Baths Gallery, there were hundreds of works on display. As anticipated, my mundane eye lived up to expectation. Dexterity with my feet was all I needed. One display faded into the next as I increased my pace so that I could cover them all and be safely delivered at the other end unbored and unbroken.

The one work that stopped me for more than five seconds was something by Stephen Cumberland. That it can only be referred to as 'something' is because the artist gave it no title. Rather like Led Zeppelin's fourth album - let the recipients call it what they will. I thought an appropriate title would have been No Hope. On my way out I refrained from perching my glasses on the tip of my nose or practicing a Cultra accent as I enquired of the attendant about the painting. Thinking that I alone might be curious because of my previous imprisonment I was quickly disabused by her response: 'almost everybody asks about that.' The despair of Cumberland's solitary creature sitting on a box took me back to a time of intense psychological loneliness, where Sartre's phrase 'hell is other people' came into its own. The desolate isolation pulsating through Cumberland's contribution was compounded by another display, this time by Catherine McWilliams, Shower Study. Here the solitary character stands alone in the corner of a shower. It conveyed an image of a guy boxed in with nowhere to run to, the type of situation Blanketmen faced during H-Block forced washes.

Doubtless, the artists behind the works were not inspired by republican prisoners and no-wash protests. Meaning because it is positional and rarely fixed allows art despite the intention of, or claims of ownership on the part of the artist, an infinite range of meanings to interact with it. For me the synthesis of helplessness and loneliness emerging from the random fusion of two unrelated pieces of art became the midwife of a new meaning.

Still, a much more impressive display than anything featured in this exhibition was the work of the pavement artist Julian Beever just a few miles across town. Maybe it was the art that did it. More likely it was the image of a man trying to emerge out of something that resembled a cell in the ground. All which depressingly reminded me that being free from a cell never quite amounts to freedom from the past.






























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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
- Frank Zappa

Index: Current Articles

9 April 2007

Other Articles From This Issue:

Alternative Ulster
Gerard Gallagher

Back to the Old RUC Ways
Martin Galvin

Cross Border Co-Operation
John Kennedy

Statement from the Morley Family
The Morley Family

Time for Truth is Now
Mick Hall

Revising the Uprising?
Paul Maguire

Easter 2007 Oration
Francis Mackey

Stormont an Obstacle to Realising Ideals of 1916
Ruairí Ó Brádaigh

Destined for the Dustbin of History
Dr John Coulter

A Beginning Must Be Made
Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh

Vision for Northern Ireland
Ian Eggleston

House Trained At Last
Brian Mór

Bullies Top the List
Dr John Coulter

Niall Griffiths' antidote to the 'Vomit Novel'
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Two Looks Back in Time
Dr John Coulter

Blame It On The Shinners, Bono & That Freak Sir Bob
Brian Mór

Levi's Law
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain

Facing Up to Reality of Holocaust
David Adams

The Big Bribe
John Kennedy

Everywhere The Past
Anthony McIntyre

27 March 2007

Paisley and Adams: The Ghosts of Politics Past
Brendan O'Neill

Democractically Elected Musical Chairs
Mick Hall

John Kennedy

Bun Fights & Good Salaries
Dolours Price

No New Era Yet
Republican Sinn Fein

The Cul de Sac called 'Futility'
Anthony McIntyre

Pathetic Claims
Joe McDaid

Gerry McGeough
Martin Galvin

Gerry McGeough & Political Policing
Anthony McIntyre

Miscarriage of Justice
Helen McClafferty

Racism Bridging the Sectarian Divide
Dr John Coulter

The Prince of Darkness
Anthony McIntyre

What's All the Fuss About the Veil?
Maryam Namazie



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