In the middle of February, Bee and I paid a visit to IMMA to catch the last day of The Moderns. It was portrayed as an exploration of “the development of modernity in Ireland through the visual arts”, but the resulting exhibition was a bit of a hodge-podge of whatever it seemed the curators could shoehorn into it, and it didn’t cohere as a whole.
Why, for instance, was work by French artists in France (who merely happened to influence a handful of Irish painters) displayed next to photographs evoking the changing character of Ireland and Irish society? There’s no context! If juxtaposition was the intention, they missed the trick by a mile.
These conceptual problems aside, there were some gems to discover, particularly in photography.
Fr Francis Browne is best known for his photographs of the Titanic before its sinking (lucky him, he disembarked at Cobh before its fateful Atlantic crossing) but his candid shots and street photography are more remarkable to my eyes.
Ditto for Nevill Johnson (information on whom is surprisingly hard to come by online). I didn’t think much of his paintings’ ersatz Dali-isms, but his photos of Dublin were a treat; I could delve into them all day.
Elsewhere, the paintings of Jack B Yeats stood head and shoulders above almost everything else on display in the east wing (apart from maybe Louis le Brocquy). There’s a real vibrance and kineticism to works like ‘The Small Ring’ and ‘Now or Never’, more captured moments than fussed-over grand expressions of form. Even more contemplative pieces like ‘St Stephen’s Green, Closing Time’ are more about mood than perfect execution. And all the better for it.
Apart from those highlights – and seeing Samuel Beckett’s handwriting – it was a disappointment. And to top it all off, no photography was allowed! It’s not like I would’ve been taking any money out of their hands, as there’s feck-all prints available (particularly of those beautiful Yeats paintings, which is a crying shame).
A few days later, we saw our only movie of the JDIFF 2011, Werner Herzog‘s Cave of Forgotten Dreams, his documentary on the Chauvet Cave in southern France which features the oldest known cave paintings.
It’s a film of two aspects: the paintings themselves, which show that even 30,000 years ago humans had a better grasp of proportion and representation than most Renaissance artists, and of course the 3D that Herzog employed to “capture the intentions of the painters”. My review on Flixster:
It’s Herzog, so you know it’s gonna be good. And it’s probably the best application of modern 3D I’ve yet seen; much of the film really puts you in the place and makes the frankly awesome art come alive. However, it also suffers from the same problems that plague other 3D films: it’s so muddy and dimly lit in places, and many shots don’t require the 3D effect.
Nothing much else to report till this past weekend, which I spent nursing a sore neck and shoulder. Don’t know if I got a draft on it or what, but it got so bad I had to move around like Frankenstein for most of Saturday. It still feels a bit tight now, but at least I can turn my head without fear of a shooting pain.