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Top class exhibitions despite city’s lack of municipal art gallery



Date Published: {J}

The visual arts aspect of Galway Arts Festival’s has developed significantly in the past five years and is now a major component of the programme.

But one of the biggest problems the event faces annually is the lack of a permanent, dedicated exhibition space to house large-scale shows. That means that year after year the Festival has to acquire a large venue and convert it into a gallery. This year’s Galway Arts Festival Absolut Gallery, located in the former Atlantic Homecare store in Galway Shopping Centre, is the event’s biggest and most ambitious and challenging build to date, according to Festival Director, Paul Fahy.

The Festival’s ongoing investment in temporary gallery spaces helps to develop an audience for visual arts in Galway, he says, pointing out that last year over 25,000 people visited exhibitions during the fortnight. But it also highlights a significant cultural infrastructure deficit in Galway which still lags behind other Irish cities despite the prominence of the arts here.

“The introduction of these temporary spaces makes a big statement in Galway City and every year we make a call to Galway City Council to assist in the provision of a more permanent space for the visual arts.”

From July 11-24 the Absolut Festival Gallery will become home to a museum-scale exhibition, The Road, by one of Ireland’s leading international visual artists Hughie O’Donoghue.

The Road will premiere at Galway Arts Festival prior to a three-month showing at the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art, Prague in the Czech Republic as part of an international tour supported by Culture Ireland.

The exhibition will feature the monumental painting Tomb of the Diver, alongside the new works, and Road, a painting in 60 parts which will form the core of the exhibition. Complementing these core works are selected paintings, which elaborate on the theme of the road as metaphor.

Hughie O’Donoghue is one of Ireland’s leading international artists. He has exhibited all over the world with major shows in the Imperial War Museum, London and at the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

Other visual arts projects in the same venue will feature live art and new technology. In Search of the Truth (The Truth Booth), created by Cause Collective from San Francisco is part installation and live art project which asks audiences to respond to their notion of the truth.

Meanwhile Scotland’s Billy Cowie presents his 3D dance installation Tango de Soledad, at the same venue. Viewers will view it wearing 3D glasses to give the impression that they are sharing the space with a real live dancer. Fictional Portraits sees Paul Maye investigate identity in a show which is part live project and part exhibition.

Other major exhibitions at the Festival include new work by Aideen Barry specially created for the event. Her show, Possession, is at Bank of Ireland Theatre NUIG.

We are Playing at Being Explorers, featuring the work of Stephen Brandes, Andrew Dodds and Sonia Shiel co-presented with Galway Arts Centre as part of the Absolut programme, and it’s in the Arts Centre Gallery in Dominick Street.

Other exhibitions include Charles Lamb’s Lamb in Connemara at the Galway City Museum; group shows by Galway’s Engage Studios at the new Niland Gallery; the Lorg Print Studios Gold at University Hospital Galway; a major exhibition celebrating the human form, Nude: Blatant Exhibitionism?, at the Kenny Gallery and Jay Murphy’s Hydro at the Norman Villa Gallery.

Two exhibitions in association with the Crafts Council of Ireland mark the Year of Craft 2011, Material Poetry and Modern Languages which both examine and highlight the diversity and new waves of ideas in design.

A series of Backstage at the Festival Gallery Talks will take place during the two-week event. Like the exhibitions, they are free. Hughie O’Donoghue will give a talk on July 12 at 2pm in the Absolut Festival Gallery. Brian Kennedy, curator of Material Poetry, will be in the same venue on July 16 at 2pm. Katy West will be in the City Museum on July 16 to discuss Modern Languages and there will be a talk with the artists involved in We Are Playing at Being Explorers on the same date in Galway Arts Centre at 3pm.

Full details at

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Galway have lot to ponder in poor show



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013




GALWAY’S first serious examination of the 2013 season rather disturbingly ended with a rating well below the 40% pass mark at the idyllic, if rather Siberian, seaside setting of Enniscrone on Sunday last.

The defeat cost Galway a place in the FBD League Final against Leitrim and also put a fair dent on their confidence shield for the bigger tests that lie ahead in February.

There was no fluke element in this success by an understrength Sligo side and by the time Leitrim referee, Frank Flynn, sounded the final whistle, there wasn’t a perished soul in the crowd of about 500 who could question the justice of the outcome.

It is only pre-season and last Sunday’s blast of dry polar winds did remind everyone that this is far from summer football, but make no mistake about it, the match did lay down some very worrying markers for Galway following a couple of victories over below par third level college teams.

Galway did start the game quite positively, leading by four points at the end of a first quarter when they missed as much more, but when Sligo stepped up the tempo of the game in the 10 minutes before half-time, the maroon resistance crumbled with frightening rapidity.

Some of the statistics of the match make for grim perusal. Over the course of the hour, Galway only scored two points from play and they went through a 52 minute period of the match, without raising a white flag – admittedly a late rally did bring them close to a draw but that would have been very rough justice on Sligo.

Sligo were backable at 9/4 coming into this match, the odds being stretched with the ‘missing list’ on Kevin Walsh’s team sheet – Adrian Marren, Stephen Coen, Tony Taylor, Ross Donovan, David Kelly, David Maye, Johnny Davey and Eamon O’Hara, were all marked absent for a variety of reasons.

Walsh has his Sligo side well schooled in the high intensity, close quarters type of football, and the harder Galway tried to go through the short game channels, the more the home side bottled them up.

Galway badly needed to find some variety in their attacking strategy and maybe there is a lot to be said for the traditional Meath style of giving long, quick ball to a full forward line with a big target man on the edge of the square – given Paul Conroy’s prowess close to goal last season, maybe it is time to ‘settle’ on a few basics.

Defensively, Galway were reasonably solid with Gary Sice at centre back probably their best player – he was one of the few men in maroon to deliver decent long ball deep into the attacking zone – while Finian Hanley, Conor Costello and Gary O’Donnell also kept things tight.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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