Thursday 14 November 2019

What lies beneath... Temple

Temple by Mary Rose Binchy, oil on Fabriano paper, courtesy of Cross Gallery

Mary Rose Binchy's Temple
Mary Rose Binchy's Temple

Niall MacMonagle

Temple: a place of prayer and sacrifice. Put the word Bar beside it and vomiting, the stench of urine and the raucous cries of stag and hen parties could pollute your thinking.

But revisit the true concept of temple as Mary Rose Binchy does in her recent paintings and discover a beautiful stillness, a calm place, an open space inspired by her visits to temples in Greece, Turkey and Sicily.

Göbekli Tepe in Turkey, from the tenth millennium BC, is thought to be the oldest temple on earth and these ancient structures were, in Binchy's imagination, "part of a world of storytelling, filled with images of gods and the elements, of birds and beasts, of constellations and revered and contested territories".

Back from her travels, these faraway places came alive again in her Dublin studio.

And closer to home, teenagers have their uses. Binchy's daughter took Classical Studies at Leaving Cert and Binchy, fascinated, read the prescribed texts; her son played a rock album by Bastille over and over until their song Weight of Living ear wormed and took hold so that the temple and the albatross became motifs in their mother's new show.

Coleridge's albatross is a weight about one's neck; Bastille's lyrics also speak of being weighed down, but the song also soars - "let it go, let it go ..." - and Binchy "began to see the bird not as a symbol of an unwanted burden, but instead as an emblem of power, of beauty and endurance - a spirit soaring skywards, companion to the gods".

The bird in this painting is a hawk. It stands guard. The domed grey shape "could be a boulder or a cave" and the viewer is invited to enter and reflect, to create one's own story. Binchy admires Eavan Boland's idea that "a story can stay open" and allows for "the stored/possibility of another day".

And a temple is "a place where the human spirit can seek affirmation and consolation".

So, too, Mary Rose Binchy's depiction of it.

The Wandering Albatross & Other Stories, 9 to 31 October, Cross Gallery, 59 Francis St, Dublin 8.

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