Friday 20 September 2019

What lies beneath: Boy's Shoe by Miriam Mc Connon

Boy's Shoe by Miriam Mc Connon

Oil on board Courtesy Olivier Cornet Gallery and miriammcconnonart.com

Boy's Shoe by Miriam Mc Connon
Boy's Shoe by Miriam Mc Connon

Niall MacMonagle

At 17, and one of the youngest students at NCAD, Miriam Mc Connon not only felt "compelled to draw and paint" but loved to engage with "other students from different ethnic and social backgrounds". During her student years she became involved in community work, taught art to children at Marrowbone Flats in the Liberties and socially-conscious Mc Connon still gives of herself in Cyprus where she now lives.

To Paphos in 1999 for post-grad because "I liked the idea of going some place where nobody knew me, a new culture, and I studied under Stass Paraskos, director of the art college and a very interesting artist and character". While there, she met Marios, her future husband. They lived in Dublin for three years where Mc Connon worked as an outreach tutor for the National Gallery, taught at retirement homes and at a drug rehabilitation centre, and they returned to Cyprus in 2003. Now, a mother of two children, Mc Connon feels at home in Dublin and Paphos. She speaks, reads and writes Greek fluently and she and Marios volunteer at The Learning Refuge helping refugee children improve their language skills. In 2016, Mc Connon co-ordinated the bi-communal project Common Ground for Turkish-Cypriot and Greek-Cypriot children. "Children are curious about what is happening on the other side of the island. The children didn't meet but exchanged messages in short films, messages, drawings, and using the art of cementography, each group made a piece of public art using drawings and ideas from the other side. The physical border, the Green Line, in Nicosia, became an integral part of the imagery of my work. [Trailer: https://vimeo.com/210773251; Film: https://vimeo.com/226619038 (password: common)]

This painting, Boy's Shoe, is from her new show, Domestic Resistance, at the Olivier Cornet Gallery, which is being opened today by Brian Maguire at 3pm and runs until June 9.

The shoe belonged to a four-year old boy displaced by the Cypriot conflict in 1974. "His mother had been displaced from Iran because she was a Bahai. She and her husband were displaced again by the Cypriot conflict. The boy is now 49 but she kept his shoes and many other objects from her personal journey of displacement."

That the shoe is depicted not as a pair emphasises separation, division. And, in the background, Mc Connon included lace by "a Greek-Cypriot woman who had begun it in 1974 in Cyprus and finished it when she was rehoused on the opposite side of the island. Yet the lace pattern on both sides appears exactly the same. I like the vulnerability and fragility of it, its feminine quality sits well with the female narrative of displacement, in particular, the potential for the domestic space to be fundamental in the struggle to establish a new home following displacement and conflict".

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