Monday 23 April 2018

What lies beneath: The Machine Will Start Without Warning

The Machine Will Start Without Warning, by Larry Dunne - acrylic on canvas, courtesy of the artist

The Machine Will Start Without Warning, by Larry Dunne
The Machine Will Start Without Warning, by Larry Dunne

Niall MacMonagle

Growing up in Enniscorthy, Larry Dunne, an only child, spent his time doing pen-and-ink drawings and illustrations. Graveyards featured prominently. Not the happiest time, he and school didn't get on that well: he failed Leaving Cert Art - he just didn't turn up for the written paper. "I was a bad boy."

But he loved Plath and Donne and he did win a short-story competition that told of three friends who left Enniscorthy and never came back. The prize? A master class with another Enniscorthy native, Colm Toibin.

Having endured homophobic bullying, he headed for Dublin, worked in a supermarket, got a portfolio together and was accepted at NCAD. Life gets better and better is Dunne's outlook, but, asked about those darker days, he wonders if those boys who caused him grief, now all grown up and parents, are not passing on their prejudices to their children.

Dunne's work focuses on "the psychological repercussions an urban environment may have on an individual's state of mind". He explores "loneliness, isolation, paranoia, fear and dread" and investigates "the perpetuation and prevention of certain types of space - gendered space, queer space and oppressive space". He feels safe in an LGBT space but questions the ghetto factor. "Shouldn't every space be safe?" Asked to name his least favourite Dublin building he doesn't hesitate. "The Department of Health. It's the sickest building around; the shadows it casts seem to say 'get away from me'."

This painting is of Boland's Mill where, in 1916, de Valera did not command the 3rd Battalion of Irish Volunteers. That was in Boland's Bakery. The Mill, now derelict, once thrummed with activity. Dunne's ironic title captures silence and emptiness. Though the murky grey wall with its sickly green band creates a dull image, the regularly spaced windows catch the blue of the sky. Larry Dunne now plans to make more time for illustration, his early passion, and to study for a Masters in Art Therapy. No better man. If there's anyone who knows about the power of art to expand horizons and to heal, it's a happier Larry.

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