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Friday 19 January 2018

It's another art attack by Cowen's guerrilla artist

There's an infamous contributor to the display that appeared overnight in centre of capital, says Emma Jane Hade

STREET LIFE: Controversial artist Mick Conlon with his contribution to the display on O'Connell Street
STREET LIFE: Controversial artist Mick Conlon with his contribution to the display on O'Connell Street
The Brian Cowen nude which was sneaked into the National Gallery. Photo: David Conachy

THE guerrilla artist who hung the infamous nude Brian Cowen portrait in the National Gallery has struck again with a display to commemorate the Lockout by bringing to life the WB Yeats poem, September 1913.

Conor Casby is a member of the artists' group responsible for the outdoor display, 'Romantic Ireland: From the Streets', that suddenly appeared on O'Connell Street, in Dublin, last week.

The group erected their display when the street was deserted at daybreak.

The collection was previously displayed in March 2012 at the site of the proposed Anglo Irish Bank headquarters but was removed shortly afterwards.

However, it has now made a comeback, and this time it is being used to commemorate the Lockout – on the street which staged much of the activities of the event 100 years ago.

Mr Casby did not want to comment on his involvement in the street display, which attracted thousands of curious onlookers last week.

But fellow artist Mick Conlon said that the display was erected on O'Connell Street because " that was where the baton charges happened during the Lockout".

Mr Conlon told the Sunday Independent: "We are putting it here as a reminder of the Lockout.

"It's 100 years later, and we are still going through the same thing."

The title of the display is from a line in the Yeats poem as is each of the images, which depict modern Ireland during the current economic crisis. Mr Conlon added: "When Yeats wrote September 1913, he was talking about the state of the country at the time.

"One hundred years later and the country is pretty much back in the same situation.

"It talks about nationalism, it talks about your identity as a person, what it means to be Irish, and what it means to be an Irish nation."

Mr Conlon said that the artists had gathered together "through word of mouth".

"Some are street artists, some are photographers, some are painters, some never touched a paintbrush or done anything before in their lives.

"But they have been invited to come along and use a line of the poem and create something visual about what the whole economic meltdown means to them."

The Mayo-born photographer said the group behind the street display are "average, everyday working people".

"We are not a mad bunch of socialists," he added. Mr Conlon's contribution is a portrait of Taoiseach Enda Kenny, accompanied by the Yeats' line 'but fumble in a greasy till'.

The montage, a play on the Adolf the Superman picture from German artist John Heartfield, shows an X-ray of a body, displaying gold coins inside and with the 12 stars from the European Union flag where the heart should be.

And he has replaced the Nazi leader's head with that of the Fine Gael leader, who was last week accused of being a dictator. Mr Conlon said this image aims to reflect the future after the bailout decision, and how it was "determined by financial concerns rather than the good of the nation". The 37-year-old said he hopes that the collection will help spark public debate about the current state of the nation and the abilities of our political leaders.

"We are trying to get people to talk about [the current crisis] – is our government good enough?

"Are we doing enough for the regular people? What's happened to Ireland? Why don't we have the backbone to stand up and fight or speak for ourselves?"

One passer-by described the display as "emotional".

Pointing to an image of Jim Larkin, the young Brazilian woman said it carried a "very strong message".

"It is very strong, it is amazing actually. It has a strong impact upon me.

"It makes me feel emotional, because I know about Irish history, and it is incredible that people are expressing their thoughts and belief."

Mr Conlon said that the paintings, which are "a gift to the nation", will remain on display "until they are taken down" by the authorities.

A spokesman for Dublin City Council said they have not yet investigated the display as they have not yet received any complaints about it.

The group are currently running a FundIt campaign to produce commemorative books of the exhibition, and donations can be made via fundit.ie/project/romantic-ireland-from-the-streets.

Sunday Independent

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