Life

Saturday 21 July 2018

My cultural life: author Jane Urquhart

Author of eight novels: Jane Urquhart
Author of eight novels: Jane Urquhart
Francis Bacon art studio
Jane Eyre
Alias Grace

Jane Urquhart was born in the far north of Ontario, Canada. She is the author of eight internationally acclaimed novels, among them The Underpainter, winner of the Governor General's Award and a finalist for The Orange Prize in the UK, and The Stone Carvers, which was a finalist the Booker Prize. She is currently the 2017-2018 Craig Dobbin Chair of Canadian Studies at UCD. In conjunction with Dr Paul Halferty and the greater UCD community, she has curated an event called Imagining Home, which features authors Margaret Atwood, John Banville, Emma Donoghue, Anne Enright, Victoria Glendinning and Frank McGuinness, and celebrates literary connections between Canada and Ireland, and which takes place March 1-2 at UCD. She will also appear at the Ennis Book Festival on March 3 with Carlo Gebler in a session entitled 10 Books You Should Read. She lives in Northumberland County, Ontario, with her husband, artist Tony Urquhart, and in the past three decades she has spent a portion of each year in Ireland.

Art: Francis Bacon's Studio

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Francis Bacon art studio
 

My favourite work of art at present is Francis Bacon's Studio at the Hugh Lane Gallery here in Dublin (above). Not only is it a complete contrast to the beautiful Georgian building in which it is housed, and to the rest of the collection (which I also love,) it tells us a great deal about the artist and his sensibilities. In fact one can see the very brushstrokes that Bacon uses in his powerful and disturbing art in the way he casually cleaned his brushes on the wall. The fact that even the refuse in his studio was carefully numbered and assembled and brought to Dublin seems to me to be magical.

Book: Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (below) was the first adult novel I read as a child. It was an ideal introduction to grown up literature in that the opening chapters dealt with a little girl who was fully misunderstood by the those in power - the adults - who cared little for her but nevertheless controlled her fate. Every child, regardless of the warmth and stability of their home life, can imagine themselves in this predicament. It was also a highly visual reading experience for me as a child as I conjured the tough, haunted and haunting landscape of Yorkshire in my imagination.

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Jane Eyre

Design: Newfoundland Airport

I return to Newfoundland for a very special piece of design. The passenger lounge in the airport in Gander, Newfoundland, is a perfectly preserved compendium of 1960s modernist design, from its orange banquettes to its terrazzo tile floor. A stunning mural by Canadian artist Ken Lochhead graces one of its walls.

Music: Newman Sound Men's Choir

I heard Newman Sound Men's Choir from St John's in Newfoundland shortly after my first grandchild was born there and their songs have stayed with me in a meaningful way ever since. In particular, I am very moved by their rendition of Frozen in Frobisher Bay.

TV: Alias Grace

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Alias Grace
 

The TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace (above) is hugely compelling for both feminist and historical reasons, not the least of which is the examination of the anger brought about by the feeling of powerlessness experienced by women in the fledgling colony called Canada.

ucd.ie; ennisbookclubfestival.com

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