Thursday 26 April 2018

What Lies Beneath: Dolphin Dreaming by Rachel Doyle

Dolphin Dreaming by Rachel Doyle, Oil on canvas, household paint, spray paint Courtesy of the artist

Dolphin Dreaming by Rachel Doyle
Dolphin Dreaming by Rachel Doyle

Niall MacMonagle

Stop press. More surveys, more never-heard-before theories. Children growing up on tree-lined streets will succeed, as will children who grow up in a home with books, works of art and a telescope. Trees equal space, beauty, oxygen! And a shelf of books, paintings, a telescope means that parents value education, creativity, exploration.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton, like so many more before him, has described the Leaving Cert as a fair exam. Yeah, sure.

An Ailesbury Road teenager does sit the same exam paper as a teenager from the Flats, that's if a St Teresa Gardens candidate makes it as far the Exam Centre, but there's nothing fair about those two pupils' different study spaces, diet, parental expectations, extra-curricular activities, grinds. It's a long list.

Dublin artist Rachel Doyle was always interested in the Flats, especially the council flats at Dolphin House, O'Devaney Gardens, St Teresa's Gardens, which she walked by every day on her way to college.

But Doyle, when she came to paint these blocks of inner city 1950s architecture, chose "non-natural, fashion magazine" colours.

For Doyle, "the real world of the flats is imagined differently through colour." And Doyle knows what she's painting about; she knows what she's talking about.

"My gran lived in Fatima Mansions from 1950 to 1975 and even though my grandmother loved and was proud of the now-demolished Mansions she'd say, 'Take your shoes off' when you visited. The Flats went downhill when squatters and drugs arrived. Those buildings should have had lots of green around them."

Doyle in her work transforms social housing architecture into living spaces. "They look derelict and I wanted to bring them back to life."

Interested in a regeneration programme, she even uses matt household paint. Beginning with squares of colour and grid-like boxes and working with photographs and masking tape, Dolphin House takes shape: solid, angled, sunlit walls and balconies and in the foreground a dancing washing line.

A woman from the Flats came to see her NCAD graduate show and told Doyle, "I've never seen the Flats more alive."

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