Hugh Lane Gallery

After rehearsal today, a fellow thesp and I took a stroll to O’Connell Street to check out the dungeon of a bar, as a potential performance space. I say dungeon, whereas I ought to be saying ‘downstairs bar area’. Quite a pleasant place -seats about 75, tastefully appointed. My concern was the bar upstairs and its wooden floors. Being a veteran of living upstairs from bars, I am concious of sound. The space has a definite potential though.

Afterwards we headed over to the Hugh Lane Gallery opposite the Garden of Remembrance. I tried to go yesterday buy it closes at 5pm so that wasn’t possible. I’d never been in this gallery before. Galleries and museums in Ireland are free- as well they should be seeing as they are funded by taxpayers. It’s always a bit depressing to see how empty they are though.

Then again perhaps people’s attitudes to these places could match mine – nice in theory, but you wouldn’t want to donate a full day to one.

The permanent collection on the ground floor was impressive. Irish modern art in the main,with a cheeky Renoir and an occasional Rodin thrown in for good measure.

What really interested me about the place was Francis Bacon’s studio. Bacon died in 1992 and in 1998 his London studio was gifted to the Hugh Lane Gallery. His studio was in a mews house in Kensington. And it was less than clean, a tad cluttered perhaps, and overflowing with books, magazines, painting equipment, half finished drawings. He had used it as his studio for over 30 years, and he loved its chaos.

Well it was painstakingly catalogued, disassembled and relocated to Dublin. It was a fascinating place. Over 7000 items were numbered and crossreferenced from the studio. You weren’t allowed to walk in, but you could view it from every angle.

I saw a massive Francis Bacon exhibition in Sydney some years ago – his work is vast and very dark – although it’s amusing to hear that the love of his life was the petty criminal he caught burgling his house. It was hard to grasp but those famous works were created in this poky, cluttered studio.

I was feeling all cultured when I realised that there were 2 more floors of  a similar size to visit, with about four different exhibitions. After consulting with my fellow thesp we decided that this was a opportunity for some other Sunday, Culture overload was a distinct risk today.

Although what was this? ‘High Treason: Roger Casement’- an exhibit about the British diplomat and human rights activist who exposed the abuses being inflicted by the colonial powers on the indigenous populations of Congo and Peru, before turning his cause to Irish freedom.

In 1916 he sourced a ship load of guns from Germany to assist with the 1916 Rising. He was caught in the company of said guns off the coast of Kerry. Poor Roger was soon to breathe his last, execued for high treason.

He kept parallel sets of diaries – the White Diaries – his official records which were meant to be the basis of his memoirs. The Black Diaries were never to be published. In them he kept records of all the men he had caroused with in Congo and Peru over his many storied career. All those men. Those many, many men. If I was judgemental I might call him a big, dirty stop-out. But I am not judgemental

In 2016 I suppose people might think ‘fair play to you boy’. But in 1916 these diaries served to discredit his name, leading to furious denials of their accuracy, and accusations of forgery. Roger Casement – noble Irish hero. A FRUIT?????? Never.

He was executed and buried in Pentonville prison in 1916. His body was returned to Ireland in 1965 where he had a full state funeral. In recent years consensus seems to have been reached that the Black Diaries are genuine.

Which is pretty amazing. A hero of Irish independence, acknowledged as a national hero is a recognised and admired nancy-boy. It raised my spirits no end.

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