Recent weeks saw the opening of Odysseys at the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork. Housed in the Gibson Galleries, the exhibition runs until 3 April and is just one of a number of reasons to visit the Rebel County.
I will certainly be making a pilgrimage there and I think a day may be needed to take in all that there is on show.
The well-titled Odysseys marks the centenary of James Joyce’s masterpiece Ulysses, which was published in Paris on 2 February 1922. The exhibition offers an exploration of journeys through art, panning from Ancient Greece to Samoa a century ago, with a special focus on Joyce’s oft-overlooked relationship with Cork.
Ulysses holds many parallels with Homer’s Odyssey, turning the hero of the latter’s epic voyage home into Leopold Bloom’s day-long journey across Dublin. Joyce himself made many journeys and left Ireland to live in Trieste, Pola, Rome, Zürich, London and Paris.
Connecting with an earlier work, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man which was published in 1916, this exhibition traces Joyce’s semi-autobiographical experiences in his father’s native city of Cork, through the fictional character of Stephen Dedalus.
A chapter from the new documentary, the Marcella O’Connor-directed James Joyce: Framed in Cork which follows one of the exhibition’s curators Flicka Small as she tracks down the Irish author’s family connections in the city, accompanies works from the collection by artists Louis le Brocquy, Derek Hill, Seán Keating, Mahrea Cramer Lehman, Harry Aaron Kernoff, Norah McGuinness, Roderic O’Conor and Mary Swanzy among others.
The exhibition is jointly curated by Dr Michael Waldron.
If you manage to get to the Crawford ahead of Valentine’s Day, you should also take time to see Dr Waldon’s annual exhibition of Harry Clarke’s watercolours and ink drawings.
Last year this was an online exhibition, titled Harry Clarke Marginalia. This year we have Phantoms & Phantasies, which presents all 23 of Clarke’s watercolours and ink drawings from the collection.
These range from the artist’s studies for The Eve of St Agnes window to illustrations for Star-Talk by Robert Graves and Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination.
These extremely delicate works on paper are brought out for public view only once a year.
Following the death of his father in 1921, Clarke, who was in his early 30s, took over the management of Joshua Clarke & Sons, the family’s stained-glass studios, and this placed immense pressure on the already busy artist.
The works displayed in this exhibition date from a prolific period in his career and were purchased directly from Clarke in 1924 through the gallery’s Gibson Bequest Fund.
Sadly, Clarke died in 1931, and one is left to ponder what he could have achieved. You will feel many emotions after viewing this concise but wide-ranging collection which is terrifying, sinister and at times romantic.