Sunday, November 27, 2011

Back Street Code

This is one of the locations I was enthusing about in my last blog. If you go off the beaten track and wander in the back streets, you'll come across this sort of place. Possibly this has been a stable for the richer classes who lived in one of the Georgian tenements in Baggot Street or perhaps in Merrion Square. The photograph had a very dreary sky, so I painted it the exact blue of the sky behind me on the day - just an awkward but well meaning attempt at authenticity! I'm not sure how authentic these window are either but they appear to have been renovated in the style of the period. Georgian houses were rather small and rooms didn't boast the amount of space of the later Edwardian and Victorian buildings. I was wondering what this kind of space was signified. Certainly it's managed to hang on where similar building have long perished. There is some sense of a not too distant past and the knowledge that it constitutes a rapidly disappearing space in our cities. It's a nod to older times, but when it was initially built, would this building have been regarded as picturesque? I doubt it. It's one of the codes we use when we look at older buildings and this involves not only memory but also the received codes about interpreting the past. The latter derive from books, television and film and our expectations are very much driven and shaped by these classifications.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tunnel Through

There are quite a few small streets that go via a tunnel under the Lower Baggot Street tenements. If you want to see a bit of Dublin that has a mixture of old and new, then take one of these tunnel trips and explore a block or two. It's probably not your typical tourist area and it's none the worse for that. If I want a different kind of image, I explore these areas and this usually proves rewarding. A tunnel is a symbol of course, and one that has much to do with the underworld. Tunnels always lead from the light into darkness and then into light again. They offer some kind of obscurity and maybe that's why some people feel impelled to cover their walls with graffiti. And what tunnel worth its salt wouldn't be gloomy? If you encounter a tunnel in a dream I rather doubt that it will be brightly lit. They are usually dark and anguished, indicating anything from hardship to a frustrated desire. So we move to the most famous of tunnels, the exit into life through a tunnel from the mother's womb. Babies must struggle into existence along this constricted passageway. We all go through such a tunnel and it's the initiation rite par excellence. As well as life, tunnels bring death, souls and even the sun can be coaxed along some underground channels. I'm not claiming anything so special for my Baggot Street tunnel, but this I can say. When I stopped to take the photograph, several tourists also stopped to watch. Some of them changed course and walked through the tunnel and into a hidden neighbourhood they would otherwise have missed.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Urban Spring

This is one of these long fountain arrangements that grace public buildings these days, but it was windy and it made a good shot difficult. The fountain is near the top of Leeson Street in Dublin and you have to wander through the gates of the office to access the water. Every so often a gust would shape the water and make it dance, so I tried a few shots of which this is the nicest. I got wet into the bargain so I hope it was worth it! A fountain is always a spring in symbolic terms. It's a symbol for purity and the water that emerges is held to be basic cosmic matter, without which life would be impossible. Springs are also symbols of motherhood and in some cultures, fishing in springs is forbidden - as is the cutting of any trees that border them. I've talked about springs before so I won't labour the point about drinking from the spring of immortality. Nor did I feel like drinking from this one. Nonetheless, when they are in a built setting, fountains are central to the idea of an earthly paradise - no more so than in the Arab world, where sacred formal gardens are stunning. These usually take the form of square courtyards with a circular fountain in the middle. The cult of fountains as a place of healing is common throughout the Celtic World, but especially in Brittany at the Fontaine de Barenton. I haven't even begun to discuss springs and the Orphic fragment that fascinates psychoanalysts. I'll leave that for another occasion.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Moon on the Wall

I found this in the back streets near Dublin's Grand Canal. I was despairing of an interesting image, but the more run-down parts of the city presented me with a few opportunities. It's a funny depiction of a quarter moon with the traditional face - and I did laugh when I saw it. We always talk of moonlight but the moon has no light of its own and only reflects the light of the sun. It's operating on borrowed light! But for me, the moon is about the passage of time. It has very regular phases that let me know how much time has gone by, in a way that a calendar never can. And of course the moon "dies". It disappears for three days in a lunar month and to many cultures this represent the passage between life and death. As readers will be aware, I became very interested in rabbits and culture, so I know the Aztecs associate the rabbit with the moon. For Aztecs, the moon was a crescent-shaped water container with the silhouette of a rabbit sitting on top. I've mentioned the 400 rabbits of the Aztecs previously and in this case, the rabbit is a harvest symbol. They believed that their 400 rabbit gods were completely and permanently drunk. Now it could just be that this graffiti was painted by some drunken rabbit who was hopping out at all hours of the night. I like to imagine it was!