Category Archives: Illustration

The God of Small Things


There’s an exhibition on right now in the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto that I would love to see. Patti Smith, punk-poet/rock goddess started out as a visual artist, and Camera Solo features around 70 of her black-and-white gelatin silver prints created from photos taken over the years with a vintage Land Polaroid camera.

The photos are grainy and impressionistic and reminded me of nothing more than my post-adolescent photography phase, a year-long homage to Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire and the fashion photography of Deborah Turbeville. By which I mean, and not in a pejorative sense, elegiac atmosphere=good, technical skill=also good but really, not always necessary.


In using such an old camera Patti Smith accepts the accidental. In an interview with CBC News Sophie Hackett, Assistant Curator of Photography at the AGO, talks about a “Totally accidental double exposure” of Carlo Molino’s bedroom “Overlaid with the pattern of iridescent leopard wallpaper along with some butterfly specimens that he had done, so it emanates like a dream coming up from the bed”.


What emanates most clearly is her fandom. Her photos fetishise the most humble possessions of her idols so Rimbaud’s cutlery somehow becomes more fork and spoon than any fork and spoon since. Bolano’s chair resonates with…something. Mapplethorpe’s slippers are simply tragic. By focusing on the everyday, Smith’s photos give us pause. I’m not entirely sure if they give us any fresh insight into the lives of their owners, any more than a reliquary tells us anything about the life of a saint. It is the tenderness with which they are executed that is telling, and it is their meditation on the private and the quotidian that appeals to me.


My focus recently has undergone a radical shift. Having been stupidly (gratefully) busy for the last six months of 2012 I am now mostly at home seeing things I haven’t noticed in months. And in the contraction of my exterior world I feel an expansion within.


Morning light in my apartment


The Lidl €5 bouquet


Silk Bias Cut Lingerie I’ve made myself, as intellectual exercise and treat for the senses


Rhubarb that Paddy, the last tenant but one, planted outside the bedroom window


Photo 1 (of Patti Smith) from

Photos 2, 3 & 4 (by Patti Smith) from


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Filed under Dublin looking pretty, Photography, Poster Art, Spring, Unemployment

The Gate’s Ghosts

The Dublin Gate Theatre Studio was founded by Hilton Edwards and Mícheál Mac Liammoir in 1928 with a showing of Ibsen’s Peer Gynt at the Peacock Theatre and moved to its present home, part of the Georgian era Rotunda Hospital complex, opening with Goethe’s Faust in 1930.

A common thread (pun intended) in all the work I do is the disconnect between a final, polished product that the public sees, and the work that goes into creating that illusion and the places in which that work is done. ‘Behind the scenes’ can be a pretty ramshackle place.

The Gate is no exception: While the public areas are very elegant and the new extension is swoon inducingly lovely, other parts of the theatre are exhausted. But this is where the ghosts live and everyday treasures are created or unearthed.

I once found a small mirror in the back of a cupboard in a disused convent. It was rectangular, with a thin gold coloured frame and it still had a Woolworth’s price tag on the back. I can barely remember the film I was working on, but I remember wondering who had owned and hidden the mirror. Was she pretty? Did she miss that part of her life, a time when her vanity seemed natural, not a sin?

The Gate, like most theatres, has its ghosts. Apparently there’s one called The Grey Lady who is a benevolent presence, although I’d still rather not meet her.

Other ghosts take more tangible form in the corridor that leads from Wardrobe to a fire escape that overlooks one of the Rotunda Hospital car parks.

Many of these posters haven’t been archived. These are the originals and the only copies. To try to remove them would damage them, to leave them where they are is damaging them.  If you look closely you can see that they’ve been painted around or as below, have had electrical work superimposed.

There are plans to reproduce them however and hopefully that will happen sooner rather than later.

While the transience of live performance can seem terribly romantic the memory of these productions is worth preserving, however imperfectly.

Credits: Photo 1 from Scott Tallon Walker Architects

Photo 2 from

Photo 3 from Ian Grundy‘s Flickr Photostream. (Many thanks Ian)

All other photos by me.

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Filed under Dublin looking pretty, History, Illustration, Poster Art, Theatre

The Secret Garden

My favourite gift this Christmas (Thank you husband) was a re-issue of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, illustrated by Lauren Child.

Parents will recognize Child as the writer and illustrator of the Charlie and Lola books and TV series, although I first came across her as co-creator of a gorgeous version of the fairy tale The Princess and the Pea. The illustrations for this book are actually photographs of little stage sets with Child’s character drawings placed within them.

In 2010 Child designed a cover for The Secret Garden for Puffin’s 70th anniversary. It came in a perspex box, in a limited edition of 1,000, cost £100 and sold out incredibly quickly.

Luckily another Lauren Child illustrated version of the story was published this year to celebrate the book’s centenary and it is just lovely. It is a fabric covered hardback, with six full colour plates and black and white drawings scattered through the text. She has used a variety of materials in the pictures so curtains and dresses and sometimes even trees or bricks are made with fabric or old paper. There’s a real depth and humour to each picture that rewards close inspection.

This same wit and piling on of print and texture is evident in a collaboration she did with Liberty fabrics. There is a lovely account of the design process on her website here

Images 1-4 by Lauren Child, Image 5 by Lauren Child/Liberty

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Filed under Fabric, Illustration, Reading