With the UCD School of Architecture celebrating its centenary year, David Moloney goes in search of visual artists at UCD
On the 20th of September 2011, the UCD School of Architecture marked the start of its centenary year by launching a brand new art installation in Richview. The installation is composed of over two thousand coloured linoleum tiles, each with a past Architecture student’s name engraved on it, that are suspended from the ceiling in the Red Room. The ceiling was the brainchild of a small group of UCD Architecture students who spent the summer using resources from the School of Architecture, working on plans for a permanent installation to commemorate this special year.
The work itself was inspired by the red linoleum floor that was already in the room, and each tile is made from a variety of coloured linoleum. The past students’ names are engraved into the tile and they are ordered chronologically, starting in the bottom left corner. One interesting aspect of the design is that the colour of the tile is determined by the length of the names, so all the blue tiles have names of similar length. Combined with the chronological aspect, this makes for a controlled chaos that is very visually impressive.
This installation serves as a reminder that although UCD does not offer any courses in art, there is still a determined contingent of students who create visual art in their spare time. One of these students is Stephen Horgan, a third year English and Film Studies student who writes, directs and produces short films in his spare time. He makes a large variety of films, ranging from short sketches to ten to fifteen minute pieces, and he is currently in the process of directing his first feature film. Filmmaking is a compulsion for Stephen. He explains that he has always known that he wanted to make films, believing that “cinema is an art form because it is an amalgamation of all of all other arts; it’s the ultimate art form.”
However, it was not until he attended UCD that he managed to practice his art. “I always knew I was going to make films for a long, long time but I didn’t have the resources until now,” explain Stephen. He has found UCD FilmSoc to be very helpful in providing the necessary resources, enabling him to draw upon a large pool of actors, a massive problem in the past, and also lending him the required equipment for film making. Balancing his passion with his coursework does prove difficult at times because filming is incredibly time consuming and challenging, but Stephen is adamant that it is worth it.
The feature film he is currently working on is called Snatch and Bail, the tagline of which reads ‘A world where the only thing that outmatches a passion for crime is a crime of passion’. The script revolves around the story of two professional thieves who reunite after retiring to save a life. Those involved in the production are primarily students, but the film also features two professional actors, David Duffy of Fair City and Ray Reilly, star of upcoming television series The Lives of Larry. Stephen acknowledges that both Duffy and Reilly have been immensely helpful with the overall production of the film. It is still a long way from being a finished project but this hasn’t stopped Stephen from looking to the future. He plans on attempting to bring it to major film festivals; Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, Slamdance Film Festival, and even the Sundance Film Festival are all in his sights.
Michael Hayes is a fifth year architecture student whose main artistic interest is photography. He mostly takes photo of buildings and architecture and remarks that he hasn’t had any trouble regarding finding resources to help him pursue his art. His interest in photography developed thanks to the numerous modules involving learning photography and using Photoshop in his course. His choice of art form was also influenced by compulsory class trips. Architecture students are often required to use a camera rather than sketching buildings when on site visits as some of what they are observering is intricately detailed, so taking photos saves them a great deal of time.
Michael enjoys photography because it is direct and “gives you an object that you can study afterwards, which gives you a level of detachment from the building that you cannot achieve while you’re there. For example, you might miss details or events in the scene that the photograph can capture, and this is also true for gaps in the building itself that you may not notice at the time or realise the significance of until afterwards.” There is also a certain level of security using photography because “you know it’s accurate but with a sketch you’re editing what you see so you don’t get an objective picture of it. It’s objective with a camera because a camera is a dumb instrument that can’t think about what it is doing, it just sucks in all the details and gives you a photograph. It also means that the photograph can often surprise you because a camera can pick up things you didn’t see or didn’t intend to pick up.”
What had started out as just taking a few photographs for class has now turned into a passion that Michael is getting real recognition for. He will be exhibiting postcards of photographs he has taken as part of the Open House Dublin Festival from the 7th to the 9th of October. The festival is Ireland’s largest architecture festival and takes place all across the city of Dublin. He will be exhibiting as part of the Architectural Association of Ireland’s exhibition, entitled ‘Describing Architecture’, which is located at No. 4 Capel Street, Dublin 1. The exhibition will focus on disseminating architecture and how it is possible to portray architecture through different media forms.
Another student who is heavily involved in visual arts is the street artist Anon, who wants to remain anonymous due to the grey legal area that murals and graffiti represent. One side to this artist’s work is painting “large, multicoloured productions and murals with elaborate letters, patterns and characters”, another is painting their name “in elaborate ways, in elaborate places”. Anon believes that “one kind of compliments the other”. When asked why they got involved in this divisive art form, Anon replied that “I do it because it’s exciting, creative, innovative, productive, destructive, addictive and it has absolutely no rules or boundaries. I get a strong sense of satisfaction and accomplishment from every piece I do, regardless of how big, small, intricate or simple it is. It’s something that not many people can relate to or understand which, in a way, motivates me further to keep doing it”.
Anon started doing graffiti and painting murals around 6 years ago and was inspired by the new graffiti that could be seen appearing every day on the Dublin trains. The artist loved “how many different things people could do with a few letters, especially in a place where they weren’t supposed to be”. When asked whether any resources are available to aspiring artists such as themselves, Anon said that they are extremely limited, and that “there are around four or five questionably ‘legal’ spots to paint in, most of which are either far out of the way, or in undesirable parts of the city”. This lack of resources is attributed by Anon to the rising levels of illegal graffiti in the country, stating that instead of the government wasting time trying to prevent illegal graffiti, they should be providing designated areas for street artists to practice and hone their talents.
Prospects may seem bleak at the moment for many up-and-coming visual artists trying to access proper resources and support for their chosen art form. Nevertheless, it appears that some changes are underway in the UCD School of Architecture that will improve the current situation. The UCD School of Architecture currently has a working relationship with the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) and students from both schools share some theoretical lessons on creativity in design.
The head of the UCD School of Architecture, Professor Hugh Campbell, explained that they aim to make the School’s working relationship with NCAD more formal and increase the integration of both groups of students. Professor Campbell says that he hopes that, in the future, modules shared between the two schools would not just be theoretical but also practical, and that this would enhance UCD student’s chances of developing and focusing their creativity. It is also not just Architecture students that he is referring to, he hopes that some of the modules that will come from this collaboration will be available as electives to all students in UCD.
All of this represents hugely positive developments in UCD’s promotion of art, with changes that will have a huge impact on student artists in the years to come. The college currently has a fantastic extra-curricular art scene that deserves recognition and support for their work. If not, students who are already struggling to balance their course with their art could be forced to stop doing something that they love, and the University as a whole would be the worse for it.
UCD may not provide degrees in visual art, but the work of our student artists more than qualifies their ability. Those who hope to bring their work to a wider audience can draw inspiration from the success of alumni such as painter James Hanley and Dr Brian O’Doherty, who have now firmly established themselves in the art world. Creativity abounds in UCD; hopefully our numerous artists will soon be given the prominence they deserve, and be allowed to brighten up the concrete-heavy corners of our campus.