Culture Woulfe – Pearse House: Village in the City

 
 

With the beginning of the academic year causing many countryside natives to return to life in the big city, Laura Woulfe takes the time to look at one of the unique aspects of city life in Jeannette Lowe’s ‘Pearse House: Village in the City exhibition

It may have been the ambience of Culture Night, or maybe even the brief return of summer, but I was surprised to find the Pearse House: Village in the City exhibition, by award-winning photographer Jeannette Lowe, considerably less demanding than expected.

Despite preparing myself for the gruelling task of psychoanalysing each work, I found that I quickly discarded my preconceived notions of the starkness of inner city living and simply enjoyed Lowe’s uplifting representation of Dublin flat life.

While, indeed, there were a few images that expressed a prison-like atmosphere or represented one of the grittier flats with holes in the roof and concrete kitchen floors, the main emphasis of the exhibition seemed to dwell on themes of regrowth and renewal. Considering the Pearse House Flats, the largest municipal housing structure in the Irish state, have seen four generations of inhabitants, this isn’t surprising.

The tree that formed the backdrop to many of the photographs, especially in those from over half a century ago which were taken by the inhabitants themselves, has been replicated and placed in the centre of the ground floor exhibition space. This, combined with images of inhabitants sowing seeds in the grass outside the building, illuminates the theme of regrowth beautifully.

However, even more attention is dedicated to images of brightly coloured clothing, most likely children’s, drying in the wind. Despite simply showing an ordinary, every-day scene, these images represent life and regeneration extremely effectively.

Family and friendship are also heavily emphasised. One photo in particular shows three generations of one family from the elderly grandmother to one-year-old twins. What’s even more interesting is how the flats represent the different generations with the colourful playground contrasting with the interior of one old lady’s flat, which resembles a traditional farmhouse full of antique trinkets.

One of the most effective devices employed by Lowe, however, is the recreation of one of the Pearse House stairwells. When looking at the graffiti adorned walls in a photograph, I initially thought it made the walls look dishevelled and unkempt. Yet, by recreating these walls to allow the viewer read the notes of idle children and teenagers, Lowe shows how amusing and enlightening these notes can be.

In particular, the presence of maths sums on the murky green painted walls enliven the stairwell by whispering of the presence of bright children.

Pearse House: Village in the City doesn’t demand your unwavering attention, rather, Lowe’s exhibition compliments the city life it represents and, while providing food for thought, it is the perfect drop-in exhibition as it is located in the heart of Temple Bar.

National Photographic Archive – ‘Pearse House: Village in the City’, free admission, closes on the 6th of October

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