Aoibheann Greenan, a fine art painting graduate from NCAD, in her latest solo exhibition at Temple Bar Gallery and Studios entitled DMC (Dunmurry May-Day Conspiracy) brings pre-Christian Ireland back to life. A theme which chimes perfectly with one of the most popular tourist hubs in Dublin.
Greenan exhibits a full-scale inhabitable diorama in the gallery, simulating the ceremonial ground of a fictional society called the Draoithe Dún Muirigh (the Druids of Dunmurry.) Greenan creates a new folklore around the DeLorean car manufacturing plant in Dunmurry, Co. Antrim, in which the Druids of Dunmurry are protesting against the construction of the plant which involves the bulldozing of a hawthorn tree, which according to Irish legend is the entrance to the underworld. The legend goes that Tuatha De Danann (an ancient Irish tribe) were consigned to the underworld after losing a battle against the Melesians who invaded Ireland, and the hawthorn tree is the entrance to this world.
The Druids of Dunmurry were very passionate about this area so after many failed attempts at halting the construction, they decided to seek help from the Sidhe (faeries), whom they contacted on the festival of Bealtaine when the border between our world and the spiritual world is at its thinnest. They warned the construction workers that building over this hawthorn tree would bring them bad fortune but these warnings landed on deaf ears because in 1982, John DeLorean was arrested on account of drug trafficking and the factory was closed down.
The gallery space reflects this society and their beliefs. A mixed media ceremonial banner is placed in the corner. The centrepiece of the banner is a flaming hawthorn tree, with the name of the society inscribed around the image. The centrepiece is encompassed by radiating images of flaming car tyres and includes images of traditional Irish dancers and gaelic players among the smoke. A DeLorean is amongst these images driving into the distance with flames surrounding it. The main colour scheme of the banner is orange and red, signifying the flames from the Bealtaine fires.
In the centre of the gallery is a sculpture of a hawthorn tree triumphantly growing through a discarded DeLorean. The DeLorean is made of wood which can be interpreted as the intrusion of the car company on the life of the hawthorn tree. There are pieces of flame coloured cloth tied around the branches of the hawthorn tree, further signifying Bealtaine. There is a snake entwined in the branches of the tree, a symbol of pre-Christian Ireland.
I thoroughly enjoyed this exhibition, especially because of my existing interest in Irish folklore. Aoibheann Greenan has an interesting take on it, incorporating folklore with actual events to create this diorama. In particular, the sculpture of the DeLorean with the tree growing through it really made it for me. It is as if the tree is trying to reclaim what belongs to it, that it conquered over the DeLorean plant and it is a force to be reckoned with. Mankind has a habit of messing with nature but on many occasions, nature proves itself far more superior to man. I think that is the message carried in DMC.
Some people are sceptical about how legitimate folkloric beliefs are but in the change of events that unfolded at DeLorean with the arrest of John DeLorean, it’s as if it this exhibition poses the question; could there be a force behind the events that unfold in our every day lives? No matter what your belief, it is something intriguing to reflect on. The exhibitions that spur an afterthought are the most successful in my opinion.
Aoibheann Greenan will be holding a live performance in conjunction with this exhibition on the 30th of April in Templebar Gallery & Studios as part of a Bealtaine celebration. Places can be reserved for this event on the Templebar Gallery & Studios website. This exhibition will be running until the 20th of June 2015.