The Pigeon House rules: a boom in Dublin art
Dublin-centric prints and textiles have moved beyond tack to beautiful design
‘It was too late and we were too tired to carry out our project of visiting the Pigeon House. We had to be home before four o’clock lest our adventure should be discovered. Mahony looked regretfully at his catapult and I had to suggest going home by train before he regained any cheerfulness. The sun went in behind some clouds and left us to our jaded thoughts and the crumbs of our provisions.” In James Joyce’s An Encounter, the narrator and his friend Mahony never get to the Pigeon House, the power station at Poolbeg, but plenty of other artists have made it there, taking the smoke stacks as visual inspiration.
The Pigeon House chimneys are increasingly finding their way into prints, photographs, paintings and textiles. And as the threat of demolition hangs over the Poolbeg power station, their popularity appears to be increasing, perhaps spurred on by their newfound artistic representations. Their increased visibility can also be put down to an upsurge in the number of people making Dublin-specific art. In the past five years, Dublin-centric merchandise, prints and textiles have moved beyond the tacky knick-knacks to cool and beautiful pieces of design.
The print boom
The Cake Cafe’s aprons by Niall Sweeney; Fatti Burke’s gorgeously simple piece When I Die Dublin Will Be Written in My Heart; Flax Fox’s Trinity College and Merrion Square tea towels; Shane O’Connor’s drawings of buildings; and an endless stream of Dublin-themed tote bags all represent a boom in affordable Dublin art.
Mark Haybyrne is one of the people behind Jam Art Factory, which has two shops, one on Patrick Street and another in Temple Bar. “We are always getting new designs in inspired by the Pigeon House,” says Haybryne. “We’ve got a laser-cut piece by Snow, a carbon-print photo by Dominique Beyens and we’ll soon be getting a piece in done in pixel-art style by Shane Gavin.
“Each one is completely different. The laser cut by Snow is very simple and clean-cut and uses only red and white. Dominique Beyens’s photo is very atmospheric and printed in black and white, and Shane Gavin’s pixel piece is very cartoony and has a bit of humour in it as it’s a parody of the Japanese woodblock print The Great Wave off Kanagawa.”
Haybyrne has noticed an increase in the Pigeon House’s popularity over the past year. “We get a lot of Irish people coming in and buying the Dublin-inspired pieces for their friends and family who have emigrated over the last few years. We also get a lot of people who have emigrated and come back to visit family and friends who want to bring something back with them that reminds them of Dublin. They tell us how much they cling on to their Irishness when abroad and they miss the little things that you take for granted when you’re in Dublin every day. One of those things would be being able to see the Poolbeg towers from so many different places throughout the county.”