New exhibition: postcards from the ‘real’ Ireland

‘Greetings from Ireland’ presents alternative impression of country

 

Red faced cailíns; old men on donkeys; pubs; the doors of Dublin; Irish writers – generations of postcards have projected an idealised image of Ireland which rarely have seemed real.

A new exhibition has sought to present a more complex impression of Ireland through postcards.

“Greetings from Ireland” is an exhibition of photography based on a response from 40 artists to a call for alternative “postcards” of Ireland.

Some 200 people made submissions, an average of 10 postcard images each, and 40 were chosen.

The exhibition seeks to recreate a more “real” picture of Ireland in all its beauty, banality and sometimes downright ugliness.

The exhibition includes a postcard of a very unloved and unlovely pylon, a large concrete pipe lying in a field and a monstrous concrete carbuncle at the closed Columb Barracks which is being used by Westmeath GAA.

There is a postcard of a country lane with potholes, a village T-junction somewhere with no distinguishing features whatsoever, a country road in Donegal with “doughnuts” on it and probably the piece de résistance of the collection, a picture of a cafe in Knock with wall-to-wall religious iconography topped by the kind of stippled ceiling which was popular in the 1970s.

Angel Luis Gonzalez, director of PhotoIreland, who is curating the collection, said the images contained in it will be more familiar to the average Irish person than many of the idealised pictures in postcards.

He said some images were chosen precisely because nothing happens and there is no major interest in the image.

One photograph depicts an urban laneway with graffiti-strewn walls, a bin and, in the background, a run down flat complex.

Another urban scene shows two teenagers lost in thought while hanging out on boulders which are put at the entrances of vacant brownfield sites to stop cars parking there.

Fairytale land

Traditional Irish postcards perpetuate “a particular representation of Ireland as an imagined fairy tale land, divorced from its complex reality, lost between the pun and the stereotype,” he says.

He wanted to get away from the Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle and Rock of Cashel depiction of Ireland.

One postcard shows nothing other than a country shop with the fridge cleared out of milk.

“In small towns the idea of having a packed fridge with products is not feasible.”

The work is on view at The Library Project, 4 Temple Bar, Dublin. A limited run of the alternative postcards and fine art prints are for sale during the exhibition which runs until the end of the month.