Ardú: Rise of the city’s street art

Ardú street art initiative seemed to begin quick and fast, in the nature of street art itself. Running from the 12th to the 30th of October the festival began with artists working in several different locations throughout the city. The festival brought together artists from both Cork and around the country, to celebrate Cork City’s traditions, resolutions, history and art. It was invigorating seeing the process of change and a certain vibrancy come to life in the city, which has felt stagnant, in the last year. The lack of events, festivals, and gatherings that seem to pump life into the city have been cancelled, so being able to be involved, as an audience member, with the development of art on the streets was exciting. An opportune moment if I’ve ever seen it, Ardú festival was the only art event around to be experienced during the recent level 5 restrictions, open to everyone and anyone.

I noticed Deirdre Breen’s Mural on Wandesford Quay first in the lead up to Culture night and saw its progress with each daily passing. It popped up on a plain white wall at the entrance of the Backwater Artist Group building and the Lavit Gallery. The mural begins with lines that lead to a mesmerizingly optical convergence of shapes. The solid soft blue and vibrant orange reds reverberate off the wall, full of energy and with a sense of urgency. Her motif is similar to lightning strikes, melding with a chain link fence somehow, with an energy that bounces off each other. Her work attempts to capture and convey the community of artists, the creative energy and movement that lives inside the walls on which it is painted. There’s something about it that just fits, that feels like it has always been there, acclimatizing quickly into its landscape.

If you move from there onwards towards the Flying Enterprise, past the walls dedicated to graffiti, past the empty lot where the FAS building used to stand where large print yells ‘end direct provision’ and ‘black lives matter’. Follow the river to its bend, making your way to Anglesea Street, you will find Aches imposing and larger than life creation. A large wall, standing at a corner, is covered in a clean black where a tri-coloured hurler stands in mid-strike. The wall started off black and slowly began to be filled and marked out with clusters of doodles. It was a puzzling process to observe – were these doodles a way of marking the wall to create the wonderfully accurate and detailed mural?

This was a place I would come to several times throughout the process of its creation, the scale and the way in which it was painted was so intriguing. The spray painted lines of the different colours were slow to reveal their relation to one another, until finally I could see the hurler separated into three stances. The colours used, the strong red, blue and green, remind me of a 3-d image and this matches the artist’s attempt to capture the movement and the intensity of the player. The colours mingle in the movement, creating a kaleidoscope of colour in the center, helping distinguish each stance  What made me gawk up at that large wall, for several minutes for several days, was the skill in which the artist was able to overlap the three images, meshing the three colours to create a wonderfully vibrant piece. The image itself portrays the intensity and skill this sport needs and the pride in this very Irish sport.

If, from there, you walk down towards the river and make your way to the new(ish) pedestrian bridge, this will lead you to Shane O’ Driscoll’s mural on the long wall that leads to a busy McCurtain Street. The path is wide and the mural is just as expansive. This is not the first mural of Shane O’ Driscoll’s to brighten up the streets of Cork, last year his work covered a wall on Caroline Street. There are similarities between the two, print-inspired designs, with the uniform soft pink a background for various bursts of shapes and patterns, circles. The different designs seem to lead you along the pedestrian walkway, the various circles changing in size and colour. It is an unmistaken site of beauty. Abstract, I like the transfer of mediums, of print to a previously drab wall, adapting to this space and leaving a mark.

Keep walking along the streets, moving past old Camden Palace, where the facade still sits and the old painting on the side of the wall still peeps its head. You cross the river again. Down to the Coal Quay to Kyle street. Here on one of the shops, Peg Twomeys, that still brings its stalls out onto the street to sell their wares, stands a mural ‘Rising to the Bait’ by Peter Martin, depicting a man’s back as he faces the lee with a fishing line in hand. He is fishing across from an iconic building, St. Ann’s, which burnt down leaving its red building more dilapidated than ever. The dark colours make up the eerie scene, a strange purple sky with a looming full moon waits over the figure. For a city built between two rivers it’s a common sight to see lads in the summer fishing down by the lee fields, reminding residents you can’t go far before hitting nature. The nature of the city.

Do you know how to get to the Mercy hospital from there? It’s a two minute walk down north main street, with a left and continue on Henry Street to the entrance of Moore Street. It’s strange to see a large painting taking over a full wall on the side of, what I presume is, someone’s house. The artist James Earley, whose family has a tradition in stained glass making, has created a very delicate creation. Vertical strong lines interrupt soft, pink, pastel colours on the left that graduate to dark violet. There is a lightness to the mural itself, a delicacy on something so solid. I see it as petals on a flower, while a friend suggested a motorway through a dream scape. It’s clear however, when finding out about the inspiration of stained glass making, this other medium can be seen in the abstract forms created.

Making your way down that road, straight through the busy one way road you’ll reach the Kino. The Kino, since it’s opening it has had a couple of high quality murals on the front of its building, and has now decided to change it up again. A collage of solid popping colours on its surface created by Al Masser is currently against its black walls. The collage both drips paint and in some areas has colours that seem like a solid print. A solid black branch extends across the width of the graphic wall, like an olive branch, on the background of various painting styles. It feels like a statement of colour, encouraging a depth of looking, you could explore this mural for ages. It’s from here you can go down and over the bridge back to Deirdre Breen’s mural and start all over again. Choose your own path and keep looking.

Back in the spot where we began, I find myself thinking that with using these new and various murals as a guide around the city that from one piece to the next I became more aware of the years of street art that decorates the city. They are faded, worn down and demolished in parts. They are repainted, morphed and renewed. The memory of what once was there sticks in my brain. With the galleries and exhibition spaces around Cork closed it’s nice to be reminded of the unyielding use and creation of art on our walls. Even the marks and murals that have been unofficially created on our city walls are welcome reminders that there will always be movement and innovation.

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