James Joyce famously said of his novel Ulysses "I want to give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book."
The scale and level of detail in this picture of Dublin kept me totally absorbed and frustrated in equal measures for more than two months during the Covid lockdown.
This view of light and life flooding over the Ha'penny Bridge, from Merchant's Arch in Temple Bar and spilling across Liffey Street Lower, includes details often overlooked - road signs, election posters, for sale signs and parked cars. These objects only gain relevancy when we look back, at old photographs, for example — they help us identify a place in time.
The original half penny toll charge earned the bridge its nickname — Ha’penny. However, it was the emotional toll the Covid lockdown had on a friend, originally from Dublin, that made me question why I had really painted it. The prints I presented him with, 'Liffey Street Lower' and 'Ha'penny' really struck home — bringing him close to tears. We talked — he really missed his city and its people.
Working in isolation in my studio is part of my daily routine, but another important aspect is my frequent reward ritual for finishing a piece destined for the Sol Gallery in central Dublin. After delivering the painting, I would always ‘make a day of it’ with my wife, a son or friend, eating lunch in my favourite spot in Powerscourt Townhouse, then hitting the bookshops.
Featuring such a large group of people amongst a complicated street scene was something very different for me. I can now see it wasn’t as much about capturing the flow of the iconic arch, it was about being freely among the flow of people — some of the 30,000 locals and visitors who use the ‘Ha’penny’ daily to bridge the divide of the north and south sides of Dublin.
Hopefully, it won’t be long before we can bridge the divide and return to normal life — and be among them crossing over The Liffey (‘An Life’ in Irish).
Print size 108cm x 73cm.
Includes a 6.5cm white border for framing.
Image size 95cm x 60cm.
Kevin chose an 115cm x 80cm, matt black, fine grained wooden frame. 2cm across the front and 3cm deep.
Kevin chose an Arctic white, acid free mount with a bevel edge. Its border measures 6.5cm with 5.8cm visible from the inside of the frame. A window of 99cmx64cm was cut out to leave a 2cm gap around the print area (95cmx60cm) to display the handwritten edition number, title and signature.