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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

In The Heart Of The Hibernian Metropolis

If you are as big a literary geek as I am, the first thing that you will notice about Fionán O’Connell’s upcoming display of photographs is the title. IN THE HEART OF THE HIBERNIAN METROPOLIS is a headline ripped from the pages of James Joyce’s Ulysses. But Joyce’s influence on O’Connell’s work does not end with this title.

Joyce was a realist. This means that in his art Joyce, like O’Connell, strove to capture a snapshot of everyday life. Ulysses does just that. The plot follows two men around their typical Dublin lives, presenting the reader with both their physical interactions as well as their inner thoughts.

Just as you walk the picturesque campus of UMass Boston without focusing on its more beautiful qualities (yes, I know that you are questioning my idea of picturesque right now), Joyce’s Dubliners catch only familiar glimpses of the city without ever consciously bringing these views to the forefront of their thoughts.

A similar depiction of Dublin is presented within O’Connell’s images. Professor Thomas O’Grady, Director of Irish Studies, notes that “One recent development in [O’Connell’s] vision-an attentiveness to the way that shop windows both reflect and refract not only their own interior displays but also the exterior world of the city-involves, again coincidentally, a Joycean aspect.”

Capturing not only the shop windows but also a scene reflected within them allows you to observe the city of Dublin through the eyes of a native. Rather than depicting an image that you might see on a post card, O’Connell invites you to imagine that you are standing in front of a shop window on Grafton Street seeing the sights around you as merely complimentary to your own interior dialogue.

O’Connell and his contemporaries live and work under the shadow of James Joyce. However, this artist is perfectly capable of defining himself independent of his Joycean connections. He takes the everyday streets of Dublin and presents them in a way as to attract even the greatest novice of art enthusiasts.

“As a child,” explains O’Connell, “I wasn’t good at drawing but got great satisfaction out of creating pages divided up into different shaped sections, all the time making balances between the colours- yellows buffered by reds and blues, defining the fields of colour with thick black crayon edges.”

We find these balances between colors being brought to fruition within O’Connell’s work. He uses images of cracked asphalt with incongruous double yellow lines, or the cracked paint of a fence that has been painted time and time again as a means of drawing us into his Dublin and delivering to his audience a taste of the texture the city embodies.

IN THE HEART OF THE HIBERNIAN METROPOLIS will be on display in UMass Boston’s Harbor Gallery November 8th through the 28th. The Artist’s Reception with introduction by Thomas O’Grady will be held Thursday November 8th.