This is the review I provided to Readers’ Favorite, a review forum which wanted a sample of my writing before it accepted me as a reviewer. It is written to the forum’s specifications: two paragraphs of roughly equal length, to a word limit.
The book, the brainchild of our Irish-artist-friend Kevin McCann, features contemporary pieces from Irish artists. It is a revealing peek into the Irish psyche, harnessing Ireland’s cultural influences of religion (Catholicism), conflict (the enduring legacies of Cromwell and the Troubles), societal structure (the legacy of orphanages), everyday living (daily routines), scenery (stunning!) and more.
An aside about the author-collator: Kevin writes in an Irish accent so it’s always delightful to read his responses about the stunning wildlife photographs from the hides on his property in County Laois: Glory Glory Hides runs a Facebook page and appears in search engine searches. The commentary about his works in B.D.I. is also ‘transcribed into Irish-accent’.
I find it fascinating to delve into the art landscape of any culture – 2D paintings, drawings, murals and so on; as well as 3D sculptures, artefacts, jewellery and other constructions. The art of a society, in all its glorious forms, reveals infinite detail about the layered intricacies, the daily struggles and triumphs, of the society being represented. B.D.I. is no exception. My review is below.
B.D.I. presents Irish life through contemporary art. With the dual meanings of ‘beady eye’ and ‘be the eye’, the audience is invited to delve beneath the surface to examine Ireland and its culture more deeply, and challenged to question the legacy and impact of historical events and political decisions. Depicting ‘artworks that comment on social and everyday aspects of Irish life’, this slim volume of twenty-nine works from eleven Irish artists examines the ‘past, present, and maybe even future’ of Irish society. Eleven artists present portraits, landscapes and abstract works, each contextualised by an accompanying artist statement. Due to the timing of its 2021 release, five artworks focus directly on Covid-19 and its legacy. The author, Kevin McCann, contributes twelve original paintings. Themes range from society to religion to family, often intertwined – as they inevitably are in real life – and each painting is as individual as its artist’s unique style. The reader is left with an overall impression of the complexity of modern Ireland, rooted in its foundations of state and church, as both individual country and international player. Extreme sadness – such as ‘Catherine Corless’ fearless uncovering of the Tuam Mother and Baby Home graveyard’ depicted in Pauline Conroy’s ORDER, The Ayes (Eyes) Have It – sits alongside reflections – Kevin McCann’s The Post Coital Fag illustrates societal changes in attitudes to smoking – as well as hope for the future – Crossroads by Tony Gunning is ‘a diptych with the left side representing a traditional Ireland and the right representing an alternative future’. As a collection many aspects of Ireland are represented, invoking an understanding of the country in contemporary times while referencing the legacy of past events and informing the reader of their continued influence today. B.D.I. will appeal to art lovers in general, as well as those (casually or avidly) interested in Irish history and society.