John O'Flynn - Artist

John O'Flynn - Artist

"An Irish Airman Forsees His Death" - WB Yeats

 

"An Irish Airman Forsees His Death" - by WB Yeats

 

“I KNOW that I shall meet my fate

Somewhere among the clouds above;

Those that I fight I do not hate,

Those that I guard I do not love;

My county is Kiltartan Cross,

My countrymen Kiltartan's poor,

No likely end could bring them loss

Or leave them happier than before.

Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,

Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,

A lonely impulse of delight

Drove to this tumult in the clouds;

I balanced all, brought all to mind,

The years to come seemed waste of breath,

A waste of breath the years behind.

In balance with this life, this death”. 

 

Artist’s comment on the illustration::

 

In Yeats' poem, "Irish airman" stands for "neutral airman"; the pilot is a semi-detached participant who is viewing the fray from the outside. The survival rate for aircrew was low, and he has come to terms - even if only momentarily - that he as likely to die as not. At this point he is indifferent to the both the war and to his own survival. Drawing on imagery from the movies I have placed him among an impressive armada of aircraft flying in formation among the clouds in a bright sky. A bright haze envelopes everything. On the cusp of life/death, removed from fear and angst, he is immersed in an ariel/heavenly beauty. 

 

Aircrew are constrained by their tight accommodation, so the airman is hemmed-in in his cock-pit: for all intents & purposed he is already his coffin - a glass-topped one, like that of "Sleeping Beauty". 

Oil on board, 61x47cm

 

"What Is Art?"

In definitions seeking to answer "What is Art?" one frequently finds the notion that Art should "speak beyond its time", namely to subsequent generations - not just its own. In amongst the Canova castes the Crawford Gallery in Cork has placed a few modern pieces. It is my contention that this work - and alot of Modernism - will not "speak beyond its time", it is just too embedded in the art-debates of its own time, which are highly specific - and frequently abstruse. Once this "key" is lost - or too remote - it will be hard to "read". And since the significance of alot of Modernist pieces is not inherent but derives from their cultural or physical context, once this context is lost, so will the "art".  

Crawford Gallery, Cork

The Crawford Gallery in my native Cork has a superb caste gallery, a national resourse for anyone wanting to improve their figure drawing thru sme caste drawing. The castes are by Canove, and were a gift to the English for their help in liberating the Vatican from Napoleon (c 1815). They were in turn gifted to Cork for want of a proper home in England.  

St. Finbarr's, Cork

St Finbarr's Cathedral, Cork impressed me everyday I passed by it as I grew up there. On my route home out of town I'd approach it from below as it sits on a high rocky outcrop, with its Neo-Gothic spires reaching towards heaven. Most fascinating of all is the gilded statue of the  Angel of the Apocalypse, blowing two trumpets. sitting on the eastern roof.

 

Henry James, "The Aspern Papers"

This sketch, for an illustration of Henry James "The Aspern Papers" (1907), shows the protagonist in an audience with the reclusive octogenarian Miss Bordereau. Miss Bordereau is shown seated in the dark interior of her long-time retreat from world outside, a jaded Venetian "palazzo". She is contrasted to the worldly stance & situation of the protagonist, relaxing on the outside balcony in the full glare of the Venetian sunlight, overlooking the garden that he has rehabilitated during his stay, with the Venetian skyline beyond. In a more finished version of this illustration, the papers in Miss Bordereau's lap, or on the floor, might be made more obvious, being a reference to the private letters between Miss Bordereau and her life's love, the long dead but illustrious poet James Aspern. These are the "Papers" of the story's title, and which the protagonist has long plotted to get his hands on!

 

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