As part of my “do more social things” plan, I went to the opening of Eoin Barry’s exhibition “The 061”. I had long been a fan of Eoin’s work without realising I already knew him as a regular visitor to Canteen and another encounter before that.
A few years ago, at the “Make a Move Festival” in the People’s Park, I remember someone handing me a piece of card saying, “Want some free art?” It is only now as I am doing some background reading for this blog post I realise that person was Eoin. His “Uisce" campaign was part of his Masters in Social Practice and the Creative Environment in Limerick School of Art and Design and involved sending a print of a drain cover to 250 unsuspecting recipients. Colour me unsuspecting.
Eoin won the 2013/2014 Limerick Printmakers Bursary Award and has been working with Limerick Printmakers as an emerging artist. His work “Cathair Grá” is visible on 45 ESB boxes scattered throughout the city with colourful designs reflecting a concept of Limerick as a city of love, a city to love, and as an example of how we can love our city.
You will also find “061” on some of these boxes, taking inspiration from popular American culture where the area code is an alternative name for your home town. Re-imagining Limerick as “The 061” brings an idea of pride into the city’s identity, a pride that can be lacking in a city that is stereotyped in the media as a wild west of gangland violence and anti-social behaviour. In the film 8 Mile, Eminem refers to his area of Detroit as “The 313” with pride. Renaming Limerick as “the 061” helps those of us living and working here to feel pride in our home city.
On a personal level, Eoin’s work helped me to see the city in a new light. I used to dread visiting the city as it could be claustrophobic, with loud, harsh noises, a maze of buildings, streets, traffic, and stress. “Cathair Grá” helped me see the city as a place of art, whimsy, and creativity. I saw there could be beauty in urban spaces and now the city is not a place I fear, but a place I love. This is why artists like Eoin Barry are so important to Limerick now more than ever. Stunning, temporary art installations sprang up across the city in recent years bringing art and culture to everyone, inspiring lively conversations, and once again instilling pride in our city. Having witnessed Limerick city evolve from 1980s drabness into the 2000s Celtic Tiger madness, Limerick seems to have entered a period where art and culture are transforming the city. Eoin’s work, along with the efforts of Limerick Culture House and other fantastic artists and facilitators are helping to transform Limerick for the better, making it a city of welcomes, and a city we can love.
As for how artistic license and proofreading collide, there were hoodies on sale at the exhibit which bore the phrase “the 061 is where im from”. I really wanted to support Barry’s work and to have a limited edition hoody from an art exhibit to pump up my hipster-like ego, but the proofreader in me couldn't handle that missing apostrophe. I’ll admit, the text looks clear, and I respect Eoin for sticking to his guns. Maybe if I get a sharpie I can draw one on…
You can see Eoin Barry’s work “The 061” at 69 O'Connell Street, The Belltable, until the 31st January. You can check out some of his work here https://www.facebook.com/events/1678742629064685/1686330541639227/ or at www.limerickprintmakers.com