It’s hard to convey how depressing Dublin was after the financial crisis, it was like the air escaping from a balloon, everything went from breakneck (and often naive) optimism to a slump shouldered depression and with it went peoples sense of pride and confidence.
In 2009 the Irish street artist/typographer Maser teamed up with songwriter Damien Dempsey for a project that responded to this gloom and involved applying Dempsey’s words to enormous murals inspired by vintage sign painting and the classic ‘Guinness Is Good For You’ advertisements. I can recall seeing them as they went up little by little and feeling that this was the real thing, a fitting response to the greed, dissillusionment and heartbreak of the crash, as a huge mural painted on an unused building site that followed the bus route to the airport declared:
“GREED IS THE KNIFE AND THE CUTS RUN DEEP”
Fittingly though, there was also messages of love to the city, declarations of ’ IM A HOMEBIRD’ and lines of poetry praising the river Liffey that runs through Dublin, an appropriate mix of defiance, regret & anger.
I wonder is there something in this about the Irish preference for verbal (and above all, oral) over visual art, and although this is a marriage of the two, it also relied on a tradition of textual art. It’s difficult to think of any really imposing public, visual art in Dublin or Ireland generally, apart from the architecture itself and the Spire, which is an almost completely featureless metal spike (I still quite like it though). I mean I remember some criticism of Dempsey’s fairly workmanlike lyricism (which is kinda the point, I suppose?) but words follow more closely the popular reaction to anything in Ireland than do pictures. Gift of the gab, and all that.