We have been talking a lot about 1916 these days. The posters for the RTE series Rebellion that adorn Dublin buses at the moment have my four-year old aflutter with ideas for Rebel roleplay. In the battle-filed of our bedroom I am always the British, unless we are playing War of Independence, where the line between goodies and baddies depends on which side of the treaty you are on. We are all goodies or baddies, then, or ‘Mum, why were they fighting again?’
This week for Adventure Day, we started the first of our 1916 explorations at the RHA gallery. Mick O’Dea is a well-known painter of photo-realistic historical work, and he has drawn inspiration from 1916 before. So I was expecting some large-scale paintings of city battles, which I could chat about with the boys. And, indeed there are 4 monumental canvases, lining each side of the huge upstairs gallery. However, I wasn’t expecting the amazing sculptural work that accompanies the exhibit: cardboard soldiers suspended from the ceiling and an enormous embodiement of Britannia charging across the floor. My boys were mesmerised by the scale and the visual effect of the falling soldiers in the gallery’s dim light, which spin slightly as you move around them.
On the way out we were offered a few nicely-produced children’s sheets, which give a small bit of context for the exhibition and a prompt (and space) for drawing something of your own. It reminded me that it is always good to ask if they have any material for children as you enter/leave a gallery. Kids are, after all, scavengers. Even if they are of limited use for your particular child, they are good mementos.
On the way home, the four-year old asked if we could to make our own version of the exhibition, which given my limited capabilities will be a challenge. But it felt like a victory for form. He is always happy to look at a painting, but he has very limited interest in being a creator yet. He proclaimed O’Dea’s exhibition “a really good craft.”
*(To take the Toddler Tour of the RHA see my earlier post).