My Favourite Piece of Art

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The piece of art I love most is a print that hangs on the wall in my own house. ‘The Tiaracht Wait­ing for God’ is its ti­tle and it was the mas­ter artist, Tomás Ó Cíob­háin from Gráig on the Din­gle penin­sula, who cre­ated it more than 20 years ago. It’s an ink print. The sea is drawn from dark blue-black ink; she is troubled enough un­der the light of the moon, and the is­land of Tiaracht (Wester­ness) stands up sor­row­ful, soli­tary, lonely. It’s the fur­thest west of the Blas­ket Is­lands, off the coast of Corca Dhuib­hne in West Kerry.

This spe­cial print was a present from the artist, and it was made in pay­ment for me play­ing mu­sic for him­self and his fam­ily on the oc­ca­sion of his daugh­ter Áine’s 21st birth­day. It was a big night of mu­sic and cel­e­bra­tion in the Spailpín Fá­nach pub that I’ll never for­get. I sang my heart out and I rocked the joint. “How can I pay you for this?” asked Tomás of me. “Give me a pic­ture” I said. And he did. “But I chal­lenge you, John,” he said, “to make a new piece of art out of it.”

In­ter­est­ingly, it was from a line of a poem by Seán Ó Ríordáin that Tomás got the ti­tle. A line from a poem that es­caped into a beau­ti­ful pic­ture, and that will fly up into a song later on, when the time comes. This is my favourite piece of art in the world, more than any fa­mous pic­ture on the walls of the Lou­vre. It looks down on me boldly and chal­leng­ingly and says to me, “Be com­pos­ing, John. Be com­pos­ing, com­poser.” Time will tell. I do not know if it is in me to com­pose a new piece of art that would be of the same stan­dard as Seán Ó Ríordáin and Tomás Ó Cíob­háin.

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