Boston-based Navan visual artist Shay Culligan standing next to some of his controversial posters advertising his show at the Tashiro Kaplan Gallery in Seattle, Washington. His solo exhibition 'Exile' is being curated by the Pratt Fine Arts Center in Seattle.

Artist hits out at lack of support for visual arts in Meath

A Navan native artist based in Boston has criticised the lack of support for the visual arts scene in Meath. Some 650 people turned up to Shay Culligan's exhibition in Seattle this month, but when he showed the same work in Ashbourne last year, there was a very poor attendance. Culligan has been residing in Boston since 1992, where he went on to graduate from Massachusetts College of Art. After many years as a painter in oils and as a photographer, he has worked in the serigraphy medium since 2002. Serigraphy is the art of silkscreen printing, a medium which gained a wide exposure with the use of American serigraph artist Shepard Fairey's 'Hope' poster design in Barack Obama's successful US presidential campaign. Culligan prefers to concentrate on more personal subject matter, which ranges from urban landscapes to human portraiture. This month, Culligan is staging the third and final installation of his solo art exhibition 'Exile', at the Pratt Gallery in Seattle, Washington state. “Originally, I wanted to put the exhibition on in three separate locations: Ireland, the east coast of the US, and the west coast,†he said. “Although this has ultimately been accomplished, it was fraught with difficulty from day one. Over 650 people turned up at the opening reception in the Pratt on Thursday 4th November, and it was a very successful outing.†He said that this was in stark contrast to the first edition of his show which took place at the Toradh Gallery in Ashbourne exactly 12 months ago. “Although the Toradh staff were great and very accommodating, I was a disappointed by the modest turnout from the Meath public, particularly Ashbourne residents, at the opening reception, despite plenty of publicity in the local media, and hundreds of invitations being sent out,†Culligan added. “Some people mentioned that I was competing against the 'X Factor' on TV that evening, which I think is a sad commentary on the dominance of unoriginal TV culture over the visual arts in my home county of Meath. If the economic boom years did one thing positive, it was in providing provincial Ireland with some very spectacular visual art venues, many of which would be envied here in America. I just wish the Irish people showed more appreciation for the visual arts; if they only knew what an inexpensive and entertaining night out can be had at an art opening, I think they might abandon their TV sets for many evenings to come.†Culligan said he also had problems at Irish customs bringing his artwork into Ireland, despite months of preparation where he followed their instructions to the letter. “I was also disappointed that nobody from the Arts Council bothered to show up, despite my huge efforts to bring this exhibition across the Atlantic. Then, RTE's 'The View' ignored my request for some coverage. On the night of my Toradh opening, 'The View' did not feature any visual artists on their programme, for once, and all of my old theories about cliques in the Irish establishment started to rear their heads: 'It's not what you know, it's who you know', more so in Ireland than over here in America. “Even a bad TV review is better than no review at all. In the last three years, I have exhibited in London, Holland, Canada, Los Angeles, Buffalo NY, Boston, Ireland and now Seattle, so a little recognition back home from the establishment would have been appreciated,†he said. Culligan's second showing of the exhibition, in Boston, in August, had a name change as the curator wanted him to leave out some of his political artwork, which disappointed him, but he compromised. “Thankfully, the Pratt Fine Arts Centre in Seattle were wonderful in allowing me full rein to be as controversial as I liked, and my anti-George W Bush/Dick Cheney/Vladimir Putin artworks made for some interesting discussions at the opening reception. Seattle is a very progressive town, with modern views about society and politics, and my opening just happened to occur on the same week that the right-wing Republican party regained their majority in the House of Representatives in Washington. Seattle is a Democrat stronghold, and many people there believe that the Democrats will be back in force for the 2012 presidential election,†Culligan added. Navan native Paula Stokes was instrumental in helping him stage his exhibition at Pratt, and he described her as an energetic force in the visual arts in Seattle. “I do intend returning to making political artwork in time for the US presidential election of 2012,†he said. “The scary thought that somebody like Sarah Palin could make a run for the Republican presidential nomination has stirred in me some creative ideas for poster designs which I intend mass-producing in time to ridicule her campaign. Though I have supported Barack Obama in the past, I am by no means entirely behind his presidency, as I have big problems with his foreign policy objectives, in particular his appeasement of the brutal Russian regime through his 'Reset' policy. My wife, Marina, is originally from Russia.†The official website for the Pratt exhibition is