When We Really See It

Pictured Above: Roisin Sheehy.

Pictured Above: Roisin Sheehy.

I stopped to look at an unfinished abstract drawing which was laid on the ground next to its maker near Pearse Street Dart Station. The artist was sitting on cardboard sheeting with a sleeping bag draped over him.

My interpretation witnessed a strong beating human heart with flecks of light. I could feel the aorta and a healthy blood circulation with an out-going breath.

On catching my gaze, a conversation erupted between us. Danny, the artist, proudly showed me a print which he received recently from an American who bought the original of him five years ago. His admirer added a caption to Danny’s drawing – ‘The Mecca of Comics’.

“I couldn’t believe he remembered and came back so many years later with the drawing.”
Our discourse led to an intriguing art lesson as he took a marker in his gloved hand and exclaimed, “It’s amazing what you can do with these.”

He took the unfinished drawing in his hands. Strokes and circular shapes were marked beside the beating heart.

“See you just do it – don’t think about it.”
He laid down the canvas and left the ink to dry.
“I like flowers. This drawing is called ‘growth’”
He fell silent for a while and seemed to meditate on what he had just said;
“Wherever you are in the world, always have an eye for what’s around you.”

Prior to my encounter with Danny I heard voices coming from cardboard boxes along Lower Abbey Street under a sheltered entrance of an old period building. The unoccupied establishment was surrounded by high railings and busy city folk were fleeing by. Maybe they were oblivious to the chatter or already familiar with the scene and averted from paying any attention to it.

It was a particularly cold night with ice hardening on the footpath. A stream of incoherent dialogue was being exchanged between the two not-so-large cardboard boxes. They sounded like grown-up men under the influence of hard liquor and illegal substances. It reminded me of Beckett’s Endgame with Nell and Nagg cramped in dustbins, and I couldn’t help myself but laugh at the absurdity of it all.

The building, a detached two storey with a basement, dates back to 1839 when it was a Trustee Savings Bank. I could imagine Beckett standing at the same spot and witnessing the scenario before he left for Paris in 1929 or during his later visits to the capital. Perhaps he keenly listened to the incoherent language between the pair, which sparked his famous theatrical fragmented dialogue. And I’m sure Joyce followed course and discovered a mash of Sanskrit, Irish and French, and so Finnegan’s Wake was brewed up.

With their thirst for creativity, they frequented their muse, and humour was simmered beyond the harsh reality of humanity’s struggle for survival.

A modern-day Irish reader would be forgiven for thinking that the playwright Brian Merriman travelled from his native County Clare and scoured the streets of the city searching for plausible gibberish that funnelled the sublime poetic form of Cúirt an Mhean Óiche. But, Irish being one of the oldest living literature languages, Merriman had enough scope in his library and more importantly amongst rural poets and seanchaois of County Clare.

Recently, Irish language Theatre Company Aisteoraí Bulfin undertook his masterpiece and performed it on the 29th of March at Carlow’s Visual Theatre.

There was a homeless sign at the end of Danny’s cardboard bed with a plastic cup for donations. He informed me of a staggering sum of money he received on Christmas Eve, however there and then money was irrelevant. Danny went cold turkey off heroin and cash was no longer a panicked need.

He talked about travel and seeing his sister. During our exchange, passers-by paused, looked at his drawings and slipped loose change into his cup. A few of them were regulars and knew Danny.

Before parting, I shook Danny’s gloved hand and told him that I look forward to seeing what becomes of his heartfelt canvas. His cup was brimming with loose change and he had enough savings to travel the world.

It struck me that as a society we have an incredible need to embrace the simplicity of Danny’s creations. We’re all elements of Merriman, Joyce, Beckett and the American who came back years later hoping to recycle the beauty that’s delivered to us along our otherwise mundane daily meanders.

By Róisín Sheehy