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    Emigrants’ portraits exhibition to benefit London project

    By Noreen Bowden | November 18, 2008

    Clients of the London-based Aisling Return to Ireland Project are the focus of an exhibition in one of Dublin’s leading galleries. The portraits of five of men and one woman now showing at the Molesworth Gallery will be sold at auction later this month in an effort to raise money for the project.

    The portraits were painted by Cian McLoughlin, a Dublin-based artist, who spent six months as a sort of “artist-in-residence” observing the work of the organisation.

    He describes his inspiration for the project in his introduction on the gallery’s website:

    Pat the Wire, Pops Johnny, Terry from Derry, Gerry from Kerry Who Thinks He’s from Derry, Jimmy H from Clare, Tom ‘the Lady’ Delaney, Tony C and Sean M from Ballina, BBC Joe, Kerry Denis, Lumpy Tom and Hairy Mary, Donegal Pat, Squinty Mick, Holyhead Tom… Irish men and women in Camden.

    I was drawn to London, and to Camden Town in particular, not to watch the stream of extroverts, trendsetters and fashionistas parading by, but to meet these expatriates whose lives run in quiet parallel to those jostling for position around them.

    While in London, McLoughlin became involved in the Aisling project and spent six months observing their work.

    There were big personalities, shy characters; some active, some bedridden. Some healthy, some ill. Some drinking, some in detox, some fully recovered.

    I was now able to meet these people regularly and hear their stories; from the mundane to the hilarious to the tragic. The five men and one woman who agreed to sit for the Aisling project series of portraits are the faces I’ve brought back to Dublin to stand as representatives for the scores of others I was fortunate enough to encounter, many of whom had similar histories and lived in similar predicaments.

    This is in no way to say that my experience was a comprehensive one. Hundreds of other men and women have come, and continue to come, through the door of [the Aisling Project at] 93b Agar Grove to receive the assistance of Alex, Charlie and John.

    The exhibition will be at the gallery until November 27. One of the paintings, Johnny ‘Pops’ Connors I , will be auctioned by anonymous bidding concluding at 5:30 pm on November 27.

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