Camden Town and the Aisling Project

The Molesworth Gallery , Dublin, 2008

 

 

Camden Man A

chalk on paper , 32 x 23 inches

 

 

 

Camden Man F

chalk on paper , 32 x 23 inches

 

 

 

Camden Man E

chalk on paper , 32 x 23 inches

 

 

 

Camden Man J

chalk on paper , 29 1/2 x 21 1/2 inches

 

 

 

Camden Man G

chalk on paper , 29 1/2 x 21 1/2 inches

 

 

 

 

 

Camden Man I

chalk on paper , 32 x 23 inches

 

 

 

Camden Man C

chalk on paper , 32 x 23 inches

 

 

 

Camden Man B

chalk on paper , 32 x 23 inches

 

 

 

 

 

The Aisling Project

 

 

Gearoid Griffin I

oil on board , 24 x 24 inches

 

 

 

Gearoid Griffin II

oil on board , 32 x 24 inches

 

 

 

John O'Leary II

oil on board , 24 x 32 inches

 

 

 

John O'Leary I

oil on board , 32 x 24 inches

 

 

 

Peter Doyle I

oil on board , 24 x 32 inches

 

 

 

Peter Doyle II

oil on board , 24 x 32 inches

 

 

 

Johnny 'Pops' Connors I

oil on board , 48 x 26 inches

 

 

 

Johnny 'Pops' Connors III

oil on board , 29 1/2 x 21 1/2 inches

 

 

 

Johnny 'Pops' Connors II

oil on board , 32 x 24 inches

 

 

 

Sam Hannon I

oil on board , 24 x 24 inches

 

 

 

Sam Hannon II

oil on board , 32 x 24 inches

 

Johnny 'Pops' Connors III

oil on board , 32 x 24 inches

 

 

London NW1

 

Pat the Wire, Pops Johnny, Forty Pints, 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.

I sat and sketched - from Kentish Town Road down Camden High Street to Delancy Street and on to Mornington Crescent. As the weeks passed I noticed the same people would often appear at the same time in the same place to go about their daily rituals. I recorded glimpses of them: a shoulder line, a shadow under a nose, a crooked gait, a jawline, an ear, a mouth behind a tangled beard, a frown, eyes squinting in the London sun. These fragments would come together later in larger pieces in what were to become the Camden Men chalk drawings in this exhibition.

It was about this time I met Alex McDonnell and became involved with a charity called the Aisling Project. I had heard about their work bringing homeless, long-term emigrants back to Ireland and reconnecting them with their families. I soon learnt that this is only part of their mission. As a sort of ‘Artist in Residence’, I spent the next six months observing the work of Alex and his co-workers John Glynn, the alcohol counselor, and Charlie Conquest, the outreach worker. The scale of their operation quickly became apparent.

Of the multitudes who rely so heavily on Aisling’s outreach programme not all travel on the trips back home. For their own varied reasons many are in self-imposed exile and haven’t left London for Ireland since they arrived decades ago. At John and Alex’s side I was led around the Camden Town that I had come to know (or thought I had), this time going behind the imposing brick facades and into the hostels and bedsits: Number 88, Number 9, One-one-five, Arlington House, Conway House, Chichester Rd, Ashford Rd, Hilldrop Rd, Claremont Rd, Grange Park, Oakley Square and beyond Camden to Cricklewood Broadway, Brent, Kilburn High Rd, Quex Rd, Swiss Cottage, Hill 16 and to the drinking dens of Larch Road, Ivy Road, Olive Road, Pine Road and the Bone Yard.

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. There were big personalities, shy characters; some active, some bedridden. Some healthy, some ill. Some drinking, some in detox, some fully recovered. 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 93b Agar Grove to receive the assistance of Alex, Charlie and John.

In the hope of raising money for this charity the centre piece of the exhibition, the painting Johnny ‘Pops’ Connors 1, will be up for silent auction. All monies received from this will go directly to the Aisling Project. To find out more about this charity please visit www.aisling.org.uk.

 

 

Cian McLoughlin,

October 2008