Last week, Irish thoughts were distracted from the economic recession by the rugby team’s Grand Slam success. This week, Irish minds have been occupied by a couple of paintings of Brian Cowen that depict the Taoiseach in a less than flattering light. This “controversy”, which will surely be dubbed Cowengate, arose on Monday. RTE News carried a report about the erection of two different portraits of Mr Cowen that mysteriously appeared in two Dublin art galleries earlier that day. Apparently, both had been put up by an individual who simply entered each gallery and nailed the paintings to the walls. Neither painting stayed up too long and it is not known whether or not they were well-hung. On the next night’s news, RTE apologised to the Taoiseach and his family for the manner of their reporting of the incident. It has since emerged that the person behind this prank is a teacher and artist named Conor Casby.
Now, I’m all for constructive criticism of the government and its leadership. I’m glad that we live in a country where we can criticise and make fun of those in charge and not fear the consequences. I’m only too aware that for many years art, literature, film and music had been subject to censorship because the State did not want to subject impressionable minds to what it perceived as pornography. The long arm of the mass media means that content that would have previously been unavailable is now easily accessible. The internet has also made it easier for the public to get its voice heard without the assistance of regular media outlets.
Nevertheless, I disagree that Casby’s paintings could be construed as satire. I fail to see the satire in Casby’s paintings. In my opinion, both of them exhibit crudeness and toilet humour at the expense of anything remotely witty or humorous. In one of the paintings, a caricature of Cowen is seen with a large pot-belly, holding a pair of underpants in his hand. In the other, he is seen naked on a toilet bowl, holding a roll of toilet paper in his hand. How is this satirical? What deeper meaning can be construed from these images? I believe that the current government should have the piss taken out of it. But, I’d like to see it done with a bit of wit and intelligence. In the meantime, here are a few tunes for your perusal