ArticleA Renaissance Artist
It was supposed to be a story about a pub musician but it will feature a prominent artist instead - and it wasn't even difficult to decide on the change, because both are one and the same person! It's a story of revised expectations, surprising transformations and amazing findings. What started as an attempt to learn more about the pub music culture, turned into a kind of a quest for the Holiest of all Grails, to wit: Talent and Beauty.
The Gables Bar in Cork felt very homey, there wasn't even a stage for a big performance. Just a table next to a fireplace, and two people quietly preparing their instruments and occasionally exchanging a sentence or two in rather hushed voices. I was sitting almost right next to them - so, after a while, I decided to ask a question. I hoped to talk about music but, in the ensuing conversation, one of the musicians mentioned a bar he had decorated. My curiosity was naturally piqued, and next day I went out to explore…
The bar wasn't easy to find. Recently renovated, it had reopened under a different name not that well known in the town yet. Centrally located, its entrance was in a lane rather than a street… When I did find it and looked around, I still remembered that I was about to look at a musician's work - and therefore expected to see some amateur paintings. Then I saw this
There were 10 paintings like that, wall to wall - a wild dance of shapes and colours meticulously choreographed by the artist's unbridled imagination. It felt like stepping through an inconspicuous pantry door and suddenly finding myself in some kind of Narnia - and when you are in Narnia, the next miracle is just around the corner.
I realized I knew nothing about the creator of that remarkable splash - so, I made a feeble attempt to find out by asking the bartender. He didn't know much but someone looking like a regular customer did - and when she heard the name of Anthony Ruby, the artist I was asking about, she seemed happy to share information. Soon enough it became obvious, why: she happened to be one of the managers of that bar, and it was she who had hired him, to start with. I asked “why him?” - and next thing I knew, she offered me a guided tour “under the stars” (quite literally as it was pretty dark outside). The focal point of the tour was literally across the street - the English Market, one of Cork's most famous locations. Once again, it wasn't the structure itself but a narrow lane next to it. My guide produced a lantern and pointed at the outer walls of the houses facing the lane. Then I saw another riot of shapes and colours, an even bolder and wilder one. Below are just two examples of the “Cork Market Art”
Hieronymus Bosch and Mark Chagall would probably feel right at home in that lane - and there was nothing imaginary about the characters, either. My guide made sure it was a real tour - by presenting the characters, all real citizens of Cork, one by one and telling me their stories…
An artist, having accomplished so much and contributed so much to his community, would be quite a wonder. Such an artist who is also a musician contributing to yet another phenomenon of his native culture, is more than just a wonder but a certain reincarnation of the giants of that unique period of the past which is responsible for the main bulk of the cultural heritage of the human race. That period when talented people proved to be talented not just in one area but literally in everything they chose to undertake - the Renaissance.