One thing that Ireland, especially the west of the isle, is notorious for is her ‘bad’ and ever-changing weather. There are a lot of jokes and old country lore thrown around like: “Summer in Ireland happens on a Tuesday” or “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes!” commenting on its peculiarities and also demonstrating one of the Irish’s qualities of not taking themselves too seriously. Instead of complaining, they have chosen to embrace their circumstances. Shane O’Malley’s mural ‘Changes, change’, established in the city centre of Galway in January 2020, is a perfect demonstration of this open attitude.
First of all, its motif was inspired by rainfall, one can easily discover many more or less abstract representations of rain drops in different shapes and sizes in this piece of art, which reminds me of looking through a kaleidoscope.
The mural with its geometric patterns displaying pretty much all the tones from the colour wheel is characteristic of O’Malley’s style. What makes it even more special is its chameleonic ability to adapt to external conditions. Due to a very specific kind of paint being used, its “shape, size, geometric patterns and colours change in reaction to rainfall, to reflect the capricious and mercurial nature of Galway’s weather,” the project description reads.
A Mural’s Metamorphosis
During my last stay in Galway in the first days of March 2020, just before we started to grasp the extent of the dangers of COVID-19 in Europe, I was delighted to spot the mural in one of the numerous little alleys just of Galway’s main shopping street. Most peculiarly, and in this very specific endeavour almost unfortunately, Ireland’s weather goddess had shown her very best side back then and the sun was shining for pretty much all of my stay. I had almost given up on laying eyes on the different designs incorporated in this mural, when a lucky coincidence enabled me to at least catch a tiny glimpse of its alternate countenance.
While I was admiring it, a cyclist rushed by and drove through a comparatively small puddle on the cobblestones right in front of the mural, splashing water on its bottom left corner. Within seconds of the incident, I was able to observe its metamorphosis and noticed the colours not only changing but also intensifying:
A quick glance at the project description revealed that it is not simply about getting the surface wet: not only which of the different murals is visible, but also the radiance of their colours depend on the “the direction, intensity and amount of rainfall.”
I am delighted to have had this opportunity to observe this subversion in aesthetics and practices: the splash with mucky water from a rain puddle would usually make most things uglier (and pedestrians angry), but in this case it actually revealed colours and resplendence. So thanks a million to the unknown cyclist!
I also admire and applaud the artist Shane O’Malley for the brilliant concept behind his mural: his design picked up on local conditions of comparatively high amounts of precipitation and made use of this circumstance to brighten up the cityscape on days without sunshine.
As I said, the mural ‘Changes, change’ is pictured here in bright sunshine, so I will definitely have to return on a rainy day to see O’Malley’s art in all of its glory with my own eyes!
Artwork by @shaneomalleyart for the @hopeitrains2020 | Soineann nó Doineann project, commissioned by @galway20 , European Capital of Culture 2020. Pictures taken by Annika Stendebach at the corner of Shop Street and Church Lane, Galway, on the 3rd and 4th of March 2020.