Debut exhibition a true voyage of discovery for John Tynan

John Tynan enjoyed the steep learning curve of organising his debut exhibition

Debut exhibition a true voyage of discovery for John Tynan

A ROOK called me back to my past. Raucous, if not a little rankling, he perched on the top of a tree and interrupted me as I turned on music before cleaning a stable.

“Ok,” I said, “I’ll listen to you and your friends instead.” At that moment, I was whisked back to a childhood walk in a woods, and the first line of my first poem emerged.

What I didn’t know was that the rook was also directing me to my future, as writing poetry became a creative outlet. Like most people who write poetry, initially, it is all about the writing, but soon you want to share your work. Who doesn’t want validation?

Publishing is the obvious route, but not for me; yet, at least. Being an outdoors type, I frequently capture creation’s grandeur with my camera and, so, I happened on an idea of combining both in framed works and exploring the potential for an exhibition. The pieces would be framed pictures with verse from my poems inset into the mount, both resonating off each other.

Unfortunately, since this was new to me, I found myself in a desert of ignorance. I guessed I would need a framer to make it happen. I went to a couple of places, but the responses tended to be cool. I was perplexed; combining a photograph and verse couldn’t be that difficult, could it?

Then, an English woman at a charity event said I should talk to her friend, who declared: “Oh, you need to see Ivan Wolfe in Monkstown. He’s fantastic.” He lived up to the promise, accepting my proposal and guiding me through the process.

The next step was to source a printer, both for the pictures and an accompanying A3 book. Again, it really paid to shop around, and I experienced quite a wide range of responses in terms of cost and engagement.

Now I had yet to find a place to exhibit my work. A number of premises turned me down, but St Peter’s on North Main Street, a deconsecrated church, agreed to host the exhibition. The commission of 20% on pieces sold is a decent arrangement, as many galleries take 35%-50%.

For me, the ballpark basic cost of putting on the exhibition was around €1,700, but sponsorship helped to defray some of this.

Sourcing sponsorship is an onerous task, but bear in mind how those on the receiving end of so many approaches must feel.

Another important element is the promotion of the exhibition, involving posters, texts, email, phonecalls, etc, along with providing wine and food on launch night.

So, with the launch this evening, have I done enough? Who knows, but it won’t be for the want of effort. Pieces will be priced at around €120, which I believe is reasonable, when you take into account the cost of printing, framing, the time involved in compiling the work, etc.

Looking good and destined to sound good too, as songsmith John Spillane agreed to perform the opening ceremony. “Lovely hurling,” says he, “I’ll be there”, even adding that he’d compose a piece for the launch.

The most important thing I have learned through this process is to put ideas out there and seek advice from everyone and anyone, strangers included. It’s been a lot of work to make it happen, but once I started out on the road I never wanted to turn back.

  • John Tynan’s exhibition opens this evening at 6pm in St Peter’s, North Main Street, Cork.

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