Giller The Killer Rules, OK?

Trinity College

I was a reluctant student. I could never understand the concept of being punished for not knowing. Surely, we were at school to learn but if you couldn’t regurgitate (and I couldn’t) you were punished. Teachers carried ‘the leather’, a weapon used to beat education into pupils. A ruler or even the leg of a chair sometimes substituted for the leather.

Br. Gilroy who taught religion and art had an appalling ranking system in which the pupils were systematically lined up in four rows one behind the other according to our ability. In art class, I became number one in row one whilst in religion class I was so poor, the worst in the class, that I became the new row five. ‘Giller the killer’ was incredulous.

Although, I never rebelled outwardly, I realize my intentions were a form of rebellion, not so much against the teachers but their actions and the system of accepted behavior. To extend the boundaries was my way of staying sane, of saying no.

I spent most of my school days in fear of being beaten for not knowing. My idea of knowledge was different from the accepted view. Although I wasn’t able to articulate this at the time I knew deep inside me that somehow the accept value system served nobody well. Even those in control, the teachers seemed unhappy and some even took their obvious frustrations out on the pupils. I couldn’t blame them completely. They were also trapped.

The situation opened up questions for me that I couldn’t answer. In addition, I grew morbid. The more I couldn’t explain, the more I was curious to discover. I tried to reach the source of the difficulty. The deeper I asked the question, the deeper would come the answer. I realized that although I had a problem I myself was not the problem. Somehow, it was not just in my life. Overall, the trouble lay in the form of a generally misunderstood paradox. It was an acceptance of the survivor mentality in which everybody I knew, including myself, was engaged.

This came to me as a feeling more so than as an articulation. It didn’t make sense to me that if God loved us why did we have to survive under His rule? If punishment was part of the deal where were the acts of kindness, understanding and love in relation to that? There seemed to be a kind of misguided belief system shared by all that deepened my skepticism of life. Only much later did I realize the basis of this blanket mistrust and the profound effect it had, and still has, on humanity as a whole.

When I left school these questions went underground as I got on with the job of living and surviving like everybody else. For years I lived under a mask of happiness that hid from view a deep underlying purulence. Not until I was married for about eight years and my daughter was born did it surface.

It struck me forcefully the future I was creating whilst living with unanswered questions in my life. Up to now it was acceptable to remain ignorant, to go with the flow, to just do as everybody else was doing. Who was I to question the accepted values? But I couldn’t let it go. I was bringing new life into the world. Was this good enough for her?

I had misgivings again. I was always introverted but now I became frustrated and even more withdrawn. I needed to answer the questions that were coming up in order to understand where not alone I was coming from but the rest of the world. I had worked for 15 years as a draftsman until the repetition became stifling. I made changes at work concentrating on graphic designs, many of which helped my employer win awards. At home I ran my own part time stage design and graphics business but eventually even this wasn’t solving the problems. I felt disenchanted, angry and drained. After years of therapy my wife and I separated and she moved to London.

I left my secure employment to take up contract work in London and stay in touch with my daughter whom I missed terribly. After eighteen months I made the choice never to work for anybody else again. I wanted to do my own thing, but what thing? I had been good at art in school, but would that sustain me? Could I do it? Was I allowed? Dare I do what I really wanted to do? Dare I even admit it to myself?

It took a year of consistent work to detrain myself from drawing with straight lines and longer still to realize my dream. Finally, while staying with my brother and his family in Massachusetts I painted a watercolour of cattails on a winter pond that literally changed my focus. I now knew that if I could paint this picture I could to be the artist I wanted to be. For the first time ever I felt safe in my own skin and I began to face with confidence in a new direction.

I came back to Ireland and within two years had three successful independent exhibitions. So as not to be dependent on anybody else to sell my works I wanted my own gallery. I bought Bective Church and converted it into a studio and gallery. Immediately I felt that I belonged. I was home. This feeling of belonging to a place was new to me for I had never felt at home even in the family house.

Since then I’ve had several one-man exhibitions. I’ve exhibited in many well-known and established galleries to build up my reputation both in Ireland and abroad over the years but never fully depended on any of them. Now I exhibit exclusively from my own Boyne Art Studio.

After more than twenty years as a professional artist my life is changing once more. The answers to my questions are made very clear to me through my art and I could happily stay in this space. But there is a deeper urge, a challenge to move forward, to change direction once again, to put into words rather than just paint what I have learned and to spread those words as far as I possibly can.

As an artist, I value the space or time when I’m not painting as germinating periods, when the seeds of work are underground awaiting, like a caterpillar in its chrysalis. They are to me most productive times in the act of creation and I have learned to respect them more and more over the years. These interval can last for up to six months at a time after which there is an intense activity. The longer the spell the more dynamic the alteration and sometimes I experience a complete change in direction. As a result I’ve invented several different styles of painting. I have no idea in advance what could be the result for I give over completely to my innate self on these occasions.

One day in 2009 following a very long incubation period that lasted two years something very different and profound happened. I began writing automatically, almost continuously, mostly waking up in the early hours of the morning to the furious messages that piled in through my consciousness. Six weeks later it all came to a sudden stop. I realized I’d produced the early draft of a book about the attitudes and values of the world around me, the subject I’d been questioning all my life. Later, I noted that I had started writing on the first day of Lent and ended on Easter Sunday.

I had no idea how to put a book together. However, more than two years later, with the help and support of my wonderful family and friends, having taught myself how to type and use a computer, I self published The Wisdom of Oracles. Now I’m learning how to get this book to as many people as possible giving talks, readings and workshops anywhere I can. Those who wish can have the benefit of my observations not just as an artist and designer but much more so as a questioner of life.

The self-same paradox I faced in school permeates most organizations, businesses, governments and systems in our society and to this day has a profound effect on the state of the world and its inhabitants. It is my true purpose (and always has been) to realize the questioning process and to show how to uncover the incredible life that awaits those who observe and probe deeply. The profound mistrust that is an inherited part of the human condition stems from a great misunderstanding of how the universe operates and in our inability to engage the world from an innate perspective. We are not here to merely survive in a hostile world. We are here to explore paradise.

Observation and deep questioning are the necessary and loving tools of the explorer.