a Views from the Cliffs, an international collaborative exhibition featuring the work of Dunmore East-  based artist Mairin Grant and Kenji Nagai, from Japan, opens at the  H Project Space contemporary  art gallery in Bangkok next month.
Waterford native Brian Curtin is the exhibition’s curator.
Brian grew up at John’s Villas in the city, where his parents Eddie and Phyllis Curtin still reside. His  choice of career was heavily influenced by a then-burgeoning arts scene in Waterford during the  1980s, he says.
“I left Waterford in 1986 to go to art college in Cork. My secondary school was De La Salle College    but I held a virulent hatred of school and avoided going as much as possible. I have no doubt that    De La Salle is a great institution for many people but it wasn’t for me. Also, at that time, counter-  cultural politics was fashionable and I was a member of anti-nuclear and animal rights    organisations which encouraged an anarchistic spirit that has regretfully since waned in me.
“In the early 80s in Waterford, Garter Lane Art Centre opened, WIT’s art school was in the city    centre and local theatre and writing was emerging and getting national attention. There was a buzz  in the city insofar as many people were pro-active in establishing, or at least contributing to, an art  and culture scene. I knew Ollie Breslin and his then partner Mary Foskin very well. Ollie is surely  now legendary for what he has contributed to Waterford’s cultural life. Back then he co-founded a  newspaper, The Bull Post, which demonstrated how it is possible to achieve much with little  resources and ambition. I still remember articles from the paper, which mixed witty, idiosyncratic  commentary with news reports. Ollie was also part of a 2-person comedy troupe that skewered  Irish politics and I travelled with them regionally. And Mary was active politically, leading a  successful campaign to stop a telecommunications tower being built in her village in County  Waterford.
“This DIY attitude to getting your ideas and interests out there is very important because you set the agenda and leave a legacy that it is possible to function well outside norms and standardized values. I say this because my current experience of artists and the art world is one of increased professionalization where money has become the bottom line. And insofar as money is at stake, the critical issue is less that experimentation and risk-taking is discouraged than a sense that anything or everything can be assimilated to market exchange. Contrarian or radical points of view won’t breed in this context. For example, so many young artists I meet aim to live in Berlin, which is already saturated with young artists. When asked why they want to live there, the answer is typically “networking”. This lemming mentality and suggestion of professional sycophancy is hardly setting the scene for interesting art. We used to hear of the ‘cult of the personality’, now we might be living in an era of the ‘cult of the image’, where an artist’s social and professional allegiances are confused with the value of what an artist actually does.