Peter meets, Senator David Norris.
Peter meets, Senator David Norris.
I have been mulling over and over in my head how I write about Senator David Norris. Where do I start? What do I say about a man who’s lived a thousand lives, and probably save a thousand more? I’m still not entirely sure, nor will I ever fit everything this man has done in his 73 years of life, so I’ll start here. David is a gentleman, full of wit and charm and always impeccable dressed. He a lover of Joyce, an Irish scholar, an Independent politician, and gay and civil rights activist. Famously so, in 1983 David took the Attonery general to the Supreme Court of Ireland over the criminalisation of homosexual acts and lost. Having lost this case, in 1988 he went to the European Court of Human Rights and took on ‘Ireland’, alongside his senior council, Mary Robinson, the European Court ruled that ‘the law criminalising same sex activities was contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights, in particular Article 8 which protects the right to respect for private life’. In 1993 the law was repealed. Since his victory David has expanded into ‘universal rights’. David became a member of the Oireachtas in 1987 and has been a senator since, (the first openly gay man to be voted in). He has imparted knowledge onto thousands of students who have graced the halls of Trinity College, Dublin, for 28 years (1968 -96) lecturing in English. He has impacted on so many people, weather he’d like to admit it or not. Most people I’ve met seems to have their own story of David, especially those hailing from trinity and the gay populous. David has a talent to be able to light up a room when he walks into it, and commands a presence like no other I know. When he engages with you, he has the ability to make you feel like you are the only person in the room and is fully present and involved in what you have to say. He is driven by his lust for life, his passion for what he does and a right for everyone’s equality, he will fight along with you and for you. He has a story for every story you have and is madly in love with his Dublin. After a liver transplant 3 years ago, he still has a lust for life to have and outlook to admire.
They say you should never meet a hero, perhaps you shouldn’t. I however will never regret it. Ten years ago, when my exhibition ‘Saints and Sinners’ was but a concept, and a pile of research, I went to Senator Norris with just that, and asked if I could paint him as ‘Saint Peter’. After some backing and forth with emails, he agreed to meet me and my project manager Barry (who kindly agreed to take me and my tears, excitement and drama on for the period of ‘Saints and Sinners’) for some air time in Leinster House. After meeting David; a man who I admired so much for what he has done at home and abroad, and for fighting a fight he fought with pride for 14 years to decriminalise a minority of Dublin’s people, had loved my idea and I had my ‘Saint Peter’. That day I had met a hero and made a friendship I am so proud of to this day.
1. Do you have a favourite artist and what’s your favourite piece by them?
I don’t really have a favourite artist. I have many. I love the work of Stanley Spencer, ‘Christ Preaching at Cookham Regatta’ and so on. I also love the Impressionists all of them, Renoir, Cezanne etc. My favourite painting, however, is one that I first came across in the room next to the Mona Lisa in the Louvre it’s called ‘Jeune homme nu assis au bord de la mer’. It is by Hippolyte Flandrin. It shows a very beautiful young man with a stunning body sitting on a rock beside the rock.
2. What was the last exhibition you went to?
The last exhibition I went to was at that gallery up in Great Denmark Street and it was an exhibition of a group of artists which I opened.
3. What’s your favourite book?
My favourite book is the ‘Anglican Prayer Book’.
4. Who’s your icon?
My icon is the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Tutu, the late Dr. Noel Browne.
5. I know you are an accomplished politician and human rights activist, but do you like to dabble in a bit a bit of painting every now and then?
My mother was an accomplished painter and she gave me a set of oil paints the Christmas that she died and in the aftermath of her death I took painting classes. They shoved the usual thing in front of us a couple of limp bananas and a green wine bottle. I was feeling depressed so I painted it depressed. The instructor came across, looked over my shoulder and said: “Well we might be able to teach you how to draw but there is nothing one can do for naturally occurring bad taste”. I gave up instantly. A couple of months later I saw exactly the same colour scheme in a painting by Cezanne
6. What influences you on a daily basis?
What influences me on a daily basis is my belief in the Christian religion.
7. What’s your favourite sound?
My favourite sound is the sound of the waves breaking on the shore.
8. What has been the single most important event in your career so far?
The single most important event in my career so far was my birth.
9. What do you hope your contribution will bring to your community?
I hope my contribution will bring greater happiness to ordinary people.
10. What is the hope for your audience when they encounter your work?
I hope that they engage with what I have to say or write or perform and they are enlightened and delighted.
11. Who has been the most influential person to you and your work?
12. If you could have dinner or a drink with someone, alive or dead who would it be?
13. Do you think an artist needs to be tortured to create?
No, I don’t, but I do think it helps sometimes.
14. What was the first piece of art you bought?
The first piece of art that I bought was a painting of an owl by an Irish artist called ‘James English’.
15. Where’s your favourite space to get creative in?
My favourite place to get creative in is the kitchen.
16. What’s next for you?
What is next for me? The Undertaker with a measuring tape and a box of cosmetics.
With thanks David, xx