Wednesday 28 September 2022

Protectour at Port Laoise

After several years of working on it, Protectour by James Hayes, was finally finished and launched on Culture Night 2022 (Sept 23). I got to see it beforehand, however, as we had stopped by Port Laoise to view the finished work on our way out west at the end of August. 

It is made of polished concrete with stainless steel features and includes a time capsule to be opened in 50 years. This is located in the bottom section of the stainless steel feature on the central portal and was designed by Hayes to be accessible by the Laois Arts Office at that future date. 

The work is highly visible from a number of locations and will be a durable meeting point in the town with its location very near to the O'Moore Park GAA grounds.

It is also very close to the O'Moore roundabout, which is named after one of the seven septs (clans) of Laois that were transplanted from Laois to the southwest of Ireland (Munster) in the historic transfer of power that the sculpture also references.

The shadows cast by the central portal of the sculpture are very dynamic.

Culture Night 2022 saw a number of people who were directly involved with the project and members of Laois County Council flanking the Cathaoirleach (chairperson), Ms Thomasina Connell, who cut the ribbon to officially launch the sculpture.

Uillean piper Joseph Byrne played a traditional tribute to the seven septs of Laois and everyone then retired to a reception at a nearby café for tea and coffee and absolutely amazing sweet and savoury snacks! 

When the commission was being offered before xmas 2019 the long road to it's completion at the end of August 2022 was not envisaged. There were many hurdles to be overcome (not least, the covid pandemic!) but the finished sculpture certainly stands as a testament to the perserverance of Hayes and the team of people behind the making of Protectour. The launch on Culture Night was a chilly autumn early evening, but at least it was dry, and the reception afterwards was charming.

Wednesday 21 September 2022

PULSE at Limerick City Gallery of Art

Though it seems ages away now, on the way home from The Burren (which I blogged about here) at the end of August, we took the route that would lead us to Limerick as I especially wanted to see the PULSE exhibition at Limerick City Gallery of Art. This was organised as a covid response to the fact that recent graduates (2017-2021) of art colleges had missed out on opportunities for end-of-year exhibitions and/or other exhibiting opportunities that normally follow graduation. There were 16 artists in total, most getting space to show a few pieces of their work.

The artists are: Paul Cashin, Paddy Critchley, Judy Foley, Shane Hynan, Aisling Jelinski, Grace Loughlin, Day Magee, Sinéad McKillican, Katie Moore, Daniel Murray, Andrew Neville, Jonathan O'Grady, Bara Palcik, Sorcha Frances Ryder, Niamh Schmidtke and Nicola Sheehan. *Apologies to any artist whose work is in my pictures below - justice has definitely not been done - my pictures are simply to give an idea of the scope of the exhibition.

The exhibition took up most rooms on the ground floor of the gallery. After entering the gallery, where work was visible the foyer walls, taking a right turn I ended up in two adjoining smaller spaces. In this picture the main entrance is visible with some of the photos from the foyer as well as work of Grace Loughlin in this small room.

Judy Foley's two wall-mounted icon pieces and the tableaux installation to mend an aorta (which won an Irish Research Council Award) were also in this gallery. 

In an adjoining area of this room was Kate Moore's Entropy, an installation of dried gypsophilia flowers.

Several artists with large works were located in a large gallery space. 

I realise I lost the sheet that connected the artists names with their work. There were also several video artists represented in the exhibition, but I could not photograph a screen to give any sense of the work. 

Another large gallery contained the work of two artists, each having space to present mini bodies of work.

These are paintings by Paddy Critchley.

I think the show seemed like a graduate group show, but there was a high level of competence. It was exciting to see most art forms being represented: sculpture, painting, photography, video and installation art. The artists were chosen by Patrick T Murphy (Director, RHA) and artist Aideen Barry.

Wednesday 14 September 2022

The Burren

The last Saturday in August saw me head to Clare for the Furnace Festival at Caherconnell Fort. It was a hot summery day for watchers, but especially hot for the iron smelters and blacksmiths! 

As a specific experiment was being tested, all the furnaces were of the same type and generally the same proportions, but the smelters individualised there furnaces with kaolin designs, such as the Sheela-na-gig design on the foreground furnace. The smelters were particularly happy with the quantity and quality of ore smelted from the midland bogs.

The site of Caherconnell Fort gave the blacksmiths the specific project of reproducing some of the archaelogical finds from there (an iron belt buckle, arrow heads and a sickle). Caherconnell is a stone fort, of the kind found in abundance in the West, though I was disappointed in the contemporary interferences (numbers corresponding to a self-guided tour booklet, ropes blocking off areas, etc), which I thought marred the site and lowered this fort in my esteem when compared to other stone forts that I have come across, especially when I lived in Kerry. (So I was hardpressed to take a photo of the fort.)

A drive through The Burren always makes me think of what it must be like on the moon. Except the land is NOT barren, it can only be described as unique.

The Burren is an area of exposed limestone, with very little topsoil, but the "grykes" - the fissure area between "clints" (flat, exposed rocky areas) - protect soil and allow plants to grow as well as small wildlife (I have seen an abundance of frogs there in the spring). For further information on The Burren check out the national park website here.

Of course, a visit to The Burren necessates a visit to the iconic Poulnabrone Dolmen. Lucky for me I had a chance to walk around it before the FIVE tour buses unloaded their curious cargo!

Wednesday 7 September 2022

Gatineau - outdoor artworks part 3 of 3

At the end of July, when I was in Canada again, I strolled the downtown area of Gatineau (this area was formerly known as Hull) on Le sentier culturel to see outdoor sculptures, murals and artistic interventions. This is my third post about the cultural trail and my previous posts may be seen here and here.

“Mères au front” and “Flȃneries” were two pieces that worked together in the single space of an otherwise disused and overgrown lot 

Each artwork had a nearby didactic in both French and English, which gave the title of the work, artist's name and link (if applicable) as well as a brief explanation of the work.

Often on the nearby footpath a colourful marker acted as a reminder of the nearby artwork. I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of vandalism along the trail. Small perspex/plexiglass holders containing free colour brochures that included a trail map could be found near every artwork.

The colourful abstract mural on this building was certainly eye-catching!

I was especially drawn to the painted corner bricks.

I wasn't particularly impressed by the mural on the side of this container building, but I was again impressed by the lack of vandalism! The container had an end entrance that lead to a mini cinema where a video was playing on a loop. One could sit down and watch the video or simply take a peep.

A short walk to the edge of the canal brought me to another sculpture and works that could be seen across the water.

Although this picture shows another artwork across the canal, I was more interested in the reflections and the architecture...

There were many murals along the trail, but this one, by Dominic Laporte, was my favourite. It was painted as a tribute to the historic textile industry of Hull (downtown Gatineau) and the women textile workers.

As well as being an explosion of colour, what I especially liked was that from a distance the mural appeared to be tightly painted, yet from a closeup point of view the solidity seemed to disintegrate (as with the ethereal loom) and

the painting technique was incredibly loose as colours dripped into each other. Further information on the art trail and the artists involved can be found on Le sentier culturel website.