The inspiration for Vulnerability comes from an on-going obsession I have with trees. Not just any tree. Trees in winter. “Dark trees” that are as Thomas Kinsella said “hacked clean for better bearing (they) stand defaced…suffering their brute necessities”.
I am always struck by the intense vulnerability of a leafless tree, they are literally naked, exposed to everything nature and man can throw at them and yet they are strong, they are beautiful – they are survivors. For the most part they will outlive us all.
The inspiration for these wall panels comes from a photograph I took of trees at dusk in the Phoenix Park. Thinking about these dark trees has lead me to a greater awareness of reoccurring branching patterns in nature – whether in blood vessels, river deltas or nerve synapses – once again nature’s symmetry of design is breath-taking.
Real strength requires us at times to be vulnerable – trees are much better at this than human beings…
Mirror in February
The day dawns, with scent of must and rain,
Of opened soil, dark trees, dry bedroom air.
Under the fading lamp, half dressed — my brain
Idling on some compulsive fantasy —
I towel my shaven jaw and stop, and stare,
Riveted by a dark exhausted eye,
A dry downturning mouth.
It seems again that it is time to learn,
In this untiring, crumbling place of growth
To which, for the time being, I return.
Now plainly in the mirror of my soul
I read that I have looked my last on youth
And little more; for they are not made whole
That reach the age of Christ.
Below my window the wakening trees,
Hacked clean for better bearing, stand defaced
Suffering their brute necessities;
And how should the flesh not quail, that span for span
Is mutilated more? In slow distaste
I fold my towel with what grace I can,
Not young, and not renewable, but man.
How was it made?
Vulnerability is constructed using a highly grogged crank clay body with paper additions and was high fired in an electric kiln to 1260°C (Cone 8). The branches on the panels were applied in relief and were hand sculpted and modelled so that the ‘life’ in the trees is captured and preserved in the clay. Each wall piece is completely unique.
The turquoise reactive gloss glaze is one I developed myself; it combines rutile and iron spangles – giving it an iridescent quality in certain light as well as black speckles.
About ‘Sculpture in Context’
“As you weave your way through the garden, you will discover sculptures in the most unexpected and surprising places. Ranging in size and materials, these works of art represent the richly diverse character of Irish and International contemporary sculpture today.”
Sculpture in Context is the largest and most prestigious outdoor sculpture exhibition in Ireland. Established in 1985 by a group of sculptors, their aim was to work on behalf of fellow sculptors to provide space for exhibiting work of sculpture in venues outside of their normal gallery context.
Thirty years on and Sculpture in Context has gone from strength to strength. Since 2002, the show has made its home in the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin which is annually transformed into a living art gallery.
Artists’ ingenuity, contemporary art and Mother Nature are wonderfully combined here and as the seasons change from summer to autumn, visitors are given a reason to return again and again to see the sculptures and the garden in ever changing conditions.
Sculpture receives a spectacular presentation in the Garden, which is laid out in a variety of settings including glasshouses, ponds and foliage – winding through the 50 acres of landscaped grounds. With over 160 sculptures, this is the most exciting outdoor sculpture exhibition in Ireland.
The show runs from the first week in September to the third week in October every year.
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