RoadArt: East from Mullingar

 I travel  some fair distances across Ireland for my interior design work. Over recent years, I have started noticing the art works that are spotted along the main roads. Some of these sculptures are pretty spectacular so I decided to keep a record of the pieces I like for their reference to Irish mythology, their shapes and for their colour.

My starting point is Mullingar in the Midlands and travelling east towards Dublin, I will describe a number of the pieces on the M4 and M6 with some detours to nearby towns. I am intrigued by the art works for their own beauty and particularly struck by the way Irish artists make connections to the history and topography of the Irish landscape.

 First a little about the roadside art itself: It is funded under the Percentage of Arts Scheme where one per cent of the budget is allocated to roadside art. Local authorities decide on a theme and they are responsible for commissioning the work, usually by open competition. This arts scheme was introduced in 1988 by the Department of Environment and launched in 1993 by Ireland’s first Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Michael D. Higgins, now president of Ireland

Passage by Brian O’ Loughlin (2006) at the Pass of  Kilbride, Milltownpass/Kinegad junction M4/M6.

 This 10m Irish bogoak sculpture with bronze caps represents six figures travelling on their way to the Cat Stone of the nearby Hill of Uisneach: the meeting point of the ancient five provinces of Ireland. As they travel, they acumulate kowledge, wisdom and awareness. Each piece was  cut from a single bog oak trunk uncovered during the excavation works for the motorway. With “Passage”, the artist wanted to commemorate the journey that began with the mesolithic people, the first to settle in Ireland.

Enclosure by John O’Connor (2005), Cappagh Hill, Enfield, Co.Kildare

This art piece consists of two circles in steel located on either side of the motorway.  On one side, we can see a 6m stylized enclosed circle, while on the other, a solid smaller disc appears to have been cut from the centre of the larger disc.  It is easy to create the mental image of trying to fit one disc into another as we drive past between the two. The artist got his inspiration from the history and culture of the motted sites: enclosures and ring forts in the area. Ring forts are strongly associated with protection but also with circles or wheels, a shape prevalent in Irish Celtic art, symbolizing life cycles and no doubt journeys.

Axis by Austin Mc Quinn (1996), Courthouse Square, Maynooth, Co.Kildare.

The idea of the bronze sculptures emerged from discussions between the artist and the architect Denis Cogan regarding the dynamics in Maynooth as a space for learning, spirituality, economics and a sense of community. Seven bollards are situated along a curved line emerging from a central bronze disc set into the square paving. The bollards seem to be growing gradually out of the pavement and each one is at a different growing state.

St Colmcille’s Oak by Betty Newmann-Mc Guire (2006), Kells town centre, Co.Meath 

This bronze sculpture celebrates the vision and teaching of St Colmcille who established a religious settlement in Kells in the late 6th century on a sacred site, where he cherished an ancient oak tree. Most of the early Christian churches were founded on the site of druidic oak groves. Groves and individual trees had an important role in the lore of the Celts. Trees provided many of the materials essential to society and this is reflected in the importance attached to trees in the old laws of Gaelic Ireland. Every tree had its uses and everybody knew every tree. Oak trees symbolised force, wisdom and triumph as they come to leaf at the summer solstice in June.

King and Queen by Ronan Halpin (1992), Trim by-pass, Co. Meath

The artist drew from mythological sites such as the nearby Hill of Tara, the seat of the High Kings until the 6thcentury. The Hill of Tara was central to the political and pagan life of the Celts. Early medieval archeology with the 12th century Anglo-Norman castle overlooking the river Boyne was also an inspiration for Halpin. The bronze and steel slender sculptures sit neatly along the road and now with trees and other plants having grown up around them, the King and Queen are quite discreet royals.

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  1. Delabre espiau anne

     /  August 16, 2012

    Merci beaucoup Claire pour nous faire partager ce regard sur l art. Je regarderai maintenant autrement les routes et paysages. 😉 . Eduquer notre regard sur l Ailleurs, l Autre… voir les choses et le monde autrement … Tout ceci en effet mérite de s y arrêter pleinement.
    J ai beaucoup aimé l arbre en bronze, son histoire également.

    On te félicite pour tout ce travail,

    On t embrasse,

    Anne, Benoit, Lucie

  2. Mina

     /  August 27, 2012

    Nice and interesting.
    Like the slender royals being hidden by nature little by little.
    Keep feeding us your thoughts

    Thanks for a great blog,
    bises to you two,

  3. cdelabre

     /  August 29, 2012

    Mina, Thanks a mil 🙂 my favorite road art piece going that direction is Passage: it is such a powerful sculpture. Hope you can see it the next time you come this direction ! C.


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