Rock and Stone

Dancing Shiva, 1992

I recently attended the unique retrospective exhibition of Eileen Mc Donagh ‘s work ‘Lithosphere’ at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Carlow.  The numerous stone sculptures vary in scale from monumental to small, giving the viewer a feeling of respect. In fact I’d say I felt meditative when I encountered with such beautiful pieces.  The exhibition was unusual in the sense that large scale stone sculptures, usually displayed outdoors were here displayed indoors.

Ogham Stone I
Ogham Stone II (2011)

Stones are an intrinsic part of the environment and have been carved for centuries and commemorate aspects of humanity and ancient civilisations. Many stone sculptures from other eras can still be seen today and their craftmanship appreciated. In many regards, Eileen’s vast stone pieces create a link to this timeless quality of stones. In some ways, her stone art works made me think about what the Earth contains below its surface and what it is made of.


As a stone-carver, Eileen Mc Donagh prefers to interfere as little as possible with the blocks of stone she finds in various locations in Ireland and abroad; the minimalist shapes of her art pieces show this approach.  She is fascinated with geometry and the way it governs the universe. Her fascination is best exemplified in her star pieces based on the complex shape of the icosahedron. Not something I had ever heard of but when viewing these shapes, I was awed both by the complex mathematics and by the sheer craftmanship and beauty of their perfection.

Test Bed, 2009

Granite seems to be Eileen’s favorite stone to work with. This stone is found in the continental plates of the Earth crust in between two to fifty kilometres below the surface.  It is a hard and tough stone with some irregularities in texture ranging from medium to coarse; its colour varies from pink to grey; These natural characterisctics give the stone its beauty and individuality. The art pieces display a variety of textures ranging from rough to smooth and polished. It cannot be easy to work with such monumental pieces of rock yet Eileen works makes it look effortless.

The impressive installation ‘Cathedral’ features a forest of eight metre high trees that are  based on directly from Eileen’s stainless steel sculpture ‘Medusa Tree’. I felt a sense of peace and serenity when I entered the space and walked around these gigantic trees. The branches are like hands trying to reach to the sky.

Cathedral, 2011

Each tree is in fact made not from stone but styrofoam and papier mache all dyed in pale bluish grey that mimick the apperance of stone. The white marble sculpture entitled ‘ Petrified forest’ continues the theme in a different way and we are reminded again of Eileen’s relationship with natural materials.