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Sculpture in the Arboretum


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Sculpture in Context 2002

Sculpture in Context 2002 was held for the first time at the National Botanic Gardens.

The National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, was founded by the (Royal) Dublin Society in 1795 to promote a scientific approach to the growing of plants for profit and for pleasure. A collection of up to twenty thousand different kinds of plants has been developed and maintained at the Gardens either outdoors or protected in glasshouses. Although the main emphasis has always been on the plants themselves some care has been given to the aesthetics of the plantings. At Glasnevin the science, the craft and the art of gardening are interlinked.

The landscape within the Gardens has evolved over two hundred years. The River Tolka and its floodplain on the north side of the Gardens, the main road through Glasnevin Village on the East and the central gravel ridge that forms the highest ground have dictated the placing of buildings and garden features that we know today.

The Gardens are used for passive recreation for up to a quarter of a million visitors per year. Education about the world of plants is carried out formally by Teagasc at its horticultural college and by Dúchas staff working with schools and visitor groups. The plant collections are a hugely diverse genetic resource used by a wide range of plant scientists. Good gardening is demonstrated in the varied garden features and plant displays. Research on plant taxonomy, distribution and history is carried out and published. The world's plant conservation effort is promoted and assisted and issues such as sustainability, biodiversity and protection of the natural environment inform decision making in the development of the Gardens. Those issues as well as the physical surroundings of the Gardens make up the context for this intriguing exhibition of sculptures.

There were no sculptures in the early Gardens. Some marble statues from Government properties and a few donated pieces have been placed in the Gardens in more recent times.

For the bicentenary of the founding of the Gardens the Royal Dublin Society with the OPW commissioned a sculpture from Gerard Cox. This piece, 'Craobh' was made from the trunk of a large Hungarian Oak that had grown in the arboretum and had been felled about five years earlier. The sculpture represents what staff like to think of as the spirit of the place.

The building of new accommodation for the Herbarium and Library and the addition of a purpose built Visitor Centre provided opportunities for placing appropriate sculptures that are truly in context. At the Herbarium Library building Michael Quane's 'Emerging Plants', Róisín deBuitléar's 'Herbarium in Glass' and Lisa Young's low relief panels depicting the evolution of the land plants and her herbarium and library entrance panels relate directly to the purpose of the building. The new Visitor Centre also has low relief panels by Brigid Timmons depicting food plants and herbs. A bronze and stone sculpture, 'Inter Artes et Naturam' by Ciaran O'Connor confronts the visitor and encapsulates the work and purpose of the Gardens.

The Sculpture in Context exhibition provides an opportunity to see how sculpture interacts with plants and plantings and to be challenged by visions that are not informed by the world of plants and gardens.

Harmony has been an important consideration guiding developments at the Gardens since its foundation. Sculpture in Context includes harmonious installations but also enough tensions and discords to arrest and challenge our acquired sense of how things should be or how they may be imagined.

Donal Synnott
Director, National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin

Artist: Sonja Landweer
Title: Inverted Ovoid
27cm high

Artist: Neva Elliott
Title: Personal Growth
Site Specific Installation

Artist: Linda Brunker
Title: Elemental 1
(Stone, Mortar)
150cm high
Artist: Billy McDonald
Title: A Close Relative
(PVC, Rivets)
Artist: Billy McDonald
Title: Revolver
(Steel, Plastic, Ceramic, Electric Motor)
Artist: Siobhan Gallagher
Title: Lily Pods
(Dried Lilliflorum Stalks/Stems)
70cm high (each pod)
Artist: James Gannon
Title: Arch
170cm high
Artist: Eamonn O'Doherty
Title: The Fall
140cm high
Artist: Peter Killeen
Title: Giant Irish Deer
244cm high
Artist: Barra Cassidy
Title: Tripod Study
(Ceramic & Stone)
25cm high
Artist: Fidelma Massey
Title: Lí Bán
(Bronze on Stone)
Artist: Vincent Browne
Title: Frog (formerly known as Prince)
(Fabricated Copper)
18cm high
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