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Sculpture in the Arboretum


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Sculpture in the Arboretum
Farmleigh Symposium 2005






Sculpture in Context was set up in 1985 by sculptors whose aim was to work on behalf of fellow sculptors to provide space for exhibiting work of sculptors in venues outside of the normal gallery context.

It has been successful in that aim over the years and has staged highly acclaimed shows each year at venues such as Fernhill Gardens, the Conrad Hotel, Kilmainham Gaol, the Irish Management Institute, Dublin Castle, Farmleigh House and the National Botanic Gardens.

Click on image to go to page where this sculpture is located
Title: Inverted Ovoid
Artist: Sonja Landweer

There's a Summer Place

An invitation to an exhibition 'Sculpture in a Summer Garden', in the Burgon Gallery in London shifted a thought in my head to the status of an idea. Maybe it was the sussuration of the sibilants, but the thought said, 'why not sculpture in an Irish Summer Garden, in a place peaceful with long tendings, i bhad ó pháirc na catha! It seemed there might be such a summer place here with long Maytime shadows falling from tall trees and Dublin's long with love acquainted paradoxes personified in wine glasses, soft lawns, music, and coloured dresses, as a background to half see sculptural forms inviting exploration.

Though it was far from Dublin's gardens I was reared, and indeed far from forests, at the edge of the then bare, brown hills of Sliabh Luachra in West Limerick, I have always been beguiled by woodlands and by the civility of the east coast of Ireland, it's sheltering mountains to the west, its sun claiming the early morning sea and its English connection, rejected yet half-appropriated. Perhaps, like most of us I have been 'enamoured by that impression of idyll' which the Italian poet Mario Luzi says 'the Anglo Saxon world gives to things of continuity and endurance' - anyway the idea demanded discussion.

At a meeting of the fledgling Sculptor's Society the nascient idea fell on fertile ground. Colm Brennan, Gerry Cox and myself became founders of the new group, 'Sculpture in Context'. A small idea matched by other ideas became a dynamic. Colm Brennan provided the name 'Sculpture in Context', Gerry Cox, then living in Co. Wicklow knew of an enchanted garden belonging to the Walkers called Fernhill. Contacts were made, work completed in the bright May days of the appalling summer of 1985, and the first exhibition of sculpture was launched under the exotic trees of Fernhill, while the cool east winds fluttered the newly emerging green leaves of the Beech trees.

The combination of the almost natural hillside woodlands, the sympathetic owners and the sculptors creating everything as if it were the first time, has proved successful. A venue for sharing sculpture and garden has been created and we all have a hazy memory of music, midges and conviviality under the Sequoia trees and on the sloping mossy lawns, the vagaries of natural selection being counterpointed yearly by sculpture of originality and élan.

In the past ten years a whole 'green revolution' has taken hold of our imagination, with respect for our environment high on our agenda, but sculpture is not about respect, it is about recreation, focussing the eyes, counterpoint and explanation. It is pertinent that in this past ten years there has been no sculpture gallery in Dublin with an outdoor space for showing work; nor anywhere else in Ireland now that the Spidéal Gallery has closed. Neither has sculpture been used in a specifically modern architectural context anywhere in Ireland and I would like to wish to be wrong in this statement - the demand for one off plaza type sculptures in rural and urban settings has been far beyond our best expectations but architecture in Ireland has remained firmly glued to the set square context with counterpoint, focussing, exclamation and decoration still non-words in the architectural vocabulary.

Meanwhile, the sculptors carve and weave and abide among the fern- covered granite rocks of the mountains, manifesting in life David Dunne's 'Cycles' in the 1989 exhibition, where unseen inhabitants leave traces in the roots of the storm felled trees and we are like the people in Biddy Jenkinson's poem.

'Hurdled in oakwood duskin brushwood underwood
we sent roots down
shoots up
Two trees we made

Cliodna Cussen, 1995
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