A Brisk Autumn Walk Enjoyed: Sculpture In Context


On a rather chilly Saturday morning my companion and I ventured forth to our annual, much-anticipated visit to the Sculpture in Context exhibition at the Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin. Unlike previous years, we actually managed to make our way around the entire exhibition and were satisfied that we had seen absolutely everything (except for exhibit number 146 which appeared to be missing). The chilliness of the weather proved to be an important factor in the success of the day’s activities; we achieved this magnificent result because the day was too cold to dawdle around as much as on sunnier visits. Added to that we initiated an unusually organised approach (in other words, we had a plan) to our seasonal cultural activity of sculpture spotting.

Our cunning plan was to start at the outer reaches of the Botanic Gardens, tracking down sculptures as we moved nearer and nearer to the comparative warmth of the glasshouses. The indoor section of the exhibition at the Visitor Centre (above the very warm cafe) was our ultimate goal. With this aim in mind, we marched purposefully down to the water feature, map in hand, where a cluster of seven artworks had been placed. In and around the lily covered stream is always a popular spot for site specific artworks and this year was no exception. We especially liked the environment-inspired piece ‘Gone with the Wind’ by Sadhbh Mowlds which highlighted the ever-present menace of abandoned plastic bags. The conundrum is however, that we were admiring a cleverly wrought installation which made litter into an attractive item. I do hope that type of work does in fact provide food for thought for litter louts, but I can’t help thinking that artists are often preaching to the well and truly converted.

One of my favourite pieces this year also happened rather happily to be sited in one of my favourite places in the garden, the Chain Tent. This was a piece entitled ‘Vulnerability’ (Michelle Maher) that comprises twelve glazed ceramic tiles hung around the exterior of the Chain Tent frame. The colours and patterns on the square tiles echo that of the greenery that grows thickly over the chains. If I had the money and the space available  I’d happily have the whole set in my garden. We usually spend a lot of time changing our minds about what we would take home if money were no object and this year followed true to form. I probably changed my mind about six times as we toured the grounds spotting artworks amongst the trees and flowers of Glasnevin.

As usual the artworks on display covered a wide variety of techniques and materials, from the traditional to the not-so traditional. Apart from the up-cycled sculptures (such as Lucy O’Higgins’ ‘Tree Snails’ made from fused plastic bags) we saw pieces made from Kilkenny limestone; many styles of glass and ceramic; bronze; aluminium; steel; willow and oak. And that’s not counting the range of materials under the headings ‘mixed media’ and ‘found objects’. Part of the pleasure of this exhibition is in exploring the wide range of materials used by the practitioners. You can move from the elegant beauty of Jackie McKenna’s bronze sculpture ‘Earthed’ to the gloriously exuberant orange metalwork flowers from Lynda Christian (Untitled) and find it impossible to decide which you like the most. Perhaps it’s just as well that I can’t afford to buy anything.

Sculpture in Context is on until Friday 18 October so do and try to catch it if you can. I promise you it won’t be a good walk spoiled…


Image courtesy of botanicgardens.ie

    • Chris Mills
    • October 17th, 2013

    Reblogged this on Tales From the Landing Book Shelves and commented:
    This re-blog of my Irish News Review post is by way of a reminder that Sculpture in Context finishes tomorrow so your last chance to visit is rapidly aproaching. Do pop along if you’re in the area (and do let me know if you find the artwork numbered 146 in the catalogue)…

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