Posts Tagged ‘ National Botanic Gardens ’

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. Continue reading

Last Chance To See Sculpture In Context This Saturday.

Sculpture in Context

Considered by some “the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of Northside Dublin” the National Botanic Gardens will open its doors yet again to the Sculpture in Context 2012 for its consecutive 26th year.

The exhibition has been running for the last month and will end this coming Saturday (20th of October 2012)

Sculpture in Context has, over the years staged highly acclaimed visual arts events at venues such as Fernhill Gardens, the Conrad Hotel, Kilmainham Gaol, the Irish Management Institute, Dublin Castle, Farmleigh House and the National Botanic Gardens.

The gardens are not only a quiet oasis on the outskirts of Dublin, they also gives the artist the rare opportunity of realising large scale work in a botanical haven. It also gives the visitor an opportunity to ramble and explore, sometimes finding sculptures in the most unusual places. The sculptures are displayed throughout the gardens, ponds, Great Palm House, and Curvilinear Range, with the smaller works exhibited in the gallery above the visitors’ centre.

Some of the sculptures are highly original. From Michelle Maher’s “Symmetry” flower heads installed on the surface of the water to “Bobbing Apples” by Ayelet Lalor, and the “Migration” coral-like sea creatures by Petrina Shortt, viewers will be able to wander in a maze of creativity. There are sculptures that children will enjoy with the large eyeballs “A good Gawk” by Sandra McCowen and the cuddly “Bears Necessities” sculptures by Liz Walsh and Clodagh Murphy.

Other participating artists this year include Gavin Friday, Peter Killeen, Cliodna Cussen, Sonja Landweer, Liz Nilsson, Brigitta Seck, Breda Marron, Leo Higgins, Jackie Ball. Claire Halpin and Madeleine Hellier, Peter Koning, Kathleen Standen, Jane Murtagh and many many more.

Where: National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin 9.

When: 6 Sept – 20th of October. Opening Hours: Monday – Friday 9am to 5pm
Saturday & Sunday 10am – 6pm
Admission Free.

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Day trip to Glasnevin: Dublin’s Necropolis

On a day that promised to be dry, I set off for Glasnevin, planning to divide my time between the National Botanic Gardens and Glasnevin Museum and Cemetery. After a pleasant amble around colourful flowerbeds and glasshouses, I headed up the road to the cemetery, entering via the Prospect Gate, passing appropriately enough a pub called The Gravediggers. The cemetery, opened in 1832 as a cemetery for the burial of people of all religions and none was the result of Daniel O’Connell’s vision and energy. Glasnevin Trust opened the museum in 2010 and aims to tell the story of the past to future generations.

I have visited the cemetery before for a brief stroll, but this time I decided to take advantage of ‘Fiver Friday’, which offers a reduced combined entrance fee to the museum and tour until the end of August. I also noticed a similar offer for Wednesdays (‘Midweek Madness’) during July and August, so I wondered if visitor numbers are perhaps down at present. The usual entrance fee (for museum and cemetery tour) is a stiff-ish €10 for what is arguably a museum of fairly specialist interest and one that would not really suit very young children.

You might also perhaps think it is not an obvious place to go for a summer family day out; being in many respects educational rather than a venue of fun and frivolity. Having said all of that however, I think that any attempt to present the history of the cemetery, as well as the cultural and religious rituals of death to a younger audience is greatly to be welcomed. The museum also has a wonderful opportunity here to tell the stories of at least some of the one million men, women and children buried at Glasnevin. I noticed that the museum caters for school visits and you could see that its interactive displays would reach a younger audience, where traditional displays might not.

The video presentation in the museum’s ‘City of the Dead’ basement exhibition tells us that the planners laid Glasnevin out as a garden cemetery so that not only was it to be a place of last repose for the dead. It was also to be a place for the living to stroll and sit, peacefully amongst the trees and architecture. I found that this calm, contemplative image however was somewhat tarnished by the gruesome threat of grave robbers in the nineteenth century. The gallery curators have re-created a scene demonstrating an ingenious grave robbing technique that I am not sure I really wanted to know about. As to whether any Glasnevin graves were actually despoiled, apparently no one will ever really know. Presumably the high walls and watchtowers deterred many would-be Burkes and Hares.

I mentioned the museum being able to tell people’s stories and the curators have done this in different ways. A feature that I particularly liked was a wall of Perspex ‘memory boxes’, which each contained articles relating to the life of the person named. Glasnevin may be known for its famous inhabitants such as O’Connell, Collins and Maud Gonne, yet they are far outnumbered by ordinary citizens. Folks of many trades are commemorated here. Upstairs in the museum gallery there is an interactive 10-metre long historical timeline, which demonstrates the links between many of the people buried in Glasnevin. At present, there is also an interesting exhibition on Daniel O’Connell.

I had a fascinating afternoon with Glasnevin’s history, though I still have reservations about a tourist attraction situated in a cemetery. I watched a procession of funeral cars sweep in the grounds, just after I had been sitting having a leisurely lunch (with lovely cheesecake) and reading my book at the Tower Cafe. I know it is true to say that ‘in the midst of life’ but I felt guilty  for enjoying the afternoon while someone else was grieving. Thoughts anyone?

Click on the link above for opening times and exhibition details.

Furniture to Covet: Reconstructed Rooms: Four Centuries of Furnishings at the Museum of Decorative Arts and History, Collins Barracks, Dublin

If you have not paid a visit to any of the National Museum sites for a while, then why not get your New Year off to a flying cultural start with a look at what is on offer at Collins Barracks, which is home to a fine decorative arts collection. We went along to visit the new(ish) permanent display of period furniture and contemporary craftwork on the second floor. The galleries are a real treasure trove of arts and crafts and repay many times over the hours spent browsing.

The museum has recently altered the furniture galleries so that items are displayed in period appropriate settings to give a better idea of how pieces of furniture would have been used in their social context. For example, curators have arranged several pieces from the 19th century to create a music room as that was a very popular feature in wealthy houses at the time. In the first half of the century John Egan, based in Dublin was the leading Irish harp maker. He became well known for his invention of the ‘Royal Portable’ harp, which was very popular as a woman’s instrument due its smaller size.

Some of the room settings feature important Irish furniture designers, such as Brendan Dunne (1916 – 1995) or James Hicks (1866 -1936). I loved Hicks’s beautiful satinwood furniture with its intricate marquetry work, in particular an occasional table made in 1929. Not that anyone would, I imagine, dare to put a cup of coffee down on its glossy surface. One of Hicks’ pieces, a gorgeous display cabinet won a silver medal at the RDS Spring Show in 1934. His work had also been shown at the World Trade Fair in 1929 to much acclaim.

Another display featured bedroom furniture (1933) made of quilted maple veneer by the designer Frederick MacManus (1903 – 1985). This was the designer’s own bedroom suite, which he donated to the National Museum in 1984. The opulent looking furniture was made in 1933 to match a dressing table in the same material that he owned by English designer Betty Joel (which he also donated). It makes much more sense to see furniture displayed in this way, accessorised with ornaments and reproduction wall coverings, which gives a visitor a real feel for how people lived with the furniture. 

There is much to look at here and some very impressive pieces of furniture. The displays are complimented by contemporary design pieces in the galleries. In 2003, an agreement was made between the National Museum and the Craft Council of Ireland to set up a joint purchase scheme to acquire works by Irish designers for the National Collection.  An example of one of the newer acquisitions is Liz Nilsson’s Sub Rosa (2008) which was a previous exhibit at the Sculpture in Context exhibition at the National Botanical Gardens.

One piece that I would love to own is a resin block screen by Sasha Sykes that she made as a re-interpretation of the designer Eileen Grey’s block screens (her work may also be seen here). Each block of transparent resin contains natural materials collected from the countryside near Sykes’ Carlow home. The lower levels are quite densely packed with mosses, ferns etc, while the higher levels are more sparsely filled. This means that the screen can act as a divider yet the effect is more subtle than a solid wall. It is a beautiful creation and one that brings the natural world indoors.

There is plenty to enjoy at the museum and this is just a tip of the iceberg so make a resolution to get out and about and see what our museums have to offer us.