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Currachs Provide Canvas for Inis Oirr Arts Centre Anniversary - One of Two Aran Island Art Displays

26th July 2021
Dara McGee's - 'Under a mackerel sky', part of the Curacha outdoor exhibition
Dara McGee's - 'Under a mackerel sky', part of the Curacha outdoor exhibition Credit: Cormac Coyne

The symbiotic relationship between the Aran Islands and the centuries-old fishing currach is explored in a new installation at the country’s westernmost arts centre, Áras Éanna on Inis Oírr.

The commissioned artists include John Behan RHA, one of Ireland’s most acclaimed sculptors. Behan is no stranger to the exhibition’s theme, having previously created a seven metre-long bronze ship, titled ‘Arrival’, for the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Sadia Shoaib, a Pakistani artist and asylum seeker, has also contributed to the outdoor exhibition, Curacha, which marks 21 years of Áras Éanna.

The work of Kathleen FureyThe work of Kathleen Furey Photo: Cormac Coyne

Shoaib researched the Aran Islands for her piece, and says she was inspired by the traditional woven stitch of the islands and its butterflies for her "Mandala style" depiction of a spiritual journey through layers.

Connemara artist Kathleen Furey depicted a Harry Clarke stained glass window painting of St Gobnait from the Honan Chapel in Co Cork on her currach, which is on view at Inis Oírr church.

Dara McGee, the centre’s artistic director since 2017, commissioned 21 six-foot currachs as canvases for 22 artists in total as part of the anniversary project.

“We had to do something outdoors for the 21st anniversary because of Covid-19,” McGee explained.

“Currachs are made of timber and canvas covered in tar, and canvas is one of the materials that has been used by artists for painting on,” he said.

The fleet of traditional craft were built by Tom Meskell, Eugene Finnegan, and Carmel Balfe McGee,

McGee, who is himself an artist, set designer and painter, said the participants were given “free rein”, and each currach “reflects the artist’s own personality and style”.

Pat Quinn's work for the Curracha exhibition Photo: Colm CoynePat Quinn's work for the Curracha exhibition Photo: Cormac Coyne

He paid tribute to the artists that he contacted from “Donegal to Kerry” for their enthusiasm.

The completed installations form an outdoor art trail on the island to comply with Covid-19 guidelines, while seven of them are displayed in Áras Éanna. The exhibition will continue until September.

Once a weaving factory, the building housing Áras Éanna lay derelict for some time before Mick Mulcahy, an artist, spent time there in the 1990s.

The state helped to finance the refurbishment of the centre, owned by Údarás na Gaeltachta, the Gaeltacht development agency.

Read The Times here

Published in Historic Boats
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