Kieran carves a traditional career in the City of Oak


Many in the North West will recognise Kieran O’Doherty’s distinctive artwork. In the past, the mild-mannered artisan has installed vast, impressive wood carvings in public places like Brooke Park or Gransha Woods for all to admire. But it is the work within local schools for which he is most renowned. Award-winning pieces like his sculpture An Taoiseach Feasa, located in the grounds of St. Paul’s Primary School, won top place in the first ever Derry Journal/Foyle Civic Trust Favourite Buildings Awards in 2009. The traditional art of wood-carving is enjoying a renaissance in the city these days thanks to an inspired Derry artist and his affinity for trees. Sculptor Kieran O’Doherty this week officially unveiled his latest work - two stunning wood carvings - in the grounds of St Mary’s College for both present pupils and future generations to enjoy. ‘Journal’ reporter JULIEANN CAMPBELL went along to the unveiling Many in the North West will recognise Kieran O’Doherty’s distinctive artwork. In the past, the mild-mannered artisan has installed vast, impressive wood carvings in public places like Brooke Park or Gransha Woods for all to admire. But it is the work within local schools for which he is most renowned. Award-winning pieces like his sculpture An Taoiseach Feasa, located in the grounds of St. Paul’s Primary School, won top place in the first ever Derry Journal/Foyle Civic Trust Favourite Buildings Awards in 2009. Kieran’s latest commission for St Mary’s College was to create two tall wood-carvings within their new grounds at Northland Road. It was a challenge he gladly accepted and the unveiling earlier this week saw Kieran address an entire assembly of school-girls at St Mary’s to talk about the process and the inspiration behind his latest creations. Originally from Top of the Hill, Kieran has been living in the cityside for over thirty years. Now 55 years-old, Kieran never formally study art - instead he busied himself raising a family of four sons and it was only in later years that he pursued his creative skills. “I suppose it’s been a poignant journey for me to have waited this long to pursue my own interests,” Kieran told the ‘Journal’. “So in a way, it’s my time now. I’ve always had an affinity with wood and so it was a natural medium for me to use. I’ve have always found wood very interesting, the grain and the way it matures. Not only that, it’s also the fact that this is the city of oak and there are so few oak trees left here nowadays.” Kieran uses the traditional method of wood-carving - a process he finds cathartic, despite it being so time-consuming. “A lot of people wouldn’t take on a job of this magnitude with a mallet and a chisel simply because it is so labour intensive and its quite tedious and laborious at times,” he says. “It’s a very physical game. I suppose it is very theraputic in a way too.” “You definitely need to have a love of what you do as you spend a great deal of time working with no immediate results. But that means that the forms often take their own veneer because you’re working with a natural material. The wood will have its own imperfections too and so you have to work with those imperfections and around them! I suppose you just really have to be ahead of what you’re doing so you are anticipating problems.” For the past few years, Kieran has been working alongside Greater Shantallow Community Arts (GSCA) to produce his sculptures. A recent application for funding from the Culture Company was declined, which disappoints Kieran. “I’ve been working hand in hand with Greater Shantallow Community Arts from the beginning and Ollie Green [Director of GSCA] has always gone out of his way to help me and I deeply appreciate that. While Derry City Council, and now the Culture Company, don’t acknowledge me, Ollie and Greater Shantallow Community Arts are always behind me.” “I’m always open to ideas and new commissions,” he adds. “I work traditionally in the art of wood sculpting and very, very few people do what I do these days - that’s the niche that I’m in.” For the new St Mary’s College sculptures, Kieran was given a brief to commemorate the strong female population of the city. “The school’s Principal, Marie Lindsay, had some ideas of what she wanted, and so I did up a design using the women of the city as inspiration. The larger female piece is made from oak, and the little house was made from ash, with Rose Quartz in it to represent the magical, mystical qualities of love too.” “The reason I chose to carve the notes of The Town I Love So Well on the sculpture was to represent the mothers of the city, going to work and sustaining the community through the various shirt factories and other jobs. A lot of them went through the school themselves before raising their own families and then their own children may have went through St Mary’s too. It’s making that link with the women of the city.” Naturally, it wasn’t a straightforward process. “On this occasion, there was a big hole in the wood around the jaw area of the female sculpture. That actually dictated the way in which I carved her high cheekbones but it worked OK in the end. People also ask me if the violin was stuck on afterwards, they don’t seem to realise that everything is actually carved into the wood itself.” Kieran also prides himself in working in full view of the world. “A lot of other artists lock themselves away into a room to work, but everything I do is done in the public domain,” he says. “People naturally become a part of the journey - those driving past every day and seeing me working on it, the school children who are coming and going every day. They share the anticipation and excitement of waiting to see it complete. Everyone can see that this tree, which should be decomposing somewhere, is actually being given another life. That for me, is magical.” “I believe you have to finish what you start - no matter how long it takes or what happens in between,” he reflects. “I’ve done work in most of the primary schools in the city-side now, but there were some obstacles in this project so it took nine months altogether.” Now it’s up to St Mary’s pupils to name their beautiful new artwork. “I haven’t given the piece a title, I prefer to leave that to the young people to arrive at their own impression and make that decision. That gives them ownership of the art too,” Kieran says. One final note of approval comes from Marie Lindsay, Principal of St Mary’s College. “We are delighted with these beautiful carvings,” Mrs Lindsay said this week. “Kieran is a very gifted sculptor. With great care and skill he has managed to capture not only the life of St Mary’s through the decades with this figure of a strong Derry woman but he also captures the soul of St Mary’s in this beautiful magical House with its infinite potential and possibilities, like the talent that lies within each and everyone of our pupils. I have no doubt that Kieran’s carvings will enhance the front of our school for many years to come.” Original article: http://www.derryjournal.com/lifestyle/entertainment/kieran-carves-a-traditional-career-in-the-city-of-oak-1-4674463 This entry was Articleed in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.