Saturday, 28 December 2019

Three new sculptures
at Howth Harbour have
a maritime theme

Three new wood sculptures by Richie Clarke overlooking Howth Harbour have a maritime theme (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Patrick Comerford

Three new wood sculptures overlook the harbour at Howth and were a pleasure to see on Friday afternoon [27 December 2019], during a brief visit to Dublin before returning to Askeaton this afternoon.

The three sculptures on the slope beside the Courthouse in Howth are the work of Richie Clarke, a wood carver from Mullingar, Co Westmeath, whose work is influenced by Celtic mythology and Irish folklore.

From small decorative pieces to carved tree trunks, Richie Clarke’s work displays an impressive mastery of his craft.

The initiative for these three new sculptures at Howth Harbour came when a group from Howth Tidy Towns visited Malahide Castle at the invitation of Colin Gilhooley from Fingal County Council. They had spoken to Colin Gilhooley about the wooden sculptures in Malahide town and in the grounds of Malahide Castle grounds and asked if it would be possible for Howth to have something similar.

They were shown around the castle grounds and looked at and photographed the wooden sculptures. They posted some of these photographs on Facebook and asked for feedback from Howth residents on their preferred theme for the proposed Howth sculptures.

Most people favoured a maritime theme for the three sculptures on the slope beside the Courthouse (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Most people favoured a maritime theme for the three sculptures on the slope beside the Courthouse.

During the months that followed, the group from Howth Tidy Towns worked with Colin Gilhooley, sourcing photographs from the internet and commenting on initial drawings. They are more than happy with the results and delighted to see them installed on the Courthouse slope.

The sculptures were commissioned by Fingal County Council and created by Richie Clarke from Mullingar who says he is ‘very relieved to see these pieces, which have taken over my life for the last couple of months, finally installed.’

Richie Clarke was born and grew up in Mullingar, Co Westmeath. He says on his website, ‘I believe that where we come from shapes our sub-conscious and pushes us in a certain direction in life. Most of my childhood and adult life was spent in in these outdoor playgrounds. Wood carving connects me to nature and I think that is why I love it so much.’

He has been woodcarving for almost 20 years. A carpenter and cabinet maker by trade, wood carving seemed a totally natural progression for him. He is mostly self-taught but has had tuition from Chris Pye, the master woodcarver.

Richie Clarke’s influences are mainly Celtic mythology, Irish folklore and fantasy literature (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

His influences are mainly Celtic mythology, Irish folklore and fantasy literature such as Tolkien, Robert Jordan, Patrick Rothfuss and George RR Martin.

‘Characters from Irish mythology and folklore offer me a wealth of amazing material to work with,’ he says. ‘The beauty of carving a mythological figure is that it comes with an enchanting story and a cultural aspect that people can connect with. Also, symbols such as “The Green Man” convey a message of the green energy of nature, rebirth and wisdom.’

‘Sadly, when a large tree has to be felled or topped for one reason or another, it is nice to be commissioned to carve it on site into what will be its next life so it will continue to live on in its new form. Whether it is hand carved signs, letter carving, tree spirits, gargoyles, druids, wizards or the Salmon of Knowledge, I will happily work with my clients to tailor a figure to their needs or location.’

He adds, ‘From small decorative indoor pieces to large log carvings or carved tree trunks and stumps, there is very little I cannot work with. I take pride in working with my clients to deliver a piece of art and a value for money and quality that is second to none.’

Evening lights at Howth Harbour on Friday afternoon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

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