It is the aim of the Mayo County Council Arts office to make art accessible and inclusive to all, and to embrace the full spectrum of contemporary art forms. Here the Customs House in co-operation with Mayo County Council presents an outdoor exhibition of contemporary sculpture that encompasses a broad range of concepts, forms, thinking and meaning.
Located in a popular public amenity area the works are readily visible and will be encountered even by those who haven’t chosen to go to see them. There will be much broader range of engagement than with an indoor exhibition, more passing comment, more spontaneous reaction.
Already I have seen children see it as a treasure trail of curiosities, as they run around the exhibition in numerical order. I have also seen a Tidy Towns volunteer ponder with his litter stick at one piece. This piece will be obvious to you when you see it.
Childhood memories of art remain, and the litter picker is left pondering long after he has finished litter picking.
The exhibition is huge in its spectrum. It ranges from Eileen McDonagh’s monumental stone portal to the next world to the Emma Bourke’s tiny delicate glass herbal ‘Elixir’ that might save us from going there sooner than we should.
Maeve Curley’s beautifully crafted oyster shell lets the light shine out, just as we all shone lights of hope from our homes, our shells, during recent lockdowns. Paul Mosses ‘heap of rubbish’ is just that, but we find ourselves thinking about our precious planet.
And then, by delightful contrast Donnacha Cahill’s beautiful scuba diving hare is about ‘to go where no hare has gone before’. Lelia Ni Chathmhaoil and Aoife Casby combine sound and vision for a superb seaweed piece in the water while Andrew Folan’s Mayfly dances across the pond.
Our water, our marine life, our biodiversity are all again so precious to us. There is the huge physical presence of John Gibbon’s metal sculpture and Conleth Gent’s Timber skeletal forms created specifically for Westport Quay evoke the sea, and our history of emigration.
Vivian Hansbury’s tiny assemblage of thrown away materials appear to blow in the wind and Kathlyn O Brien’s oversized pillow is a place of rest, memory and reflection for us now and for those gone before us.
This is an exhibition worth visiting over and over again, worth reading about, and worth remembering.
Westport Belmullet Municipal District
Architect, Mayo County Council.