‘The Throne’, the infamous 20-feet tall stainless steel barstool that’s been proposed for Grattan Quay, has got a lot of people taking about public art in Waterford this past week.
But irrespective on what one makes of a Gulliver-sized seat with bottles crowning it potentially welcoming visitors to our city, the discussion it has catalysed cannot be viewed as a bad thing. It proves that art matters – and not just to the artists.
Art is viewed by some as the sole domain of latte sipping intellectuals who like to throw big works like existentialism into conversation. In reality, of course, it’s nothing of the sort.
Waterford and its environs is teeming with artistry, for the very definition of art itself throws up a multitude of options when throwing the door open for debate.
The performance art delivered in Fraher Field last Wednesday night just so happened to transpire on a lush hurling surface, where Waterford and Tipperary’s Under-21s played out a classic.
At its best, the grace and skill produced by a hurler is difficult to surpass in any discipline which embraces athleticism at its core; that the game’s greatest talents are known as ‘stylists’ says it all.
The co-ordination of hand and eye, the combination of brains and brawn and the motivation of jersey and birthplace can produce an irresistible mix. It did that and more last week.
The magnificent jungle creatures created in the Spraoi workshop which recently adorned the city streets for the annual parade were the end product of many voluntary hours of creative effort.
And the people of the region clearly appreciate the effort in equal measure to the end product, as the fantastic crowd which lined the parade route so aptly demonstrated.
Brian Flynn’s ‘Michael Collins’, which has been so well-received in Cork and Dublin, returns to the Opera House on Leeside this weekend for three performances only.
Fusing history with song and movement, Flynn’s show has, to quote one reviewer “blown audiences away”.
Taking one of Ireland’s most famous figures and setting the story of his life to music, with music itself such an intrinsic part of our national DNA, has proven a wonderful success for one of our own.
The production’s success is something that many in Waterford take great pride in, a pride similar to what we reserved for the late Anna Manahan and Larry Fanning.
There’s not a great deal of public art in Waterford, which is regrettable. But what we have and what we may yet have has regularly got the public talking about art and what we feel it ought to symbolise and represent.
As a maritime city, we ought to have a vivid, permanent representation of our past on the riverside, something we could boastfully show off on travel brochures.
An illuminated Viking longship would, one imagines, be a work which no-one could find contentious.
The Tall Ships Race has visited us once and will soon come again, so surely a spectacular floating monument would appropriately commemorate the fleet’s trip up the Estuary.
Ironically, while ‘The Throne’ itself hasn’t met with universal welcome from an aesthetic perspective, Diageo, who have put up most of the money for the piece, did the Quayside a wonderful service three years ago.
The former Cherrys Brewery was replaced by the most spectacular such facility on this island, a sleek, steel clad edifice which can’t have come cheap and suggests its owners are here for the long haul.
By some distance the most impressive new building in the city, it so impressed Iarnród Éireann that they considered a similar design for the revamped Plunkett station directly opposite it. Alas, the recession means we may never see the brewery’s ‘twin’ across the Suir.
While the tone of the debate may have upset some involved in the selection of ‘The Throne’, they should be heartened that the proposal has got people talking about art in Waterford.
One of art’s primary functions is to create discussion and my goodness; it has more than lived up to that billing since Monday week last.
Said Edgar Degas: “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”
If that is the case, then Denis O’Connor’s work has got our minds fixed on a lot more than just a plot of concrete on Grattan Quay. Thus, before a veil has been dropped, the artist has succeeded, whether we like the end product or not.