Earlier this summer I was invited to participate in the Curacha Exhibition – 21 currachs painted by 21 artists in celebration of the 21st Birthday of Áras Éanna, Europe’s most westerly Art Centre based on the smallest of the Aran Islands, Inis Oírr.
While researching artists who had visited Aran and Inis Oírr in particular, I learned that Harry Clarke had spent six summers on the island, honeymooned there with his wife, the artist Margaret Crilly, and that he felt a strong attachment to the landscape and people of Inis Oírr. He visited the island with Sean Keating whose painting ‘Thinking out Gobnet’ depicts Harry Clarke sitting among church ruins on the island. A theory is that he was inspired by the story of St Gobnait and her association with Inis Oírr, as around this time he submitted designs for a stained glass window depicting St Gobnait for the Honan Chapel in Cork.
My work for the project takes Harry Clarke’s stained glass image of St Gobnait and places it on the currach, returning her to the island which inspired the work. The saint is the patron saint of beekeeping and the original image shows her surrounded by bees and warding off the plague which seems relevant today. The currach also depicts marine images which were a favourite motif in Harry Clarke’s work.