By Ciaran Tierney
One of the wonderful hand-painted currachs which captivated visitors to Inis Oirr during Aras Eanna’s 21st birthday celebrations last year is on its way to Cork for a very special Culture Night celebration.
Kathleen’s tribute to Harry Clarke’s image of St Gobnait was on display in the island’s church throughout the summer of 2021 and now it’s on its way to Baile Bhúirne, another place is very much associated with the famed stained glass artist.
Many people in Galway City would also have seen the currach on display inside Galway Cathedral when the entire ‘Curacha’ exhibition moved to the grounds of NUI Galway last September.
It seems like wonderful synchronicity that Kathleen’s currach will now be on display in the church where she took her inspiration from for our ‘Curacha’ exhibition last year.
“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,” says Kathleen.
“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, as around this time he submitted designs for a stained glass window depicting St Gobnait for the Honan Chapel in Cork.”
By reproducing Clarke’s stained glass image so expertly on her currach, Kathleen at once paid homage to Clarke, Inis Oirr, and St Gobnait, the patron saint of beekeepers, who also has a strong connection with both places.
Clarke’s original image depicted St Gobnait surrounded by bees and warding off the plague, which seemed hugely appropriate to Kathleen for an outdoor exhibition which was staged in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.
She believes Inis Oirr inspired Clarke’s stained glass window and is now thrilled to bring her currach to Ballyvourney, the place where St Gobnait settled and established her religious community.
Kathleen Furey is a native of Galway and a founder member of Artspace Studios. She loves to interpret old stories and histories.