Follow the currachs around Inis Oirr

Follow the currachs around Inis Oirr

The currach by acclaimed sculptor John Behan. Photograph by Cormac Coyne

There is great excitement on the island of Inis Oirr this week ahead of the launch of an open air exhibition of 21 currachs by artists from all along the western seaboard to celebrate the 21st birthday of the island’s arts centre.

Each of the six foot currach creations, fabricated in metal and covered in canvas, are on display at Áras Éanna and at a strategic locations around the island for an outdoor exhibition called ‘Curacha’ which is fully compliant with coronavirus guidelines.

The Artistic Director of Áras Éanna, Dara McGee, came up with the idea of asking 21 artists from Kerry to Donegal, and across to Armagh, to paint a currach each as part of the arts centre’s birthday celebrations.

The currachs, seen as a symbol of the Aran Islands, have been hand painted by a wide variety of artists, from some of the best-known visual artists in Ireland to exciting emerging talents and people who live in small coastal communities or offshore Gaeltacht islands.

Twenty one artists have now completed their canvas currachs for what promises to be an amazing outdoor exhibition, which follows a trail all around the beautiful island. The exhibition launches on Saturday at 1pm and runs until Sunday, September 12.

Established artists including John Behan, Tom Meskell, and Mick O’Dea are taking part in the ‘Curacha’ exhibition, alongside Inis Oirr resident Pat Quinn, an emerging young artist from Co Armagh called Daniel Coleman, and Kathleen Furey, whose currach depicts a Harry Clarke stained glass window painting of St Gobnait from the Honan Chapel in Co Cork.

Kathleen’s currach is on view in the Inis Oirr Church.

Oringinally from Pakistan, Sadia Shoaib – who is living in Direct Provision in Co Mayo – researched the Aran Islands for her piece which is in a spiritual Mandala style.

“We had to do something outdoors because of Covid19, so I was wondering what we could do. I was thinking that currachs are made of timber and canvas covered in tar. Straight away it hit me that canvas is one of the materials that has been used by artists for painting on. I thought it would be amazing to make these currachs, cover them in canvas, and then distribute them to the artists,” says Dara McGee, Artistic Director of Áras Éanna Ionad Ealaíne.

“I am very excited about this exhibition. Once the idea went out to the artists, the artists were so responsive and so positive about it. It’s been really, really amazing to see the finished currachs land on Inis Oirr. I can’t thank the artists enough for their enthusiasm and how they see this as a wonderful idea, to display their work as a collective in the open air on the beautiful island of Inis Oirr.”

Each currach reflects the artist’s own personality and style. The artists were given free rein to paint or decorate the canvas currachs in whatever way they liked and the result is a stunning collection of unique artworks.

Visitors to Inis Oirr over the coming weeks can follow a trail to check out the 21 distinctive pieces of art which have been placed strategically around the island. Brochures with information about he exhibiton are widely available on the island.

The artists taking part are Dolores Lyne, Alannah Robins, Naoise Sheridan, Aine Phillips, Sean O Flaithearta (from the Aran Islands), Margot Quinn, Pat Quinn, Ger Sweeney, Mick O’Dea, Kathleen Furey, Jennifer Cunningham, Tim Acheson, Dara McGee, Breda Burns, John Behan RHA, Sadia Shoaib, Daniel Coleman, Tom Meskell, Seán Cathal O Coileán, Jay Murphy, Cathal McGinley, and Deirde McKenna.


Artist Jay Murphy with her currach. Photograph by Rynes Walker.


Kathleen Furey with her currach. Photograph by Rynes Walker.