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Standing sentinel on the island

Going Out

ON SHOW Achill-based sculptor Ronan Halpin’s work features alongside landscape painting by his wife, Amanda MacMahon.

Ronan Halpin Gallery celebrates 20 years on Achill

Ciara Moynihan

Achill-based sculptor Ronan Halpin has reopened his gallery at his home on the island for the new season.  The Ronan Halpin Gallery is discreetly tucked away on the side of a hill outside the village of Keel, surrounded by trees.
Nature inspires, and this gallery couldn’t be better located for its owners, with its spectacular views out across the sea to Clare Island, and the Bills Rocks on the distant horizon. Inside, the visitor will find sculptural work by Ronan, as well as some of his furniture and lighting, and the landscape paintings of his wife, Amanda MacMahon, which are mainly oil on paper or canvas.
Many are familiar with Halpin’s large-scale work, an example of which can be found at the bottom of Peter Street in Westport. The magnificent six-metre-tall bronze-and-stainless-steel sculpture, named ‘Sentinel’, depicts a ‘spirit horse and rider’. Both angel and guardian, it points the way to Croagh Patrick for pilgrims while protecting the townspeople. It was commissioned by the town to celebrate being named The Best Place to Live in Ireland by The Irish Times.

Majestic and mythic
In 1998, Ronan Halpin and Amanda moved to live on the island from Drogheda. Ronan had spent his childhood summers on Achill, where his parents first met in 1947.  
Twenty years on, Ronan walks the beach at Keel every morning for an hour before heading to his studio, head cleared. Once inside, he wrestles with his medium of choice: metal – bending it to his will, manipulating it to do his bidding. Steel, brass and copper are cut, hammered, welded, gouged and polished. It’s hard work.
But from this toil emerge fantastical creations and creatures. Birds, beasts, boats all feature. A long-legged, winged horse cranes its neck skyward; a majestic bull lowers its head to do epic battle; a keen-eyed kite slices the air in two; an old Irish goat stands regal, its horns a crown of flashing bronze. His work is, he says, evocative of the ‘mystery and mythology of dreams’.
“The images are drawn from both imagination and history,” Ronan explains. “There are references to archaeology and to religion. The work reflects a personal struggle, a struggle that has been ongoing for many years; an attempt to reconcile a personal mythology and a religiosity which was bred in the bone.”
Halpin’s most recent solo exhibition, ‘Of Birds and Beasts’, grew out of an outdoor exhibition he held in Carrowholly, Westport, in 2012, and later shown in the Solomon Gallery in Dublin. The artist also exhibits in group shows, most recently, ‘Capturing Granuaile’ – a themed group exhibition that ran in Westport Town Hall Theatre during June.  

The Ronan Halpin Gallery is open every day from 11am to 5pm daily, until September. For more information, visit www.ronanhalpin.com.

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