Connemara mountains to blaze

Going Out

INTO THE LIGHT Finish light artist Kari Kola.

Ciara Moynihan

As part of Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture, Finnish man Kari Kola will set the Connemara mountains alight. Before you ring the guards thinking we have a fire starter on our hands, Kola is an acclaimed light artist, not an arsonist.
Using the Connemara mountains’ extraordinary beauty as a stunning backdrop, he will create a truly enormous illuminated artwork – 5km in size. So big will the installation be that the artist says the light emitting from the installation will be seen from 50 kilometres away.
The work, entitled ‘Savage Beauty’, will glow in the mountains from March 14 to 17, coinciding with St Patrick’s Day. It will be installed on the mountain of Ceann Garbh, overlooking Loch na Fuaiche (Loch Na Fooey) on the Galway-Mayo border.
Galway 2020’s theme is landscape, and it was this that prompted Kola to brings the newest light technology to the ancient region, to cover the mountain range in a display what has been called ‘technical virtuosity’.
Kari Kola has previously directed over 2,000 projects in dramatic settings, including Villa de Laak in The Netherlands, the Saana Mountain in Finland (sacred to Finland’s indigenous Sámi people) and the Stonehenge UNESCO World Heritage site in England.
“Since I can’t paint, I paint with light,” the artist explains. “I’m also interested in light beyond its artistic value. Everything on the planet is based on light. I’m working with scientific projects and new, futuristic techniques.
“With abstract light, there are as many stories as there are viewers. If I can choose, I always work with nature because that’s the best art that we have. We will play with scale in Connemara. The light from the installation will be seen from 50 kilometres away, at least. This is out of the normal scale; people won’t expect it.”
Though Kola’s tools are specific, the context varies widely, from dance and classical music to exhibitions and festivals. In light, he sees unlimited possibilities.
He often uses his work to address issues of climate change and preservation. He sees his work as a literal and metaphorical spotlight, placing emphasis on the subjects that matter to him. With ‘Savage Beauty’, he will highlight Connemara’s landscape, celebrating the beauty of the area.
The ambitious Galway 2020 programme takes place in the city of Galway and all over the county. In recognition of Ireland’s historic traditions, the programme is based around the four fire seasons of Ireland’s ancient Celtic calendar – Imbolc, Bealtaine, Lughnasa and Samhain. Kari Koli’s piece, part of the Imbolc seasonal events, is certainly a good fit, with its glowing presence a reminder of fire – without risking the habitat destruction that blazes in the hills would normally carry.

Mayo visitors
For Mayo residents wishing to feast their eyes on Kari Kola’s light installation, Galway 2020 has laid on park-and-ride facilities from the border village of Leenane, as well as from Tourmakeady.  
Tickets for park-and-ride transportation include parking at Tourmakeady and Leenane, event shuttle and admission to the Savage Beauty viewing area at Loch Na Fuaiche – a self-guided walking tour along the L1601 (6.5km long for Tourmakeady, 5km long for Leenane).
Would-be visitors should note that there is no access by private car, and pre-booking essential. The last return to the park-and-ride is at 11pm from the drop-off point. For wheelchair bookings, email

For more information, and for park-and-ride tickets, visit