Top drawer youngsters show that the best art is child's play
THEY are the future Knuttels and Ballaghs.
A remarkable insight into the future of Irish art was unveiled yesterday as 21 young people received prizes for their works, which temporarily adorned the walls of one of the most prestigious galleries in the country.
There was much celebration in the Hugh Lane Gallery in Dublin as the winners of this year's Texaco Children's Art Competition were displayed in the 57th year of a contest which has been accurate in predicting the emergence of future talent.
Past winners of the competition have included Graham Knuttel, Robert Ballagh and fashion designer Paul Costello, as well as less likely art impressarios such as PR consultant Terry Prone, education minister Ruairi Quinn and ICTU general secretary David Begg.
Yesterday, Tipperary teenager Keith Blake was announced as the overall winner for his self-portrait entitled 'A Warm Place'.
The 18-year-old from Presentation National School in Ballingarry, Thurles, took about four days to complete the acrylic painting using mirrors and a picture of himself to get the skin tones right.
"I draw the whole time but it is difficult with school. I usually do portraiture and I really like drawing people," Keith said.
He expects to spend at least part of his €2,000 prize fund on college fees should he get into an art design course in the Limerick Institute of Technology after his Leaving Certificate.
He will also get the opportunity to travel to Japan, where his picture will be displayed in an international exhibition.
Deirdre Manny from Delvin, in Co Westmeath, came first in the special needs category for the second year in a row, for her work entitled 'Welsh Poppies'.
"I was on holidays, and in a garden I saw these poppies, so I took a picture of them and then in the summer I painted the picture," she said.
The 15-year-old from St Joseph's Secondary School in Rochfortbridge is currently undergoing tests to see if she is fit to go through an operation to tackle her epilepsy, which results in her getting a number of seizures every day.
Jingze Du, a 15-year-old from China, who now lives in Galway, came second in the category for 14 and 15-year-olds for a work entitled 'Night Light', which mixes the traditional with the modern by showing a lobster inside an iPad with one of its claws emerging.
His teachers, Kieran Dowling and Aileen Dunleavy, said they have never seen talent and passion like the young man has, who is intent on reaching the top of the art world.
Yesterday marked the 57th year of the competition, which has always been sponsored by Texaco, now owned by Chevron (Ireland), and attracted some 30,000 entries.
Professor Declan McGonagle, the director of the National College of Art and Design and chair of the judging panel, said the level of skill of the young artists is increasing every year.
"I think that is down to two situations, one is obviously the school situation, but clearly families are much more encouraging of young people spending time making art works of different types at home," he said.
Meanwhile, Dublin Lord Mayor Gerry Breen yesterday launched a public art programme in which artists are given an opportunity to interact with the city and its people through their work.