THE artist who created the Sea Form sculpture in Dingle has responded to what he describes as "negative" comments following the installation of the artwork at the town marina, insisting that it represents good value for money.
Killarney artist Joe Neeson was commissioned by Kerry County Council to make the sculpture under the Per Cent for Art scheme - a government funded programme whereby an additional fund of up to one per cent of the cost of a publicly-funded infrastructure or building can be applied for to commission original, site and context specific works of art.
The budget for the commission - inclusive of all materials, artists' fee, transport, insurance etc - was €48,500 and the piece sparked local debate with some people questioning if the money would have been better spent on local facilities and amenities. On the other hand, many have also expressed their support for the piece saying it is a very evocative piece of art that enhances the waterfront.
Some media outlets however unequivocally slammed the piece which was, in Joe's view, very "one-sided".
"There is a misconception that I have received a large sum of money in the design and production of this sculpture," he told The Kerryman. "The artists' fee received was actually very low in this case due to the expense of materials."
Joe added that, in terms of public art, the work represents "very good value for money".
"Having worked on several large-scale works, I understand the costs involved and much of the allocated budget for this commission has been put back into the economy in terms of material costs, laser cutting, electrical work, rent, transport, wages, VAT and so on," Joe said.
He added that he has worked very hard to maintain a career as an artist in Ireland. "At a time of economic recession the arts are the first to suffer and the last few years have been very difficult," he said. "I think that as a country we can be proud of the large diversity of artists who are helping to create and maintain a unique identity for Ireland, particularly when so many other professionals are 'jumping ship'."
When it comes to the question of what the piece of art is supposed to be, Joe was quick to state that it is not a "literal representation" of anything in particular but rather a "unique design" that came about while considering the history and geography of the Dingle area.
"I am glad that, in its design, it poses questions from the public and I find it interesting to hear what people think or see in it," he said. "With my work, I always try to leave something to the viewer's imagination. I feel that sometimes we don't give the public enough credit for their ideas and suggestions and quite often public reaction helps to create new ideas in my own work."