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Monday 22 January 2018

Sculpture of tracksuit-clad rider is mane attraction

Local woman and model for the sculpture Toni Marie Shields with the five-metre high bronze creation
Local woman and model for the sculpture Toni Marie Shields with the five-metre high bronze creation

Jason O'Brien

IT'S another statue of an icon on horseback, but, for once, it's not a king or a czar or a leading military man that features.

Ballymun in Dublin has always been a little different.

"I know this thing of a girl riding bareback on a horse ... for some people it's like kids hanging around outside a shop -- they feel threatened by it," leading artist John Byrne told the Irish Independent yesterday.

"But there's nothing wrong with horses, there's nothing wrong with young people, there's nothing wrong with tracksuits -- yet combine them all together and bingo! But I think it's because we stand so close to it that we have these prejudices."

His work, 'Misneach', which means 'courage' as Gaeilge, was unveiled in the Dublin suburb yesterday. The five-metre high sculpture of a tracksuit-clad young Dublin girl, bareback on a majestic military stallion and cast in bronze, is, he says, a celebration of youth, the possibilities for ordinary people to achieve the extraordinary, and the tradition of bareback horse riding in Dublin.

The work -- commissioned as part of the Ballymun Regeneration Project -- has taken four years to create.

A local girl -- Toni Marie Shields -- underwent laser scanning in London as part of the project, and a computer-generated mould of wax was made before the statue was created.

"She has strong features and looked very relaxed up on the horse and is a great horse woman," the artist said of the young girl, who came through an audition of 20 others to be the model.

Ms Shields, now 20, was reluctant to talk yesterday but maintained that, although she modelled for it, the statue was not of her, rather it was for all the young people of the area.

The erection of the sculpture has been delayed because of building work in the area and it has been temporarily installed in Trinity Comprehensive Secondary School.

Irish Independent

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