Fingal Independent

| 6°C Dublin

Skerries artist brings his 'Embracing Seals' home


Some Skerries seals have taken a trip inland to take up residence at the entrance of the town's

'Floraville' community garden where they have been immortalised in stone by famed local artist, Paul D'Arcy.

Three huge seals hewn from Portuguese limestone now stand proudly at the entrance to the beautiful garden in what is the first permanent installation the Skerries artist has completed for his hometown.

Speaking to the Fingal Independent, Paul D'Arcy explained how he got involved in this unique project, saying: 'Well basically, I was asked by the Floraville committee would could I come up with something for the entrance to the garden.

'They basically gave me a free hand to come up with an idea and I came up with this seals idea and showed it to them and they liked it - after that it was a matter of logistics hot to get the thing done.'

The seals are deliberately a little over-sized, designed to fit into their place in Floraville and also to be an interactive community resources, allowing children to climb all over the sculpture if they feel the need to.

In fact, as we speak to Paul, he is reminding parents that they do not have to restrain their children's urges to climb on top of the installation and that in the case of this artwork, climbing is permitted.

'We were looking to make something interactive and as we speak, I'm looking at kids climbing all over it and that's what I wanted. The kids can't help themselves,' the Skerries artist said.

There are benches all around the sculpture to sit and watch the Skerries day pass and Paul says that his great hope for the art work is that it will become 'one of those signature sculptures for the town'.

The community's interaction with the piece is paramount both from the artist's point of view and the hard working committee of local volunteers behind the Floraville project and so far, the reaction has been incredibly positive.

That interaction between community and art work, art work and community will be captured in an ongoing photo archive of the piece and the locals and tourists that come to Floraville and enjoy it.

These extraordinary sculptures started out life as two massive lumps of Portuguese limestone, chosen for its light colour and because it comes from the sea and has the evidence of fossilised shells all over it to prove it.

Two of the seals were carefully carved from a 12 tonne piece of limestone while 'Mammy Seal' as Paul affectionately calls the third seal, was knocked out of a six-tonne block of the stone.

Facing the awesome challenge of turning these massive blocks of stone into the beautiful sculptures we can see today in Skerries, was a fiercely technical and painstaking job where there was absolutely no room for error.

The Skerries artist explained: 'It was six months work in total and an awful lot of chiselling. When you work with stone like this you can't make a mistake - you have to take your time and be very patient.

'Stone is a very unforgiving substance and you really can't afford to make any mistakes.'

The local artist said modestly, he is 'very pleased' with the end result and even more pleased to see the reaction of children to the piece. 'Two kids are climbing all over it right now, and that's how I judge its success,' he said.

Paul worked closely with Floraville architect Derek Byrne and the Floraville committee on the project as well as pulling in the help from dozens of local volunteers along the way, all of whom he thanked seriously.

For the local artist, this was a personal project and he is proud that finally he has a permanent art installation in his own home town.

'I've lived in Skerries for 20 years now and it was a great honour to be asked to do this in the first place and a great honour to have something of my work in my own home town.'

Last Thursday, when we spoke to the artist, he was putting the finishing touches to the piece, polishing it up and completing the cobblestone base that makes the seals look like they are sitting on a rocky beach.

'I wanted the finished piece to look like a sand sculpture sitting on the beach - that was what I was going for,' Paul explained.

If the initial reaction of the community is anything to go by, the Skerries seals are set to be a beloved piece of public art in the town for generations to come.

Everyone involved in the project deserves huge credit and it is all the more satisfying that the artist at the heart of the whole initiative is a local and will get to witness every day how his art is fitting in, influencing and even changing his community.

Paul was born in Dublin but spent his childhood in South Africa and Namibia. For the past 25 years, he has been working as a full-time artist and has travelled extensively throughout Europe, India, Australia and New Zealand.

U2 front-man, Bono can be named as one of the fans and collectors of the Skerries artist's work which sells all over the world.

The Skerries artist is primarily self-taught and has been painting since he was a child, later adding sculpture to his repertoire.

While primarily known for his paintings perhaps, Paul's sculptures are making their mark, The good people of Rush are already living with and enjoying one of his public sculptures and now his neighbours in Skerries will have the same opportunity.

The formal title for the sculpture now proudly sitting at the entrance to Floraville is 'Embracing Seals' and it looks as though the community of Skerries are more than ready to embrace the seals too.

Floraville itself is nearing completion with some more planting to be done and the hope that this wonderful little urban community garden will be finished this summer.

It already has become a focal point for the town and its people and will continue to be for a long time to come and the Floraville committee deserve huge credit for coming up with the concept and then making it a reality and finally, having the wisdom to invite a talented local artist to top it off with an these already iconic 'Embracing Seals'.