Fiacha Dhubha Fhionglaise ar Foluain
The Finglas Raven Soars;
Visual Artist: Sara Cunningham-Bell
Commissioner: Dublin City Council, supported by Hugh Lane Gallery and Visual Artists Ireland, delivered with Sculpture Dublin.
Unveiled by: The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Alison Gilliland, 8th November 2021
Media: CorTen Steel and mirror polished stainless with luminescent pathway.
Sculpture site: Kildonan Park, Finglas, Dublin
Photography and Videography: Jacob Cunningham-Bell, @jacobcunninghambell
The core sculptural form comprises two steel, 7 metre tall figures with celebratory arms raised up, holding high a ‘river rug’, reflective and threaded through with symbols and signs of Finglas life. Inspired by Fionnghlas (or clear streamlet), an undulating wave of polished steel courses up over present-day Finglas, Dublin, drawing the eye and mind skyward, into the sphere of hopes and dreams. It stands rising on a flat, 20-acre Kildonan Park land.
Sara was inspired by stories of the Finglas skies; of Ireland’s first commercial airport and Sophie Pierce-Healy, a celebrated aviatrix of the 1920s flying her plane ‘The Silver Lining’ at Kildonan Areodrome, how she won the campaign against women banned from flying and pioneered women sport at Olympic level. Sara was inspired by stories of the Finglas land; of early Christian monastic settlements; a ninth century high cross re-erected in 1816 having been buried for safe-keeping in the Cromwellian invasion; excavations of a Viking burial site containing the 1,100-year-old remains of a woman and various grave goods, including an exquisite Scandinavian brooch. The Norse black raven, from the crest that symbolises the area, is referenced in the sculpture’s title, a collaboration with the poet Rachael Hegarty, an influence from her poem ‘Flight Paths over Finglas’.
Sara has also been motivated by the streets, playing fields and homes of Finglas; the kitchen table where local artist, Una Watters designed ‘Claíomh Solais’ to mark the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising, along with scenes from Cappagh Road and the surrounding area. Alongside the pioneering vision of Eliza Wollstonecraft Bishop in promoting education for girls. The wealth of work and achievements of local writers such as Paula Meehan, and sporting heroes, too many to mention.
Mostly though, Sara is inspired by the ordinary people of Finglas; the invisible work of wives and mothers that is the backbone of family life. The selfless campaigning of community activists wanting to make a difference and brighten the lives of those around them. The everyday work of many, many anonymous individuals that makes up the life of a community and a place. The people who spoke to Sara over the past year gave her the insight and understanding needed to create an artwork that it genuinely responsive, ambitious, and powerfully symbolic. They are all present in the sculpture; in its idealism and imaginative scope and in the symbolism of the details and motifs engraved and woven through its form.
Inspiring local voices include:
Ann Ni Anglais, Deirdre Ní Cheallaigh, Bernie Hughes, Mary McDermott, Anne Cully, Linda Emmett, Sheila Smith, Monica Tuite, Mary Morrissy, Annie Jane Freeman, Destiny Freeman, Charlie Hope Cregan, Sophie O’Hare, Lacey Fogarty, Shannon Brennan Doyle, Katelyn Gannon, Jenny Doyle, Rosaleen Davis, Sandra Dillon, Claire Behan, Niamh Barry and family of Kevin Barry, Elayne Adamczyk Harrington, Rachael Hegarty, Paula Meehan, Karen Hughes, Rachel Kelly, Ciara Keegan, Jennifer Dunne, Anna Doran Maggie Brennan, Josie Chaney, Sandra Williams, Paula O’Brien, Teresa Hudson, Diarmuid Mac Dubhghlais, Mick McCullagh, Keith Connolly, Des Duffy, Karl Brennan Doyle, Martin Collins, Eric Wearen, Paul McMahon, John Fox, Martin Reilly, Liam O’Ceallaigh, Larry Yourell, James O’Donnell, Harry Fleming, Kevin Smullen, Garry McCarthy, Anthony Connaghan, Joe Hughes, Ernest Beggs, Joe Lynch, George Brennan, Joseph Brennan, Tommy Chaney, Jamie Cregan, David J. Clifford, Lil Red (Sean Hughes), Kevin Smullen, Paul G. Sweeney,
The Forever Young Choir, Ní Anglais Irish Dancers, Fionn Ó hAlmhain. Finglas Historical Society, GMCBeats Music, CDETB Finglas Adult Education Service, Coláiste Eoin.
Special thanks to:
Ann Ni Anglais, Deirdre Ní Cheallaigh, Bernie Hughes, Mary McDermott, Elayne Adamczyk Harrington, Rachael Hegarty, Paula Meehan, Diarmuid Mac Dubhghlais, and Mick McCullagh.