What a stroke of luck for Darren Sutton whose evocative impression of the Sea God, Manannán Mac Lir, was wrenched from its perch near Limavaddy, overlooking Lough Foyle just after Christmas. The good luck is that Manannán had been fabricated in fibre glass rather than bronze and is thus replaceable at no great cost. Meanwhile the story of the stolen Sea God has gone ‘viral’ round the world and Sutton, who was formerly best known for his imaginative creations for the Games of Thrones TV series, has become a household name in the North.
Lest anyone be left in any doubt about the motivation for this act of iconoclasm, the vandals left behind a hint that even Sherlock Holmes could not fail to apprehend. It read quite simply ‘You shall have no other Gods before me’.
As every schoolboy knows, Manannán Mac Lir has strong affiliations with Tír na nÓg and the Tuatha Dé Danann in Celtic mythology. But the surprise is that while our mythology is well recorded in literature, it is rather poorly represented in the visual arts. Art with an ideological connection is even more out of fashion – except, of course, for the most obvious example. The Cross as represented in perhaps millions of art works, is the most enduring ideological brand image in history and the destruction of the mountain-top Kerry cross in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo massacre came as no surprise.
vandals left behind a hint that even Sherlock Holmes could not fail to apprehend. It read quite simply ‘You shall have no other Gods before me’
Most of the larceny of public sculpture in recent years seems to have been executed by ‘common’ criminals interested in the value of the bronze involved. The first was Willie Malone’s, twelve-foot high bronze Hitchhiker stolen from its site on the M7 motorway near Monasterevin in March 2011. In the same month, Ann Meldon Hughe’s bronze figure wrapped around a steel core called Motte Grainne Og was taken from its perch on the M6 Kilbeggan/ Athlone interchange. Happily this work was insured and it has since been replaced. The third was Louth-based Sandra Bell’s Eternity which weighed almost a ton and was presumably melted down for the bronze value. After these loses, commissions for public sculpture began to favour stone, wood or, as in Sutton’s case, fibreglass. JM