Gwen Wilkinson’s ‘dark horse’

ON THE FRONT PAGE of The Irish Times dated 16 May 2017, there was a very large and arresting photograph of Fine Gael leadership contender Leo Varadkar facing straight out to camera with a rather smug grin on his face as he stood beside a sculpture of a dark horse. Get it? Leo certainly did as the photo was taken by a government agency which managed to place the same image in the Irish Independent of the same day.

So that’s the political angle but where did the Dark Horse come from? It turns out that the work had been commissioned separately from Gwen Wilkinson, the Borris, County Carlow-based sculptor who is one of the few sculptors in Ireland (and probably the only female one) who specialises in wire mesh sculpture. Most of her creations are of animals – dogs, horses, sheep, foxes, even monkeys – all constructed with an outside setting in mind. Apparently she begins each piece by welding an armature using steel rods. This frame is then fleshed out with small sections of wire mesh and finally a skin of stretched wire is applied over the entire piece. Completed pieces are then galvanised, ‘hot dipped’ in zinc to prevent corrosion, followed by painting to ensure longevity during exposure to the elements. Most of her pieces are spray painted in silver grey or dark red. Obviously the dark horse entitled He Set Me Dreaming, is painted in brown.

But Gwen is also into photography and works with a variety of photographic techniques ranging from historic analogue methods such as wet plate collodion, albumen and cyanotype printing to advanced digital composites.

Obviously there is a lot more going on in the village of Borris these days than the annual Borris Festival of Writing and Ideas which this year runs from 9 – 11 June. Gwen exhibits regularly at local galleries and festivals in Wexford, Kilkenny and Carlow but draws many orders online from overseas customers.  JM

Image: Gwen Wilkinson’s He set me dreaming

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