Public sculptor’s personal concerns

Return from the Horse Latitudes is a solo exhibition by sculptor, Don Cronin, in Triskel Christchurch, Cork.

Cronin is a graduate of CIT Crawford College of Art and Design, who punctuated his study with a degree in philosophy from UCC.

Preparing for his Crawford graduate show in 1994, he was commissioned to make a large-scale public work. Michael Mortell, then president of UCC, was perusing Cronin’s exhibit and asked him to reproduce one of his small, figurative sketch pieces for a large bronze for the grounds of the university.

This early accolade, and the ‘one per cent for public art’ scheme gave Cronin a foundation. “The public-art thing was the way to make a living,” says Cronin. “It was very difficult to do so, making gallery-scale work. The whole ‘per cent for art thing’ was in its infancy when I came out of college. It was a fantastic opportunity for artists. I reckon it sustained a whole body of artists who otherwise would have gone abroad.”

Cronin’s well-known public sculptures include ‘Gyrators’, on the Midleton roundabout, ‘Hybirds’, in Clonmel, ‘Panels’, which are incorporated into an Owen O’Callaghan building on Half Moon Street/Paul Street junction, and ‘Bull’, on the outskirts of Macroom. For the last year, Cronin has been working on ‘Return from the Horse Latitudes’.

These highly finished, abstract sculptures exude a classical beauty. Materials are paramount, and the relationships between the components are intriguing. The work is created intuitively, with no preparatory sketch-work. “It’s a fairly sporadic thing. I didn’t draw at all for this work — because, with this work, I invented as I went. To put this stuff down on paper, first, wouldn’t work, because it would completely limit it. You really need to lay things on top of each other to see how the composition’s going.”

Cronin invited fellow sculptor, Michael Quane, to open the show. In his speech, Quane highlighted the conundrum for sculptors. “Your credibility is almost inversely proportional to your level of craftsmanship,” says Cronin. “So, if you’re seen to show too much interest in craftsmanship, it almost undermines your credibility in terms of content. That’s something that I’m conscious of, but you can’t make this kind of work loosely. If it isn’t bang on, if every line isn’t sharp, if it isn’t resolved — it’s a failure. It just looks badly made. It has to look crisp and sharp.”

Cronin does not want to explain his work to the viewer. “I never understood poetry until I left school,” he says. “I never appreciated it, because poetry, when you’re studying, is all about explaining it. You pick up none of the magic. You are never handed a piece of poetry and told — ‘look, read that and try and let it provoke an emotion in you’. It’s all about analysing the thing and reading the notes. That’s not what poetry is about and sculpture is the same.”

*Runs until Sunday, Apr 28


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