Newsview: Events in the design world this week

Rose Martin reports on the winner of the of the 2017 Hennessy Portrait Prize at the National Gallery of Ireland and more...    
Newsview: Events in the design world this week

IF you remember a while back on this column we discussed the shortlist for the National Gallery’s 2017 Hennessy Portrait Prize?

Well, it was won this week by Jack Hickey, a Crawford College of Art and Design graduate who received a very nice bursary of €15,000 for his work entitled ‘My Time’ at a reception to mark the event last Tuesday evening in the Grand Gallery of the National Gallery of Ireland.

Jack is now commissioned to produced another portrait for inclusion in the National collection, as part of the prize and this will not only net him a €5,000 fee, but guarantees him a slot on the walls of that august institution.

The Hennessy Award is a decent prize and is really supportive of emerging artists, especially those in the area of portraiture, so it’s quite sad that the company which has strong ties to Ireland, Moet Hennessy, will move its support elsewhere in the arts world, from next year.

At just 29, Jack Hickey is only starting out in his career but winning this prize over a crowded field of 24 in the shortlist alone, should offer substantial support in financial terms and also in career terms by providing a profile in the highly competitive and poorly resourced arts world.

Speaking about his winning portrait, ‘My Time’, he said: “The open space in the work represents the distance between individuals, the unsaid and the unrequited.

“It is an example of the void inherent in a modern, socially-fractured world, where true human contact has become elusive, almost impossible.

“They strive to show the hole at the centre, the empty room within, the point where unease begins.”

There were two highly commended works in the final assessment by the judges, (James Hanley, Niamh MacNally, Patrick T Murphy and Dr Yvonne Scott) — David Hamilton, for his portrait ‘Cormac’ (acrylic on canvas, 43x32cm), and Myra Jago, for her portrait ‘Reflection’ (oil on gesso panel, 40x30cm).

All of the artists on the shortlist will have their work exhibited in the National Gallery until February 25 along with that of the winner and the highly commended works, and admission is free — so why not try to take it in over the holidays or in early spring? The portraits range across a broad spectrum of subjects and techniques.

Open to Irish artists living in Ireland or resident overseas, the portrait prize is now without a sponsor to encourage interest in contemporary portraiture. Director, Sean Rainbird is upbeat, however:

“The National Gallery of Ireland, with the support of Hennessy, has been delighted to establish a portrait prize.

“We look forward to unveiling the winner’s commissioned portrait early next year and we eagerly anticipate the portrait prize continuing next year with a new partner. I would like to thank Hennessy for their commitment over the last four years.”

There were quite a few negative responses to this week’s decision to award the Royal Institute of British Architects’ House of the Year Award to the mega-mansion, Caring Wood, in Kent, which was watched by millions over a number of weeks on Channel 4, as the list of entrants was whittle down week by week as part of a programmed headed up by Kevin McCloud, with the help of three other professional commentators/ designers/architects.

The modern castle in Kent had been touted around design sites for over a year or more since it’s completion, so while it may look odd and ungainly now, those four protruding fingers of red soften with familiarity.

And it looks remarkably like a collection of oast houses, a vernacular barn-type peppered all over the Garden of England and used for drying grain, (the chimney shape draws moisture up and out of through a vent at the top, which is powered by a windmill cap).

It was revealed as a multi-generational house and commissioned as such by the owners with their children and grandchildren in mind.

This pivotal point, acted as a get-out-of-jail-card for the RIBA judges and allowed them to pick the massive, 15,000s square foot house, (with internal swimming pool and concert hall/ gallery) while defending charges of being elitist for picking a 1,400 square metre house from a range of new house types.

Mind you, when you consider that the shortlist was a series of one-off builds in some of the most expensive areas of Britain, then the entire category could be regarded as elitist anyway, making it a perfect target for keyboard warriors.

However, this soaring, square fortress on a prominent site is highly innovative, not only in the materials used, (staying well away from ubiquitous zinc and cedar and using only local materials), but in form and in its adoption of a regional building type so dramatically different to the usual McMansions — it’s a very Brexit build indeed.

There’s local red clay in the roof tiles, coppiced chestnut shingles to cover the soaring ‘chimneys’ and other vertical elements, while the base is dressed in locally-quarried, ragstone.

Designed by James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell, and despite its 15,000 square feet of living space, it’s cited as an innovative way in which to approach the housing crisis — a way in which to incorporate shared living space into a multi-generational build. It takes a village and all that...

Rising and falling to meet the contours of its site, (which has to be one of the best and most attractive features of this modern fortress), the Caring Wood house was designed as a square initially, to which independent modules were attached at each corner and then twisted and manipulated to meet the site and the criteria of its commissioners.

The final design has created a quirky, ugly/beautiful build that’s monumental on one level and domestic on the other — a palace, certainly, but one which the judges felt could be mapped onto other housing models. (Yeh, right.)

Caring Wood won the RIBA South East Award 2017; RIBA South East Sustainability Award 2017, the RIBA National Award 2017 and RIBA House of the Year 2017 and it’s carbon neutral too.

Take a look on

  • The Cork Food Policy Council (CFPC) is a bit of a mouthful and explaining what they do, can be a bit convoluted too, but put simply, they are a cross-platform organisation emanating from City Hall dedicated to: “encourage, healthy, sustainable food practices — be they a business, educational institution or not-for-profit organisation.”

To that end they run the “Food Policy Sustainable Food Awards” for which they are now seeking final candidates before the awards are made on January, 9.

‘The award scheme will recognise those who support the important position and value that food has within the city and county, acknowledging that food has the capacity to improve our health, strengthen communities, and make the local economy and ecological systems more resilient,” says Dr Colin Sage, Chair of the CFPC.

The Cork Food Policy Council is the first of its kind in Ireland and one of the first in Europe, it says, and represents a partnership between community interests, food retailing, farming, fishing, restaurant/catering, food markets, education, environmental and health agencies and local authorities.

Its aim is to get everyone within the food industry and related areas to combine their knowledge and work towards a fairer, healthier and more sustainable food system for all in Cork. No pressure, then.

The award includes a cash prize of €500 sponsored by SuperValu and for more info go to:; Twitter @CorkFoodPolicy and Facebook @CorkFood.

Copper Coast Woodcrafts will showcase its wooden, TIE Fighters, this Christmas at Gartar Lane Theatre in Waterford, along with a range of well-priced, hand-crafted goods that are ideal for presents.

Another great away-day shopping idea, medieval Waterford city is atmospheric and contained, with a number of craft industries locally. The 34th annual Waterford Crafts Fair at Garter Lane runs until December 23.

On the way, stop off at Ardmore, for I Am of Ireland’s Christmas Fair, running from December 1 — this superb online site, which retails quality goods from crafters and artists in the region and from all over Ireland, has its shop open from 10am to 6pm.

It’s advised to check out the website for times.

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