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Una soars with Finglas ravens

Another reason to celebrate Una Watters’ birthday month, is a new sculpture to be launched in Kildonan Park, Finglas, this week that pays homage to Una’s work

The Bridge: Finglas Ravens Soar, is a seven-metre-tall steel sculpture by Sara Cunningham-Bell, commissioned by Dublin City Council/Sculpture Dublin, for the 20-acre public park comprising two figures with arms raised holding high a mirrored steel ‘river rug’.

The sculpture is a compendium piece, threaded through with symbols and motifs reflecting the artistic and cultural life of the locality – including the figures of running schoolboys from Una Watters’ seminal painting, Cappagh Road, and representations of An Claidheamh Soluis (Sword of Light), the symbol she designed to mark the 50th anniversary of the Easter Rising in 1966 – see elsewhere on this site.

Coincidentally, the sculpture was installed on November 4, Una’s 103th birthday.

Inspired by the Irish translation of Finglas – ‘Fionnghlas’ (clear streamlet) – the sculpture draws on other influential figures associated with the area, such as Sophie Pierce-Healy, an aviatrix who flew her plane, “The Silver Lining”, from Kildonan Aerodrome, Ireland’s first commercial airport in the 1920s, along with celebrated uileann piper Séamus Ennis.

The Kildonan Park work was a ‘participative’ commission. Over the past year, hundreds of local residents have engaged with Sculpture Dublin by taking part in over 40 creative workshops, focus groups, public meetings and other engagement activities related to the installation.

The Bridge: Fiacha Dhubha Fhionglaise ar Foluain’ will have a public launch on site at Kildonan Park on Saturday, November 13, at 2pm.

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Una inspires!

Una Watters will be commemorated in her native Finglas by a sculpture commissioned by Dublin City Council in association with Sculpture Dublin. https://www.sculpturedublin.ie/news-events/ The piece, a six-metre corten steel figure, will be placed in Kildonan Park in Finglas West, and the artist who won the commission, Belfast-born Sara Cunningham Bell, has already been in consultation with local people who suggested Una as one of the inspirations for the piece.

“She (Una) carries the importance of others with her in the sculpture form,” Sara has said. 

Sara’s sculptural creations are “figurative in form and documentary in approach”.

“The idea for the artwork has been informed by listening to, and learning from the people of Finglas. It is driven by a desire to produce a significant sculptural form, that can be interacted with, and enjoyed as a feature of the park, which represents a positive and uplifting presence in the locality.”

Una was born, raised and lived all of her adult life at Cappagh Cross, close to Kildonan, which is about 2.5 kilometres from Finglas village. The area – both rural and urban – featured in much of her work. (A shout-out here to anybody in Finglas who might have two of her urban paintings – School Break and Building Scheme – which feature the new suburb in the 1960s, which we have still not located.)

The bungalow which Una shared with her husband, Eugene Watters, was set in picturesque countryside and still stands today, although her former family home right beside it was demolished in recent years. The once rural setting of Cappagh Cross has now been overtaken and degraded by motorway development, which makes it unrecognisable as the rural idyll Una depicted in her paintings such as The Farm (1964) and Harvest (1965).

More public consultation will go ahead in the coming months and Sara’s piece will enhance the refurbishment of the 20-acre park. The sculpture project is supported by the Hugh Lane Gallery, Visual Arts Ireland, the Parks and Landscape Offices and the City Arts Office.

Sara Cunningham-Bell has undertaken many public art commissions, including pieces for the Ulster University, Kingspan Stadium, DECAL, IRFU, The Mater Hospital, Victoria College Belfast, European Union Programme for Peace and Reconciliation, Bass Ireland, and the Centre of Theology and Philosophy. You can see her work on https://www.cunninghambell.com.

The photograph shows Sara Cunningham-Bell at work on “Towards Tomorrow” for the Lodge Road roundabout in Coleraine. Photograph: courtesy of the artist.