In a busy world, it is seldom that the attention of passers-by is captured for long periods, but when the incredible artwork by ‘chainsaw artist’, Nathan Solonom,was unveiled to the people of Carrigaline, in one beautiful and unforgettable moment, everyone was captivated.
On Easter Sunday, with the sun glistening across the town, everyone was treated to the first clear view of the beautiful artwork that Nathan had created. All of this of course came to pass following the damage to the original trees that occurred following the infamous storm Ophelia.
When the high cost of removing the trees from the Memorial Garden emerged, Pat O’Sullivan of Cork County Council and Carrigaline came up with an innovative solution. He had heard of Nathan’s work and invited the West Cork resident to Carrigaline to look at the garden and the broken trees that remained.
While he has no art qualifications, Nathan has been designing smaller art pieces for many years, but admits that this was a challenge unlike any other that he had faced.
“This was by far the biggest thing that I’ve ever done”, commented Nathan while looking upon his work with pride. “I met Pat here at the park and we discussed martyrs of the 1916 uprising and what the park symbolised. He had one specification and that was he wanted a soldier, which sent me into a bit of a spin because it was unlike anything I’ve ever done.”
Originally from the South-East of England, Nathan has been living in Cork since 1994, but his research when approaching his work in Carrigaline gave him a real lesson on Irish history that he had not known before.
“I started to soak up a lot of information about the war and came across an array of different uniforms. I wanted to find a soldier that was representative of that time but not one specific martyr. So I ended up basing the design of the sculpture on a ‘Call to Arms’ poster from around the time of the 1916 uprising and in that it was the first time that the Irish tricoulour had been raised at the time.”Nathan tells The Carrigdhoun Newspaper.
While the soldier may be the main protagonist that has garnered the most attention, it hasn’t taken away from the other masterpieces that Nathan has created. He explains that he wanted to balance the strong male figure of the soldier, with a more quaint and feminine touch. After coming across the phrase, ‘Éirinn go Brách’, anglicized to ‘Erin Go Bragh’, meaning Ireland Forever.
“I was led to the late 18thcentury and came across a flag, which you see on t-shirts now with ‘Erin Go Bragh’ and that’s what led me to this sculpture (pointing to the harp with feminine features). I really wanted to give everything its characteristics and the impulse from the 1916 Rising stems from the 1798 Rising, which comes from the Phoenicians landing in Ireland thousands of years ago, who came up with the word Éirinn, so I really wanted to get that in there”, Nathan explains.
Before he was finished however, Nathan wanted to incorporate a Carrigaline feel to the garden to go alongside the historical background. He decided to take two of the most famous images that represents Carrigaline, the heron and the otter.
“To include them in the park for me ticked all of the boxes and really encapsulated the whole thing. The trees that stood here were at least 80 years old, so that means that there’s 80 years of history and of stored sunlight and I think that all of that significance and energy radiates from these final sculptures. We have given them I hope at least another 80 years of life as long as they are looked after.”
Nathan spent several weeks making the long journey from West Cork to Carrigaline but in the end it’s safe to say that it was well worth it. When he arrived he was greeted with something broken but left behind a fantastic legacy that we can now appreciate every day.
A huge thank you must go to Pat O’Sullivan for his initiative and of course to Nathan himself, who is forevermore a welcome guest to this part of the world.
Go Raibh Míle Maith Agat Nathan, táimid dóchasach go chímid a chéile arís sa todhchaí!
Make sure to grab a copy of our annual Discover Carrigaline in this week’s paper where we have some excellent local news and profiles.