Modern Stained Glass at Glasnevin

Plans are afoot to visit Dublin in Ireland once again this Spring. I went last April and the weather was glorious – it is a nice thought anticipating some spring warmth. The highlight then was the day spent at Glasnevin, the city’s botanic gardens.
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Like many events in life, it is often the unexpected that remain at the forefront of the mind and so it was at Glasnevin. The glasshouses and plants were, without saying, spectacular but a complete surprise was a small exhibition of modern stained glass work.
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This first piece of five panels is the work of Mary Mackey, based in County Cork. I love the colours and mix – to me it is a blend found in mountains in the fall (odd how, for an Englishman, ‘mountains in the autumn’, doesn’t sound as expressive or as romantic!). However, much of Mary’s work is inspired by the sea and this particular piece is titled ‘Sea-shushed Secret Places’. Painted and sandblasted, the strong colours used still have a swirling, dream like quality about them. Perhaps it is the light coming through the piece that allows this contradiction. Mary, in her own description of her work, tells of how she sees a flash of landscape: “…. fleeting images in real time, but in my memory the image is sharply focused, connected witha particular place, a particular time…..stored and enriched by treasuring it…..until at least something of that essence is achieved“.
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Debbie Dawson’s tryptich is totally different. Bold, square panels, they convey great strength and depth. Also based in County Cork, Debbie’s work is entitled ‘Like a Door Opening’.
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I also loved the strength of Emma O’Toole’sArchitectural Element’. Made from sheet glass, cast glass and concrete, it was unique at this exibition, with the feel and look of a sculpture. It brought back happy memories of a winter in Canada, years ago, exploring an ice ‘castle’, each battlement carved with its individual decoration of a native animal. Coming from relatively mild England, I had never seen anything like it before – it was a surreal experience. And that is the joy of art, it can transport you to places or events long forgotten or, perhaps, even not yet happened. . . .
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Chinks Grylls ‘Highlight Red‘ is an etched mouth blown glass piece. Four individually hinged panels remind me, depending on my mood – or perhaps how hungry I am – of Saharan sand dunes or rashers of bacon waiting to be cooked…. Chinks Grylls works from south west England, an area which is rapidly becoming a centre for modern glass work.

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I know that when I return to Glasnevin it won’t be the glasshouses that I shall visit first. I will make a beeline for their exhibition hall in the hope that some other equally pleasurable experience awaits me.

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Glasnevin: Beyond the Glasshouses

There is a lot more to explore in Dublin’s Botanic Gardens at Glasnevin than just the glasshouses which have been described in an earlier post. As expected, it’s 27 acres boast a wide array of plants and at this time of year the bright colours of the spring bedding and rhododendrons are a welcome sight after the long, grey winter we have all suffered.

Beyond this glare of colour and at the highest point of the garden is the pinetum, where sunlight is filtered through the dark, pendulous branches of this conifer, whose name I have already forgotten.

A multi stemmed Thuya would be an asset in any garden but few could cope with the size of this one. It is surprising when seeing a tree of this stature, to think that when clipped, Thuya make a fine hedge.

But perhaps the most outstanding tree at Glasnevin is the Montezuma Pine. Originating from Mexico (hence it’s name), it stands at the very brow of the hill, shining in the sunshine like a beacon. Seen close to, the irridescent, radiating needles give the branches the appearance of chimney sweeps brushes.


Never very far away from the magnificence of the ironwork glasshouses (upper photograph), it was a surprise to find this abandoned range of timber glasshouses (lower photograph). Awaiting funding for restoration, the faded, peeling paintwork and decaying architecture had a quiet dignity of its own. I loved it.



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Glasnevin: Dublin’s Botanic Garden

No horticulturist or lover of gardens and plants should miss visiting the botanic gardens at Glasnevin, situated not far from the heart of the city of Dublin, southern Ireland. The 27 acre garden is also a quiet, green refuge for those just seeking beauty and peace away from the bustle of city life.


One of its greatest attractions has to be the magnificent ironwork of the glasshouses. The Palm House, built in 1884, dominates the garden yet it is the Curvilinear Range that was pioneering in its structure having been built almost 40 years earlier in 1848.




The smallest insectivorous plants to the mighty palms themselves find a home within these buildings. A walk through the houses is one of contrast, not just in leaf texture and flower colour, but also in temperature and humidity.


insect catching sundews

an insectivorous pitcher plant

Perhaps one of the finest flowering plants was this pale pink Protea, so typical of its type, although I was rather taken by this relatively tiny, deep pink version too, with which I was quite unfamiliar.




The Jade Vine, Strongylodon macrobotrys, was another plant that was totally unknown to me. It’s luminous, turquoise, metre long pendants of flowers looked quite eerie hanging high in the canopy – if it had not been for the fallen petals glowing on the floor they would have gone unnoticed. The plant, which naturally grows in the forests of the Phillipines, rarely sets seed when grown in these conditions as it has to be physically damaged by a large pollinator (what, I don’t know).



The sunniest day of the year so far ensured that light falling onto the plants revealed them at their finest, especially when the leaves were backlit – every photographer’s dream!


The gardens, themselves are deserving of attention and exploration and these will be featured shortly.

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