Calls to repair steel sculpture on Wilton Roundabout

Calls to repair steel sculpture on Wilton Roundabout
The sculpture on the Wilton Roundabout by John Burke. Pic: Google

CALLS have been made to refurbish and repair a well-known sculpture by a famous Irish artist on one of the busiest roundabouts in the city.

A long-standing steel sculpture on the Wilton Roundabout by Clonmel-born artist and one-time Cork resident John Burke has become dirty in recent years due to the high volume of traffic that surrounds it on a daily basis.

The artist died in 2006. He had operated a workshop in Blarney for several years and his pieces held in private collections still sell at auction for thousands of euros today.

Green Party councillor Colette Finn said Bishopstown Tidy Towns are very keen to refurbish the sculpture and she has asked the council to engage with them in order to progress it.

City Hall director of community, culture and placemaking Adrienne Rodgers said the council has looked at refurbishing all three pieces designed by Burke in the city, but have never had a budget to complete them.

“Cork City Council has three of John Burke sculptures, all of which need renovation and repair,” Ms Rodgers said.

“We have received at least two public calls for renovation — one in 2018 and one in 2019.

“We have on a previous occasion sought quotations for repair of the three John Burke pieces but unfortunately, there was no budget in place.

“John Burke is an important artist for the city, and his work should be maintained.

“The piece on Wilton Roundabout has needed repair for a long time, and, should a budget be available, then I would recommend getting it repaired.

“As with a number of other works and installations across the city there is currently no process or budget identified for the maintenance of our public art assets.

“We will explore other options such as the percent for art scheme,” Ms Rodgers added.

According to City Hall, Burke was instrumental in defining sculptural practice in Ireland during the 1970s.

He studied sculpture at the Crawford School of Art in Cork and the Royal Academy, London. He went on to travel for a year in North Africa and Europe before returning to Ireland where he set up a studio and workshop in Blarney, near Cork city.

Burke supported himself by teaching two days a week at the Crawford School of Art and counted among his pupils Eilis O’Connell, Vivienne Roche, Maud Cotter and Jim Buckley. Working in welded steel, Burke juxtaposed simple geometric shapes to form abstract compositions, and employed colour to soften and disguise unwanted elements of the metal.

Though best known for his large hard-edged thin plates of steel, Burke also made box constructions and smaller intimate pieces. A member of Aosdána since 1981, his work is included in numerous public and private collections.

Mr Burke also designed the steel sculpture at the Bank of Ireland building in Baggot Street in Dublin and the firefly sculpture at Cork University Hospital.

City Hall has said it will now work with local community groups around Wilton in order to find the best way to move forward with refurbishment.

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