Iora Nua - Squirrels Reimagined
Iora Nua—Squirrels Reimagined is a public art project developed by Mide Arts Group in partnership with Longford County Arts Office. The project aims to contribute positively to the county’s social and tourism infrastructure. The choice of the squirrel is a knowing nod to the fact that the Grey Squirrel was introduced to Ireland in 1911, when six pairs were gifted to Lord Forbes of Castle Forbes, Co. Longford and from there some escaped into the wild.
The project began with the creation of the prototype squirrel Mr. Nuts, followed one year later with the commissioning of three more to be decorated by Longford artists—Mystic Squirrel by Kevin Flood, Terminator Squirrel T-1911 by Mary Fleming and Myth & Fantasy Squirrel by Phil Atkinson. Pending more funding, it is hoped to take the project into the next phase and create another group of smaller squirrel sculptures to be decorated by artists, local groups and schools around the county.
Mystic, Mr. Nuts, Myth & Fantasy and Terminator T-1911 outside Edgeworthstown Library, Co. Longford
MR NUTS BY TOM DUFFY
Mr. Nuts is the prototype squirrel, the first giant squirrel sculpture made from fibreglass and developed by Kilkenny-based artist and sculptor Tom Duffy who also made and prepped the subsequent three squirrels. Mr. Nuts is painted with bold abstract shapes and graphic woodland oak, beech and birch leaves. As the inaugural piece, its intention was to show the potential for later stages of the project, for which it was successful. Initially, Mr. Nuts was in the Longford County Council offices for a time before it was moved to his launch site outside the gates of Castle Forbes in Newtownforbes in February 2022. Having lived there for a few months up until June 2022, he has since joined his brethren on a journey around the county, but will eventually return to his home in Newtownforbes in Autumn 2022.
THE MYSTIC SQUIRREL BY KEVIN FLOOD
The Mystic Squirrel merges a number of images that are inspired by our unique cultural heritage in Longford with the image of the squirrel. A large group of white thorn trees illuminated by moonlight on one side of the squirrel transform into images of music and dance and the lighting of fires in celebration of key moments in our Celtic year. The festival of fires is celebrated to this day annually at the hill of Uisneach. It is believed that Uisneach is intrinsically connected with the pre-Roman road that is preserved and on display at the Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre, not far from the village of Kenagh. Our cultural heritage in Longford and the surrounding areas also has a very rich literary tradition and many of our best known writers’ work are recalled and explored in annual festivals. The quill and book make reference to this in the tapestry of images on the squirrel. The Mystic Squirrel was painted using exterior paint, acrylic texturing agent and acrylic paint applied with brushes.
TERMINATOR SQUIRREL T-1911 BY MARY FLEMING
Terminator Squirrel T-1911 is a light-hearted nod to the modern cultural icon that is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ‘Terminator’. Since the introduction of the notorious Grey Squirrel in 1911, its size, character and habits have threatened and almost terminated the indigenous Red Squirrel… hence the Terminator. The challenge for the artist was to design and render in paint aspects of the squirrel in parallel with the iconic imagery of the film. Exposure of the side of the face in particular, along with parts of the limbs, became the main focus with the red eye video camera being a necessary hallmark. In the finished piece parts of the skeletal structure of the squirrel are depicted as that of a cyborg, while the equally iconic battle-worn leather biker jacket reinforces the image. The Terminator Squirrel carries a grenade in place of a nut. The Terminator Squirrel was painted using high pigment acrylic paint, applied with brushes and sponge with metallic spray paint in parts.
MYTH & FANTASY BY PHIL ATKINSON
The Myth & Fantasy Squirrel takes a deep dive into the world of make-believe offering us scenes of fancy all around the squirrel in celebration of our love of magic and enchantment. A trip around the piece proffers vignettes of tiny and beautifully rendered images of mice, elves, fairies, trolls and dwarves energetically interacting with the rich and vibrant environment of lush green grass, trees, flowers and foliage. Every nook and cranny provides a home for a range of tiny creatures. Through a masterful combination of imagination and the paint medium, the artist has conveyed a striking depth of view from background through to foreground. The Myth & Fantasy Squirrel was painted completely with a spray-gun, using high-pigment specialised spray paint and a range of nozzle widths, allowing for the tiniest detail and finest lines to be applied in spray only.