For the 2010 artist’s residency program at Sculpture in the Parklands, Danish sculptor Alfio Bonanno familiarized himself with the grounds at Lough Boora. Initially inspired by the vast dark peat landscape and ancient bogwood forest, upon hearing the sound of running water he recognized a powerfully symbolic site for his environmental project. With a central conical tower structure and a steel inner core made by and referencing the industrial history of the workers at Bord na Mona, Bonanno’s “shelter” involved the gathering and collecting of 4,000 year old bogwood from the peat lands. The collected bogwood was integrated as a textural and graphic outer wall for the work. A stream from the neighbouring wetlands flows through Bonanno’s structure into the centre. The energy and life generated by the sound of water as it enters, flows through and descends to a underground stream establishes links with the surrounding ecosystems of the peat lands. With sound as an animating element, entering into the inner space, and a series of found stones and boulders within, Alfio Bonanno’s eight metre high From Earth to Sky references the oldest archaeological site from the Megalithic era in Ireland less then a mile away. In Bonanno’s own words, “One of my earlier environmental sculptures from 1982, Granite Environment incorporated stones from ancient burial grounds in an area undergoing redevelopment in Denmark where they were found. I see the present Irish work being made here in Country Offaly as a continuity of this earlier work, in that both reference archaeology and our human links to ancient culture. This piece is an homage to our ancestors and the physical layered landscape of peat, clay and stone they lived upon.” Entering into Bonanno’s From Earth to Sky, the landscape surrounds seen through the light sensitive walls of bogwood create dramatic visual contrasts, while the circular ceiling of the structure remains an open sky vault. With the sound of moving water as it enters the heart of the structure, and moving skyscape above, Bonanno’s structure is a celebration of the long-standing and eternal cycle of exchange between culture of nature and humanity.
Art exists within the continuum of life, and working with nature involves, a gradual transformation process, as well as patience and perseverance, on the part of the artist. Viewing the landscape as a place where human activity can co-exist with nature - to work with, rather than against - nature is an essential part of the vocabulary of the artist who chooses to work with nature, on site. Bio-specific prototypes for creativity that are more than just a principle. Ephemeral sculptures embody an ethic that many designers, landscape architects, and artists are now considering an implicit part of future oriented design on a broader scale. This design embraces notions of sustainability and accepts the cycle of life as part of its vocabulary as artistic process. Sculpture in the Parklands is a living laboratory where sculptors are challenged to make earth sensitive works that integrate the industrial and natural with a sense of the history of the place. Using materials that reflect the natural and industrial history of the bog lands Sculpture in the Peatlands is an exciting place to be where culture and environment are in a constant dialogue, an experiential exchange.
International art critic, curator and author (Art Nature Dialogues)