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St. Michael & The Dragon

Church of St. Michael, Dun Laoighaire, Co. Dublin 1973

"St Michael’s Church burnt down in early 1960s – it was completely reconstructed. I was commissioned to do something outside on the wall over the main doors. There was a very limited budget. My challenge was working out what could be done in terms of composition and texture. I used sheet bronze for this and developed the piece from a technique of roofing with copper. I first sculpted a small maquette, then a full size cartoon and gave this to metalworkers in town. They did a beautiful job because they knew the technique so well."

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Christ Church Cathedral, Lady's Chapel, Dublin 1991

"The little Madonna was originally carved in cedar wood – a broken branch given to me by a friend from her garden. The mother and child had to be very thin to fit into this narrow piece. It was cast in plaster and later bronze - the Dean of Christ Church Cathedral liked it so much he commissioned me to do it for him. The bronze patination was similar to the stone in the cathedral so it blends in beautifully. It was the first figurative work commissioned by Christ Church since the Reformation."

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Stations of the Cross

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Firhouse, Dublin 1981-82

"This set of Stations of the Cross is carved in various types of teak. They are designed to be placed on two walls in the church; each set of seven forms a cross. The first seven Stations show an abstracted falling cross - while the second set of seven shows an abstracted, rigid, dead cross. Their purpose is to instruct the faithful. This was likewise the intention in the case of the ancient Irish High Crosses, which were lessons and sermons in stone."

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The Fiddler of Dooney & Children

Stillorgan Shopping Centre, Co. Dublin 1964-65

"I worked with a very good architect and had the freedom to do anything I wanted to for this commission. I decided to interpret a W. B. Yeats poem – The Fiddler of Dooney. I had seen in a newspaper a picture of little barefoot children dancing on a shore of the Aran Islands and it was so beautiful - it stuck with me. I decided to sculpt children dancing in a circle, with the wind blowing through their hair. I did this direct in plaster rather than modeling in clay and then executed in sheet bronze and braised it altogether like a tailor making a suit. This fiddler holds his instrument like they do traditionally in the West rather than a concert player."

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The Tree of Life

St. Joseph's Church, Glasthule, Co. Dublin 1990

"This is in the shape of a half moon. I had been asked by a local priest to create something for the back wall behind the altar: a reredos. It struck me to do this as a rainbow – then this developed into a tree. On the tree are symbols that relate to the Bible. In the Middle Ages all sorts of animals stood for Christian symbols – I was inspired by those original carvings. I also represented the elements and on the very top there is a circle that signifies eternity. The sheet bronze was executed by Niall O’Neill - a great bronze sheet worker."

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National Museum of Ireland

National Museum of Ireland, Benburb Street, Smithfield, Co. Dublin

"I recommend visiting this museum because it has the most enormous, beautiful pieces of very early Irish art and also a wonderful collection of prehistoric goldwork."

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St. Francis Door & Tmypanum

Newcastle Church of Ireland, Co. Wicklow 1978

"I have done quite number of doorways - a number of crucifixes and Madonnas and a few gargoyles! This bronze doorway is dedicated to the memory of Augustus Kennedy Kisch who commissioned me to sculpt The Fiddlers of Dooney. He loved fishing. At the top I decided to put St. Francis himself in nature, looking after the animals and talking with them. Handles are very important to me. Here St. Francis is sitting down and holding the paw of a wolf; there is the legend about the wolf of Gubbio, who terrorized the Italian town killing livestock; St. Francis talked to the wolf and persuaded him to change his eating habits."

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St. Kevin's Bed

Wicklow Mountains National Park

"You must go by boat to this place and climb into that bed. I was in it once. There is just enough room to lie in it. It is a prehistoric place and most likely a druid lady live there or it was created for her ashes. I lived in Co. Wicklow for over ten years and my husband told me about all the Irish Saints. It was in Glendalough I learnt about St. Kevin who founded a monastery beside the two lakes. He used to pray with outstretched arms; a blackbird flew into this hand and as he was so deeply involved in prayer the bird was able to make a nest and lay her eggs in his hands. These eggs hatched and young birds flew off. These legends of St. Kevin have inspired me and his also the place where he lived: a beehive monastic cell."

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St. Kevin's Kitchen

Wicklow Mountains National Park

"This is a lovely ruin to go to with a young family. I have a little St. Kevin’s Kitchen in one of my first carvings. This building is a tiny chapel with a little tower on it – all dry stone walls. Dry stone walls are characteristic of old Ireland and clever craftsmanship."

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Honan Chapel, University College, Cork 1986

"I did an awful lot in this chapel. The sedilia, the ambo and also the baptismal font. It was a wonderful commission. This chair has fishes on the arms. I made use of every shape that had to be there – a technique of the Romanesque period. You can see examples of this across Italy and Germany. In churches, I always enjoy doing more than simply a plain handle."

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Skellig Isle, Ring of Kerry

Co. Kerry

"This is the most wonderful place but difficult to access. There are boats but they only operate in good weather. It is so remote. When you think there were monks who lived there in the 5th century, fishing, eating birds and living in those beehive monastic cells, it is quite astonishing. I have reproduced these beehive cells and they continue to be an inspiration in my work."

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Galway Cathedral: Main Doors & Handles

Galway Cathedral, Co. Galway 1963-64

"I was commissioned to do these doors and my subjects were Faith, Hope and Charity. I represented stories in the Gospels. I worked in negative which is a very difficult technique – the doors were finally cast in bronze. Some of the scenes include Jesus on the Lake of Gennesaret and St. Peter, walking on water. You can see the stoning of St. Stephen. The negative technique allows you to get wonderful detail that is very suitable on doors. It also looks very primitive but not intentionally so."

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Connemara Cottage

Connemara, Co. Galway

"I was very inspired by Ireland’s traditional cottages when I arrived in the 1950s. They almost appeared to grow out of the ground! Beautifully white-washed, with tiny little windows. These cottages inspired me for a very special wooden sculpture titled Window On The World. It was formerly called The Famine Window. Prior to 1800, window taxes were levied by the number and size of windows – and so the Irish tradition of the small cottage window was born."

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Stations of the Cross (Ballintubber Abbey Series)

Ballintubber Abbey, Co. Mayo 1972

"When this church was a ruin in Ballintubber - with no roof and grass growing in the ruins - people would still kneel down and go to mass. This church was reconstructed. It was a wonderful commission for me. I did the Stations quite small – not much bigger than a telephone book, in thickish, soft wood and in a primitive style. They were polychromed - colored using techniques used by early European churches. The colour was partly gilt polished with piece of agate. This technique has died out but used a lot in the Romanesque period."

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Crucifix, Lifford

Lifford, Co. Donegal 1964

"When the light comes in the church, it throws a beautiful reflection behind it this crucifix. I sculpted this in the shape of penal crosses – they were purposefully made to seamlessly slip secretly up your shirt sleeve. I hollowed this crucifix out completely so the light shines through it. This is a very early pre-Christian cross tradition – to put holes in the stone so light shines through the crucifix."

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Armagh Cathedral, Co. Armagh 1984

"This is a big-slim figure of Christ and was commissioned by Cardinal Ó Fiaich. It is done in bronze and the face of the figure is very hidden – without expression. Almost a veiled one. The cross is not in the shape of a conventional cross but rather like a branch of a tree."

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Monument to Pope John Paul II

New Library, Maynooth College, Co. Kildare 1986

"In 1983, Cardinal Tomás Ó Fiaich visited my studio and was moved by a six inch high small bronze that I had made to capture the scene. He encouraged Maynooth College to commission me to build a large version for the opening of their new library, named in honour of Pope John Paul II."

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The Psalm

Imogen Stuart Collection 1993

"This presents a calm, beautiful landscape. I have always liked hands. They express a huge amount. I made this in cedar wood, which is a wonderful material to work with - it smells lovely and carves beautifully. I like the way this piece blends the landscape with a human hand over it. For me, this is about both blessing and protecting the land. The Psalm is now located at the entrance to An tSli in the TARA building of MIC."

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Bench - The Psalm

Kylemore Abbey & Victorian Walled Garden, Connemara, Co. Galway 2018

"This is a beautiful hand, open. And so the saying ‘I hold you in the palm of my hand’. For me, this has a deeply spiritual meaning. My work is my meditation - this piece was slow to open: the actual sculpting process became a type of meditation."

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Meditation Beehive

Imogen Stuart Collection (on loan to Heritage Museum, Knock, Co. Mayo) 1989

"I first thought of making this in the 1960s. My first idea was to make a beehive cell which was such a wonderful shape, so unique. It was finally made in the 70s by students and hand-finished - scalloped inside and out. We didn’t use any nails or screws. There is a little bench pegged through the wall and a table - and a fish on which to hang a coat. We carved over the lintel. The window is hand blown glass in the shape of Brigid’s Cross. My wish for this now is that my family in Norway will continue to make these cells by the dozen and create places of meditation for people to find some peace: a sanctuary for contemplation. I highly recommend sitting inside the Meditation Beehive, it has an amazing sound - like sitting inside a cello."

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Pangur Ban (Figure)

Áras an Uachtaráin, Phoenix Park, Dublin 1976

"Pangar Ban came to be in the 1970s but has most recently made a journey to Áras an Uachtaráin, with an reception to mark its installation in 2020. I illustrated a nature poem of the 9th Century, written by an Irish monk - it was written in the margins of gospel manuscripts."

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The Standing Stone

Otranto Seaside Gardens, Co. Dublin 2020

“The Standing stone has three sides. It is not completely straight because it is like a natural stone. On one side is St Patrick on the other side King Laoghaire and on the third side is an early Irish poem again that speaks of Viking raids. It signifies a welcome to Dublin, a welcome to Ireland - the poem will be carved in English and Irish: 'Wind fierce tonight. Mane of the sea whipped white. I am not afraid. No ravening Norse, On course, Through quiet waters.' ”

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Otranto Park, Marine Parade, Sandycove, Co. Dublin. 2022

Imogen’s Standing Stone has the official title, Stele. This is a term used in ancient Greece for a monument or standing stone that was generally taller than it is wide. Ciaran Byrne carved Imogen’s design and the Stele was unveiled by President Higgins on 06 May 2022. The President said: “Time and again Imogen has demonstrated a profound understanding of the value to society of public art, of its power to reflect not only what is mythic, but what is beautiful in our evolving culture, and of how it adds meaning and uniqueness to our towns and cities and suburbs.” One of the native poems, written in the 8th century by an Irish monk in the margins of his gospel manuscript is carved on the monument: “Wind / Fierce Tonight / Mane Of The Sea / Whipped White / I Am Not Afraid / No Ravening / Norse On / Course Trough / Quiet Waters.”

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