Every year, the Kilkenny Arts Centre KCAT hosts a retrospective exhibition focusing on the work of a long term studio artist. It has always been an unparalleled opportunity to really unpack and explore in detail the full spectrum and creative output of the exhibiting artist. In addition, an important part of the retrospectives has been to publish an artist's book of images, commissioned text and interviews. 
KCAT Studio artist Declan Byrne was scheduled for the next exhibition. This was originally due to take place in 2020 as a public event but due to Coid restrictions the exhibition has now been re-imagined for presentation online.

MAGIC OF ART: The stunning work of Declan Byrne

MAGIC OF ART: The stunning work of Declan Byrne

In December 2020 Declan and the KCAT studio team temporarily hung the exhibition at Kilfane Glebe House just outside Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny without a public audience. The exhibition was filmed and photographed to be shared online on KCAT's new online project space The Other Space. Declan Byrnes mid-career retrospective is the inaugural project to be showcased on the platform and access can be gained from noon on Thursday 25 February.

Declan has been working as an artist since 2004 and has created a remarkable body of work. He can hear well but does not talk. Instead he clearly communicates his likes, dislikes and interests in other way such as using his hands to point to things.  I have met him a couple of times, once in Kilkenny in his group studio setting and once in Belfast when he was up visiting artist Alastair MacLennan for a collaboration they have been working on for a few years.

He was a great inspiration to me to see his work and imagine what other artistic delights might come forth from other people who are non-verbal, if only they had the opportunity. If only we had equality of opportunity within the artistic sector.How simple a concept it is to allow and support people to simply create. The much devalued magic of the arts working in unknown ways on the human condition.
Declan is a great observer and takes inspiration from a wide variety of everyday objects. He transforms the world around him through detailed and clearly articulated compositions of built-up layers of drawing and painting. In art and more specifically painting with ink, he has clearly found a way of communication. 

For all artists art is a way of communication, and especially so for Declan. It is an outlet for his feelings and creative impulses, and the work does the talking. For his sculpture works, Declan carefully cuts pieces of dried acrylic paint found in painting pallets with scissors, before gluing these small pieces of colour to found objects. There is a remarkable similarity between these sculptures and Declan’s paintings.  In Declan’s paintings he also transforms the world he sees in a very detailed way, by building his work out of multiple small sections of colours.

INSPIRATION: Declan Byrne's requisition compositions

INSPIRATION: Declan Byrne's requisition compositions

Declan has shown widely internationally, including in Luxembourg, Finland,
Germany, Australia and Switzerland. He has also shown in Ireland at the Kilkenny Arts Festival, Dublin City Council Offices, The Skibbereen Arts Festival and University College Cork.

'Before You Go'

The successful collaboration between Kabosh and writer Laurence McKeown continues even under current restriction with ‘Before You Go’ (directed by Paula McFettridge) which explores the fragility of love, loss and living.

The play looks at the difficulties of communicating with those who are closest to us and the consequences of not saying what we should while there is still time. It seems particularly poignant at this testing time.

“We presented the first socially distanced live theatre show in August last year and while that had its own challenges, they do say that necessity is the mother of invention," Paula McFettridge told me. "The more recent COVID-19 regulations have meant that with ‘Before You Go’ we have had to rehearse via Zoom, perform in a ventilated studio in the middle of winter and film the show remotely with only the three actors in the room."

The show will be filmed in the style of a ‘Play For Today’ at Havelock House and free live online viewings will take place on the following dates:
Tuesday 2 March: 7:30–8:30pm
Wednesday 3 March: 1–2:pm
Thursday 4 March: 7:30–9:15pm. This last evening includes a post-show discussion with playwright Laurence McKeown and director Paula Mc Fetridge.

Tickets are free and can be secured at the Kabosh website. 

Before You Go’ is part of From Oriel to Brexit, a cross-border, cross-community arts project which is funded through the EU's PEACE IV Programme.  


If you're frustrated by the provision for children at the moment, 'Turnaround’ from Maiden Voyage Dance which has been inspired by the hopes Belfast schoolchildren might be just the tonic you need. The new work will be premiered online as part of the Belfast Children's Festival from 6 March. Oh how we need the children’s festival more than ever!

NEEDED MORE THAN EVER: Turnabout in rehearsals

NEEDED MORE THAN EVER: Turnabout in rehearsals

Free screenings of ‘Turnabout’ by Maiden Voyage Dance will be available online and on demand as part of Belfast Children’s Festival from 6 to 14 March.  Book your places online now. To book a free ‘Turnabout’ primary school or group workshop with Maiden Voyage Dance, email the group direct. 

Love and light, Bronagh