Ever feel as if you are being watched while walking round Armagh? Well chances are the answer is yes! But not by who or what you may think. It is not by the spirits of St Patrick, Brian Boru or the other local characters of the city but by little beady eyes. 44 little beady eyes in fact.
The Angels and Gargoyles trail is Armagh’s smallest Public Art installation but it also spans the widest area. No mean feat for ones so small. These pieces of individual art are no more than 50cm and are installed all about the city from peeking out behind a boot scraper, standing over-looking the market, climbing a wall or even talking on his phone while waiting for a show. The bronze depictions of these figures are irreverent and funny in equal measures and the longer they are resident the greener they become, proving they are really from Erin’s Green Land.
As with most of the other pieces of public art in Armagh, these 22 miniature sculptures were commissioned in 2010 by the then Armagh City and District Council in conjunction with the Arts Council for Northern Ireland and the Department for Social Development.
They were designed by German born Sculptor Holger Christian Lonze who, now based in Cork, used bronze casting techniques that can date back to the times of the making of the trumpets of Loughnashade. This series of sculptures won the Civic Art Award in 2012.
This unique project takes the images of the gargoyles and angels out of their original historical sacral context and moves them into their new contemporary and urban environment. I mean how many angels have you seen that have letters for wings although we don’t know if angel post is cheaper than the royal mail. Although angels and gargoyles may seem very different in their looks they are actually 2 sides of the same coin. From history they are the original messengers or you may call them Ambassadors and these little ones give us a modern day link to all Armagh’s rich and varied history. This is evident in the sculptures themselves with ancient trumpets, a butcher wearing his apron, World War 2 fighter planes for wings right up to looking in a mirror to carrying some very heavy shopping bags.
So as the modern day Red Branch Knights, we encourage you on your next jaunt or dander around the city to look up, look down and look out for our smallest but cutest residents. They are deliberately tiny and intricate so that you happen on them by accident, but half the fun is looking for them. This trail is accessible for all from the young to the young at heart and all those in between and in our minds is a real hidden gem or bronze of our city. But please don’t be alarmed by them they really don’t mean you any harm. The trail is available from the Visitor Information Centre whenever the mood takes you to go on a journey of discovery in Armagh.
Thank you to the Red Branch Knights for writing this blog post – Shona Gourley, Susan Mercer, Sheila Rooney and Fiona Millar.