Winged Horse – Summer 1998

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The Winged Horse – Artist – Conor Fallon. Date – 1992. Medium – Steel. Measurements – 3.95m high. Location – Castle Park, Athenry.

Conor Fallon, R.H.A.
Self-taught artist was born Dublin 1939
Started painting while a student at Trinity College Dublin, turning to sculpture under the influence of Denise Mitchell while living in Cornwall.

1968 – Elected member of Newlyn Society of Artists.

1980 – Oireachtas gold medal for sculpture.

1984 – Elected member of Aosdána.

1989 – Elected member of the Royal Hibernian Academy.

Selected Commissions:

Arts Council, Mountshannon.

St. Patricks Hospital, Dublin.

Heron Corporation.

Dublin County Council.

University College Dublin.

Irish Life Assurance.

Works in many public collections.

The Winged Horse.

Conor Fallon, one of Ireland’s leading sculptors was invited to sculpt a commemorative piece in memory of his father, the poet Padraic Fallon (1905 – 1974), by the Athenry Padraic Fallon celebration committee.

Padraic Fallon was born in Athenry, he was the son of a business man and cattle dealer.

In 1992, Athenry hosted a poetry weekend attracting poets from all over the country to read their own material in honour of Padraic Fallon. Rita Ann Higgins, Eva Bourke, Patrick O’ Brien and Paul Durcan were among those who contributed to the weekend. Conor Fallon’s piece “the Winged Horse” was generously given to Athenry as a gift, and we are extremely privileged. The sculpture was unveiled by the Nobel prize-winner Seamus Heaney, Fallon’s contemporary and friend. Heaney then gave a dynamic poetry reading from the park’s folly (a miniature 20th century round tower) for all those present.

Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney at the unveiling of the Winged Horse

he piece is executed in flat cut steel which in turn, is shaped and bent. Fallon often plays around with card cut-outs before executive, in order to bring light into his works, and this technique is implemented in “the Winged Horse”. The large column on which the horse is perched takes its influence from Etruscan vases and the Doric column. Its simplicity gives a certain spatial quality to the piece bringing the eye right up, around and through the sculpted horse. Fallon uses a similar construction for his “Cock” in University College Dublin, which is basically the same idea but merely a different bird on top.

The piece itself works very well within its surroundings in Athenry. It stands in front of a 13th century medieval castle and adjacent to the Dominican priory (1241). Thus, contrasting the old with the new. It is not intruded on in any way by other buildings. Its other backdrop is its most beautiful; nature itself, a framing of trees, a bubbling stream and a shock of sky, and when the light catches the cleverly scratched steel it dances and seems almost to be taking flight.

Erect me a Monument of Broken Wings

Horses have always been a significant theme in Fallon’s repertoire, as have birds and heads. This particular sculpture is an extremely personal piece for him, as it marks the end of grieving for his father who had been a profound figure in Fallon’s life. His father had mentioned the Pegasus on numerous occasions in storytelling and in his poetry, therefore the Pegasus was Fallon’s starting point. “Erect me a monument of broken wings” is a line in one of his father’s poems entitled “Athenry” and once brought to Fallon’s attention, it played on his mind.

He did not in fact break the horses’ wings: ironically that was left up to the work of vandals who, four months later, apparently took turns in swinging off the wings and consequently cracked one of them. A very embarrassed Athenry informed the artist of the damage and Fallon kindly returned to repair the piece. But he left a little crack, it was what Fallon was almost expecting and he does not believe it was anything but his father’s intervention.

Extract from “Athenry” by Padraic Fallon;

“Ass – eared and tumbrilled, with his silent wife

He’ll arrive; unlike me left

Wilting with time,

I in the morse

Hoofbeats of the horse,

The jargon of the Gods maybe, and maybe

I turned in on some heraldic thing;

(Erect me a monument of broken wings)

However divine the arguments

I lost them every one”

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About this record

Written by Aideen Rynne

Published here 03 Mar 2023 and originally published December 1998

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