03 Oct 2022

Mystery explained of concrete square at Portlaoise roundabout

Mystery explained of concrete square at Portlaoise roundabout

Image of final sculpture for Portlaoise

The strange huge concrete square being built at the O'Moore Park roundabout in Portlaoise has been explained.

The arch is part of a new permanent sculpture, Laois County Council revealed on Friday, August 5.

It has a hidden secret inside it too.

‘Protectour’ is a large permanent artwork marking the gateway to Portlaoise town by Wicklow artist James Hayes.

The artwork references the historic Old Fort in its shape whilst celebrating sport and participation as it is beside O’Moore Park Laois GAA grounds.

It was commissioned by Open Competition under the Government Per Cent for Art scheme by Laois County Council. This artwork is poured and polished concrete by local company Uniqrete.

The large portal reflects both the Old Fort and the celebratory nature of sports. Its structure is inspired by the footprint of the historic Old Fort that still stands in the town centre, a square fort with a square tower on one corner.

Accompanying this portal are seven smaller forms, placed so that they sweep through in a curving and rotating composition. The seven smaller concrete forms represent the seven septs of Laois; O’Devoy (O’Deevy), O’Doran, O’Dowling, McEvoy, O’Kelly, O’Lalor and O’Moore. These are the original Gaelic clans that were then “transplanted” out of Laois to Munster and Connaught.  The large portal and the smaller forms represent a historic transfer of power in Laois.

The piece is large and bright enough to be easily visible from a distance by pedestrians and drivers and can be taken in “at a glance”.  It is anticipated that the artwork will in time become a focal point, a place of interest, a landmark of both the approach and exit to Portlaoise.

There's a hidden capsule inside it.

"It was important that this new artwork for Portlaoise reflected the time, place and space of the local community. James Hayes, with assistance from the Laois Arts Office engaged with a number of local interest groups and schools during the Covid pandemic to create and gather material for a time capsule that is now hidden away inside the artwork. The time capsule will, when it is opened in future years, reflect the happenings in the lives of these people over the period of the creation of the artwork," Laois Arts office say.

James Hayes has created other artworks in conjunction with the Laois Arts Office; notably the Percent for Art Scheme commissioned for the Laois Arthouse in 2011 and the Emo Court Art Symposium of 2005. He exhibited a new work in the Laois Arthouse 10th Anniversary exhibition, In Trust. In Gratitude. In Hope. in 2011 and 2022.

An official launch of the sculpture will take place on Culture Night, Friday 23 September.

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