Friday, 21 of June of 2024

“Skellig Brothers”

Today I hang our  “Skellig Brothers” exhibition in Dublin. The van is loaded, the paintings are framed, and my skellig brother is somewhere over the Atlantic en route to Ireland. It’s an exciting, daunting time and hard not feel a little nervous after so many months of preparation.

this is an exhibition of new seascapes created en plein aire during a residency at Cill Rialaig, Co. Kerry in 2010. Commission on sales from the show will go to support the Cill Rialaig Artists Retreat.

I have to get going now and will quickly add our press release to explain more about show…

Twenty four years ago ‘two little boys’ teenagers – one a Dubliner (Rod Coyne) the other a New Yorker (Scott Redden) met and become the best of chums at the Crawford College of Art in Cork.

Scott’s Uncle the highly respected Jeff Steiner Scott was the principal then and both boys said goodbye after 2 years in Cork. Rod was finding no way to earn a living in Ireland as an artists and emigrated to Germany where he met his wife Anja and Scott went on to Hunter College New York where he got an MFA in Painting and found favour and lots of collectors through the Dillon Gallery, Oyster Bay New York and the Laurel Tracey Gallery New Jersey.

Seas apart they kept in touch over the years. Rod came back to Ireland in 1999, ten years after leaving. “The place seemed starving, untidy and melancholy in 1989 – ten years later on my arrival back it looked like my country had tidied up, shook itself out of its gloomy atmosphere and was punching above its weight culturally as well as economically.”

Rod discovered Cill Rialaig the artist’s retreat set up by former publisher Noelle Campbell-Sharp in Ballinskelligs and unveiled in 1991 by Charles Haughey (An Taoiseach). He was amongst the first Irish artists to get a residency in the newly restored cabin studios of the once abandoned pre-famine village.

And that was when he found the Great Skellig and was mesmerized so much by its majestic height he spent days and nights sketching, photographing it from all sorts of vantage points – “I liked the view from Bray head on Valentia Island, but painted it from St. Finian’s Bay, Glen Pier and best of all after a good walking hike from Bolus Head where all the Skellig Island’s glory is revealed as well as Puffin Island and the Blaskets over in Dingle.

Rod then went on to sell out shows at ORIGIN Gallery and featured in exhibitions at the RHA, RUA as well as exhibitions in London, Europe and the USA – the newly refurbished Shelbourne Hotel acquired a number of his works. He and his wife Anja and their two children now live and work in the Vale of Avoca.

It was not til 2008 that Scott Redden renewed his acquaintance with Ireland when he was awarded a 2 week residency at the Co. Kerry retreat. Coincidentally, his old friend Rod Coyne was there at the same time and it was he who introduced the American to the world heritage side of the Skelligs. A further residency for both artists last year has culminated in a unique exhibition which they’ve entitled “Skellig Brothers” opening 10th March at Urban Retreat Gallery.

This story of how a Dublin born artist and a Manhattan based artist found ‘brotherly love’ will be told to art collecting patrons of Cill Rialaig and its Urban Retreat Gallery will be all the more interesting as the story will be told by another Sceilig admirer and boat building enthusiast, Brother Anthony Keane, Glenstal Abbey.

Brother Anthony is co-founder with Gary MacMahon of the AK ILEN company presently involved in the rebuilding of Irelands last sea-going wooden sailing ships.

Launched in 1926 by the pioneering voyager and maritime designer Conor O’Brien the 56’ Ilen has been in the Folkland Islands before 1998 when it was repatriated by the boat building duo above but it was almost lost to Chile!

Like Cill Rialaig ILEN is a registered charity and runs the Big Boat Build Workshops dedicated to education through wooden boat building and sailing on the sea. Several workshops in Skibbereen are attracting teenagers to 70-year-old enthusiasts – the newly unemployed are all welcome and under the supervision of qualified shipwrights.

It’s appropriate that today’s artists and boat builders come together to remember the monks who were thought to have spent years constructing the boats that would carry them down the Shannon and out of Limerick into the Atlantic Ocean ‘in search of paradise’.

And a further romantic postscript to the story of our two little boys is that Scott found his new partner coincidentally a German artist and writer at Cill Rialaig last year.

Skellig Brothers” Paintings by ROD COYNE (IRE) and SCOTT REDDEN (US) URBAN RETREAT GALLERY – March 10 – 10 April 2011

HQ Building, Hanover Quay, Dublin 2

Tel: 01 633 7865



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