Askeaton Contemporary Arts

Seanie Barron

For decades, Seanie Barron has been carving and shaping wood in a workshop at the back of his house in Plunkett Road, Askeaton. Initially, his work might be labeled as folk art, yet on further inspection it becomes apparent that his work is instead borne out of an understanding of nature and often-humorous interpretations of the environment around him. He roams around Askeaton, looking for the right branch left in a field or underneath a bush, to then shape into a walking stick. These often take on surreal forms referencing seahorses, weasels, fists, foxes or swimmers. Many double as whistles, or incorporate found objects such as coins, bullets or animal bones. By channeling all from the overlooked to the exotic, Barron has spent years working on a form of art that, though may come from an untrained hand, is as relevant as any didactic form of creativity.

 

Michele Horrigan wrote about Barron in 2016’s Curating Projects, published by Tabakalera, the International Centre for Contemporary Culture in San Sebastian, Spain:

 

"Askeaton native Seanie Barron’s art has had a private trajectory, fermenting secretly for many years before being revealed in a flourish. After featuring in his first exhibition at the age of 67 in our local tourist office, his work has been seen in galleries and museums in London, Dublin and further afield. Irish daytime radio has proclaimed his art – which takes the shape of surreal walking sticks, smoking pipes and increasingly more sculptural forms – as “the next big thing for Irish hipsters once they finish growing their beards”. He tours around Ireland, enthralling audiences with stories related to his art and life. At a packed village hall on Inisbofin island he explained his philosophy on keeping active, claiming that “there are two things that can kill you in this life: the electric chair and the armchair!”

 

Barron literally takes it all in his stride, choosing a new walking stick from his collection each day to go on his evening walk. He shares his vast knowledge of the west Limerick terrain with visiting artists, which he has acquired after decades of roaming around Askeaton through hedges and bushes in search of a special branch that might become one of his creations. Barron was a manual labourer all his life and worked for Roadstone, Ireland’s biggest construction company. His recent retirement means he now spends much more time on his real work, which he ardently still describes as a ‘hobby’. Before retiring, he squirreled away a collection of cats’ eyes, hard-wearing reflectors used as road markings for night driving. He had a feeling that they might come in useful and today they form the eyes of animal heads, staring out at you from the handles of sticks in his dimly-lit workshop.

 

If you half close your eyes, you take a journey with him, walking through arboreal countryside, feeling the grain of the timber in your hand and holding the handle of the stick to the ground that reconnects it back again to its earthiness … it’s the spark that created the universe. The sticks resemble everything from deer horns, mink, badgers, running men or even faraway dolphins. Now they are all interconnected and together as one. There are no longer borders or divisions, only the material of the world in front of you."