In a ceremony at the Royal Hibernian Academy recently, sculptor Alan Meredith received a special mention at the prestigious Golden Fleece Awards.
Established by Lillias Mitchell to provide resources for practising contemporary visual artists and makers to innovate and develop their artistic vision, the Golden Fleece Award is the largest of its kind in Ireland, and this year the prize fund is worth €35,000 in total.
Mountmellick native Alan Meredith creates new work that is more ambitious in terms of scale.
This allows the visual impact of the wood grain and the dramatic effects of steam bending take on a new meaning.
In his work using native Irish oak, the growth rings become more impactful and decades, if not centuries, of wood growth become apparent in order to tell the story of the tree and present the material in a new and most interesting light.
His studio – a restored stable, cow house and grain loft – is on the family beef, sheep and tillage farm at The Oak, Mountmellick.
After attending secondary school in Kilkenny College, Alan studied architecture in UCD for five years, including a semester in KTH Stockholm in 2014.
Over the years he has developed the ancient method of steaming wood, a technique that allows him to generate new and elaborate forms while working within the constraints of solid wood.
Speaking at the ceremony, Angela O’Kelly, Chair of the Golden Fleece Award Advisory Panel said: “The standard of applications this year was outstanding, and a tribute to the professionalism within the creative sector.
“There was tremendous freshness, variety and ambition in the proposals which made the task of the Advisory Panel extremely difficult.
“Each of the shortlisted applicants displayed very focused visions and plans to advance their work to new levels, and we look forward to seeing the results of the 2023 Award in the year ahead.
“So many applications were deserving of the Award, and I would urge all that applied but were not winners this year to continue to apply in the future.”
Barbara Cotter, Chair of the Board of Trustees added: “The Trustees of the Golden Fleece Award were absolutely delighted with the unprecedented number of applications received for the 2023 Award.
“The quality of work submitted from both the visual arts and craft and applied arts worlds was of the highest standard.
“This year we are celebrating the Trust’s twenty-second birthday, and to see such enthusiasm and wonderful work in the applications is a real tribute to the goodness of Lillias Mitchell, who established the Award.
“We are very grateful to all those who have been involved with the Golden Fleece over the years, and most particularly this year to our Advisory Panel, chaired so ably and generously by Angela O’Kelly. We offer our heartiest congratulations to the recipients of the Award this year, and also to all who were shortlisted.”
The 2023 Golden Fleece Award had a distinguished Advisory Panel whose knowledge and experience were invaluable in guiding the development of the Award this year.
The Panel includes: Angela O’Kelly (Panel Chair, jeweller and Head of Design for Body & Environment, NCAD); Roger Bennett (woodturner); Hugh Mulholland (Creative Director, Visual Arts, the MAC); Clíodhna Shaffrey (Director, Temple Bar Gallery + Studios) and Dr. Audrey Whitty (Director, National Library of Ireland and former Deputy Director, National Museum of Ireland).
The full list of artists and makers shortlisted for the 2023 Award were: Cathy Burke; Clodagh Emoe; Pierce Healy; Barbara Knežević, Richard Malone, Alan Meredith and Aisling O’Beirn.