In a small garden on North Strand Road, a deep orange, double hexagonal structure looms large in a green space with overgrown grass and tall trees nearby.
The steel sculpture stands just beside Marino College of Further Education and shares a home with the North Strand Bombing Memorial, as well as a large mural that reads “Do you know the Five Lamps?”
“People really like it,” says Róisín Lonergan, a theatre lecturer at Marino College. “I think it’s really good in a garden because it gives a framework to look through and, also, it’s a focal point.”
“Any kind of visual art in a garden, as long as there’s not too much of it, is interesting,” Lonergan says.
The artist responsible for the piece, titled “Hexagon (This Could Be It)”, is Steven Doody.
Doody is tall. Very tall, in fact.
At six-foot-six, he is nearly the same height as “Hexagon” – but not quite.
His long dark hair is pulled together in a low bun, with a pencil and pen sticking out in either direction.
He’s happy to list off the various community projects he’s involved with.
He is not only a ceramics artist and woodworking teacher – he also holds a slam-poetry workshop for kids, and helps with a tree-planting workshop in the local area.
Doody is also pursuing a master’s degree in fine art at the National College of Art and Design. But his journey to becoming an artist wasn’t a straightforward one.
Originally from Grangecon in County Wicklow, Doody spent two decades as a joiner working in construction before a bout of ill health in 2011 forced him to leave that profession.
After considering his options and his love of making things, he enrolled in a foundation art course at Whitehall College of Further Education.
“I’m lucky that I live in a society where I was able to re-educate myself from scratch,” he says.
His personal connection to art might be a trait passed down “from generations of people who did things with their hands”, he says.
The Making of “Hexagon”
Each year, hundreds of artists submit their work to Sculpture in Context, the largest outdoor sculpture exhibition in Ireland.
In 2014, Steven became one of six artists whose pieces were selected and displayed in the National Botanic Gardens for six weeks as a part of the exhibition. “Hexagon” won him a prize of €500 that year.
According to Jackie Ball, a visual artist and organiser with the exhibition, artists from all over Europe and even America submit their works each year. This year, Sculpture in Context received close to 500 submissions.
“Our theme is always in context. So, it’s in context of the gardens. We ask three different selectors from the arts with three different backgrounds to select the participants,” Ball says.
The inspiration for “Hexagon” came from nature, Doody says. The hexagon is the most efficient shape in nature, he says.
“You can realise the largest amount of volume using the smallest amount of materials,” Doody says. “If you look at wasps nests or bees nests, that comb shape – that hexagonal shape – that’s why they use that shape.”
Doody’s sculpture, “Hexagon”, which is more than two metres tall, connects two six-sided shapes using a bar that sees the piece stretch upwards.
Over the course of five months, he sketched out his plans for the work, recruited certified welders to help him put it together, and installed it in the show at the National Botanic Gardens.
Once the exhibition was over, though, Doody, ran into a logistical issue. “Part of the problem with sculpture sometimes can be that, if you make a larger object, what do I do with it afterwards?” he says.
After Doody installed “Hexagon” on TU Dublin’s Grangegorman campus for a time – without permission, mind you – the sculpture soon found its way to North Strand Road via the Five Lamps Arts Festival, an annual event featuring many local artists.
“I knew Róisín Lonergan, who runs the Five Lamps Arts Festival,” Doody explains. ”And she said, last year, as part of the […] festival, we could put it out in the garden.”
After the festival ended, “Hexagon” stayed up in the garden, seemingly becoming permanent fixture.
Near the sculpture are shrubs and small trees that Doody has planted. He points out a nearby London plane tree with dark, twisty bark and explains why the garden grows out its grass instead of cutting it short. So bees can pollinate.
He’s as interested in nature and the environment as he is in making art. “That’s one of the of the reasons I like being an artist so much. You can go and pick a topic, any topic, and go study it,” he says.
Spotted a piece of public art that you’d like to know more about? Seen a sculpture with an interesting back story? Send us an email to email@example.com, and we could include it in our Brushing Up series.