28 April 2006

Realistic bronze of blanket man

Daily Ireland

H-block project takes its toll on sculptor

By Connla Young
27/04/2006

A County Cork man who crafted a life-like sculpture of a blanket man has spoken of the emotional toll the project took on him.
Brendan Byrne spent several months handcrafting a bronze blanket man designed to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1981 hunger strike.
The former bank manager turned artist even wore a blanket in his own home in a bid to make his bronze creation as realistic as possible.
At a recent mass to remember the hunger strikers, family members were presented with one of the 16-inch high bronze figures.
Mr Byrne says he was touched by the reaction of hunger-strike families to his work.
“It really was an emotional thing for me. Normally I sell a piece in retail and never see where it ends up. I never see how people react to the work. I didn’t realise the impact it would have on the families. Young people were there and older family members were able to explain what the blanket protest was like using the figure.
“It was difficult to make. I had to make the figure look as thin as possible. Most of the lads were down to eight and a half stone and reflecting that in the piece was difficult. Another difficulty was trying to express both the strength of the men and the physical weakness at the same time. It was a learning experience for me.
“This was recent history and people remember it so it was important to keep my eye on the detail. We wanted it to be authentic as possible. The style of the writing on the sculpture was taken from communications sent from the prison.”
Produced by Tyrone company Créumha Loch nEacha, the bronze figures are available from the Art Shop on Belfast’s Falls Road.

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