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It was always my intention, to compliment my famine sculpture in Dublin, that there should be a sculpture of a group of figures arriving on the other side of the Atlantic. When Toronto was suggested as a possible location, I was particularly interested because my family (on my mother’s side) had emigrated in famine times and made their home in Canada, eventually returning to Ireland when my grandfather became a judge in the newly formed Irish Free State. So I had a natural personal interest that this sculpture should be located in Canada. While working on the Famine sculpture for Dublin, of course my mind often turned to considering what would be the fate of this bedraggled group – how many of them would even survive the crossing? I became fascinated by the fact that, in spite of ill health, so many women became pregnant during the long months at sea. This concept of the new life in a new land became the initial inspiration for the Arrival series; a pregnant woman.
On visiting the magnificent site on the Toronto waterfront, with it views of the famous Toronto skyline in one direction and open lake in the other, I visualized the next figure, a survivor, weak and weary after the long journey across the Atlantic, responding to the view of Toronto, arms aloft in a gesture of sublimation, awe and hope. Beside him there would be a child looking in the same direction with wide eyes expressing a combination of fear and defiance.
Possibly the most dominant feature on the site are the huge grain silos which seem to symbolize the abundance of food in Canada, in contrast to the situation in Ireland. So there would be another figure of a man (they were mainly men who made the journey) in humble prayer and gratitude as he looks in almost disbelief at these symbols of plenty.
Seven years have passed since I made the sculpture for Dublin and first visited Toronto. During this time my thoughts and ideas have matured and I feel that this sculpture for Toronto will truly be an evolution and development, responding with sensitivity to the site. I find myself excited to continue with the project.
Rowan GillespieIreland-Park-(Winter)-#2Ireland-Park-(Winter)-#1