The Duthain Dealbh sand sculptures in Dublin Castle

Go have a look at the sand sculptures in the grounds of Dublin Castle. It’s the ninth year Duthain Dealbh have presented their creations and this year’s theme is ‘Compass’.

The Duthain Dealbh crew started their sculptures at the end of July and they’ll be on display until the end of August. A slow and meticulous process, it’s clear that Daniel Doyle, Niall Magee and Alan Magee, joined for this exhibition by Fergus Mulvany have a passion as well as amazing skill for what they do.

This year’s theme is Compass : N, S, E, W. Each sculptor has taken a specific idea and brought it out of the sand. Each one is below with the artists blurb (taken from posters beside the sculptures):

North – Poles apart by Daniel Doyle: Taking my inspiration from the fact that there are two North poles, I chose to show then as seperate entities. True North as a simple form where all lines of longitude originate and Magnetic North with its fields radiating from its living cores. As the earth rotates around its axis, Magnetic North with a life of its own changes continually as it dances round the world.

South – Migration by Alan Magee: I have chosen to focus on the idea of migration. In Ireland, it’s a sign of the changing seasons when the swallows prepare to migrate south to warmer climes. However Ireland is south for another migratory bird, the Brent Goose. So with this in mind I carved the abstracted form of two birds, face to face, crossing each other to form an arch.

East – Never ending journey by Niall Magee: East, unlike North and South has no fixed point, you travel east from Dublin and you arrive in mainland Europe; travel East from there and you get to the Middle East, then to Asia, then to Hawaii, then to America. Travel East from America and you arrive in Dublin again. The idea of east is an infinite one. I used the infinity symbol as the basis for the sculpture.

West – A trillion sunsets, a thousand empires, a single fact by Fergus Mulvany: The west as a cultural, political or geographical entity has become too bague and widespread to pin down and will be utterly unrecognizable in another trillion unchanged sunsets. We flourish and dissipate among endless empires of dirt.

The sand the guys use is ordinary builder’s mortar sand, better than beach sand as it’s diamond shaped and locks together better. It also has a 10% silt content which helps bind the sand and hold the moisture in better. They begin with wooden forms in sections, put together in much the same way as cake tins. Sand and water is then added and compacted with mechanical wackers, forcing the sand so tight together it’s almost like sandstone.

The boxes are then stacked on top of each other forming a pyramid structure and the wooden sections are removed allowing them to carve from a block of sand. It’s not really impacted much by the rain, sand being porous and any surface damage is easily fixed. When the sculpture is finished they spray on a dilute water glue solution that acts in much the same way as hairspray, preventing surface detail from blowing away.

There are more photos by Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland below. Most of the ones above are my own. Spot the professional photographer!

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