Located in Toverna Park in Blackrock, at the junction of Newtown Avenue and the bottom of Temple Hill, Stele for Cecil King, by Colm Brennan, is a sculpture dedicated to the memory of painter Cecil King.
The late Cecil King was a, largely self-taught, artist from Rathdrum, Co. Wicklow who, despite having started painting in his mid-30s and exhibited in 1959, only became a professional artist in 1964, at the age of 43.
Initially, King worked in a semi-realist style producing a number of lyrical paintings and pastels such as the Circus and Trapeze. These early paintings show a reductivist tendency that points unmistakably towards his later work: he is most famous for his contribution to Modernism in Ireland. King was an avid collector and the influence of Hans Hartung and Lucio Fontana, whose works he collected among others, can also be seen in these 1960s works. Like Hartung, King worked in series, repeating a motif until he was satisfied with the balance and tension he had achieved: indeed, he often returned to a motif after some years in the guise of a new title. While he began painting in an expressionist style, his mature works have a distinctive cool minimalist formality and often involve clean blocks of even colour cleaved at an acute angle, something reflected in Colm Brennan’s sculpture here.
From the early 1970s onwards, King found new and varied forms to explore through different geometric abstractions. Vent (1972), is imbued with a vigorous energy, as a V shape bisects the canvas which itself has found a new powerful verticality. Following a visit to Berlin in 1970, King began his Berlin series – large-scale colour field works in which a narrow peripheral band creates a tension between figure and ground, in which some commentators have seen references to the Berlin Wall and a city divided. The same wall-like constructions continued in the later Haarlem paintings, begun after a visit to New York. Much of the power of King’s works comes from their meticulous execution. King once said: “There is no margin for error. The image has got to be there from the beginning. Colours can change as you go along, lines can be added. But you’ve got to have the basis right. With my type of painting, if you spoil it at any stage you miss out on the whole thing.” (ref http://www.modernart.ie/en/page_170657.htm)
Cecil King lived for many years on Idrone Terrace, in Blackrock; he died in 1986.
Colm Brennan’s sculpture, “Stele for Cecil King”, was erected specifically to be interactive for young children. The geometric form in red painted steel stands monumental and proud against a mid-ground of the surrounding greenery.
You can view a map of all the public sculptures in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown here, complete with details of the artists and what the sculptures mean.