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Artists Turn Dublin into Canvas

Artist Rachel Maher echoes the words of Damien Dempsey, in colour. Church St. Dublin 7. Credit: Rachel Maher 

Dublin Canvas is a county-wide art project whose aim is to bring flashes of colour and creativity to everyday objects across Dublin.  

Dull traffic signal boxes  have been  transformed into colourful curiosities, brightening up even the greyest of  junctions  and turning Ireland’s capital into a walking gallery.   

The project began in the summer of 2015. The original 15 boxes were located along Rathmines, Camden Street and Baggot Street but now they’re stretching to O’Connell Street, along the Liffey and in the Liberties.  

By the end of 2020, they hope to have over 500 pieces completed across Dublin.  

Dublin Canvas sends  out an open call every spring for artist submissions. This year, over 450 people submitted pieces to  info@dublincanvas.com, 113 boxes were chosen.   

One such  local  artist who answered the call and was commissioned by Dublin Canvas to bring her ideas to life, was Rachel Maher (Instagram.com/rachelmaherartist). 

“I had seen the boxes around town but didn’t know what the story behind them was. When I found out about Dublin Canvas, I had just missed their 2017 deadline. I was sure to be ready in 2018 and made 10 separate submissions. Two were commissioned, I was thrilled. I have done a total of four pieces with them since then,” said Maher.   

Maher’s most recent work “Chris and Stevie,” is located on Church St. Dublin 7.   

It was inspired by the Damien Dempsey song of the same name, which deals with mental health issues among young people. The songs ever-poignant lyric, “to all young people, be proud of who you are,” sits at the heart of Maher’s new piece.  

“I am a huge fan of Damien and actually won a contest through his website a few years ago to design a t-shirt for his merchandise. My design was for “Chris and Stevie,” and  the t-shirt sold-out the first night it was on sale. I realised that the song meant as much to other fans as it  did to me .  Everyone has been touched by mental health issues.  So, I wanted to help continue spread its message with  Dublin Canvas.   

Rachel Maher

Maher  has faced some unusual hurdles becoming the gifted artist she is today. She was born with a  condition  called  protanopia, more commonly known as colour blindness. The visual impairment effects 8% of the world’s male population and 0.1% of females.  

The condition, however, has caused her to develop her own process and approach to art. She refused to see it as a negative where her creativity is concerned.   

“I am really drawn to patterns and optical illusions. I am inspired by nature and am obsessed with  leaves, which you can see in my work. Abstract art is my favourite area because there are no rules, and that is what suits me. Dublin Canvas gives the artist freedom to really express themselves, which is great,” she added.   

Work in progress. Rachel Maher helps to “colour in the county,” with Dublin Canvas. Credit: Rachel Maher  

Clodagh Burke, an architecture student in UCD, also took part in the art project recently. Her piece is located at the Rosie Hackett Bridge and depicts the annual Colours Boat Race. The race takes place on the Liffey between UCD and Trinity on the St. Patricks Day Bank Holiday.  

“I was a member of UCD Boat Club in my first year of college. I coxed the male novice boat for the year, and we did extremely well. A person in college asked me to get involved with them and I’m very glad I did. I wanted to pay tribute to the race with my Dublin Canvas piece,” said Burke. 

Although not everyone who submits their ideas are commissioned, getting involved in Dublin Canvas has been a positive experience for those involved.   

“I would 100% encourage people to get involved. There are even options to use your own paint or else they give you a paint pack which has everything you need and more. It is a very well organised programme,” said Burke.  

Dublin Canvas also have a good presence on social media with a Facebook page and an Instagram (instagram.com/dublincanvas) with over 10,000 followers. This is also where they showcase a lot of the work from participants.   

Some of the other designs include a mural of Phil Lynott, electrical boxes painted to look like cassette tapes, Star Wars characters and plenty of paintings of dogs!  

With its cheery slogan of “Less Grey, More Play,” a large online following, and already plenty of buzz for next summer’s designs, it seems Dublin Canvas will be brightening up the city for years to come.  

Dublin Canvas is a public project fully funded by each of County Dublin’s four main councils.   

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