THE remarkable wood-art of Liam Flynn from Abbeyfeale can be found in some of the world’s leading museums such as the Victoria and Albert in London, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge as well as the National Museum in Dublin.
His pieces have also found their way into many illustrious public and private collections – and Liam has been the recipient of many awards.
But from now to the end of December, the people of Limerick can see for themselves the range and quality of Liam’s work – and understand how he has won such a high national and international reputation – in a retrospective exhibition at the Hunt Museum.
Speaking at the opening of the exhibition last weekend, Dr Hugh Maguire, director of the museum likened Liam’s work to that of a sculptor working to release the captured body from a block of stone – or in Liam’s case, releasing the form from a great block of wood. And in the beautifully illustrated and sumptuously produced catalogue which accompanies the retrospective, Dr Maguire described Liam as one of Ireland’s most celebrated craft artists. His work, he wrote, speaks “of eternal verities, shapes and forms which are timeless and of other qualities.”
Niall Greene, chairman of the Hunt board, pointed out that it was an important part of the mix of the museum to provide a platform for the work of living artists. “Liam Flynn brought Irish wood art to the attention of the world,” he went on, before adding that Liam was also a master of another art – that of fly fishing for salmon.
Br Ciaran Forbes of Glenstal officially launched the exhibition – from which, he said, he drew a feeling of quietude. He spoke of Liam’s giftedness – a giftedness which he said was genetic and inherited from his father and grandfather. “Liam’s whole approach to his work – it is never about himself. His focus is on the work. That is not true of all wood-workers. For many, it is about themselves. Once the ego intervenes, it destroys the whole work.”
Liam Flynn did not speak himself but in the catalogue, the story is told of how he gravitated towards his father’s and grandfather’s workshop beside the house in Convent St – already as a boy, making furniture. But it was an experience on a friend’s lathe in 1985 that sparked what became his consuming passion – wood-turning.
Now, he works mainly with green wood – and with local wood, focusing strongly on line and movement.
In Br Ciaran’s words, Liam’s pieces are thoughtful.
They are also, as Roger Bennett rightly says in the catalogue, achingly beautiful. ”They have a brooding presence, a sense of rightness, an air of confidence. We long to touch them.”
The Liam Flynn retrospective, curated by Eleanor Flegg, also includes a short film by James Kelly showing Liam at work. Admission is free.