6Kenneth Lambert has been residing in Belmont Mill Artists Studio at Belmont Co Offaly since September of last year. Having being awarded a residency from September until December 06 he decided to stay on indefinitely living and working on the grounds. After completing his studies in Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology he has managed to consistently work in creative fields of one form or another while still practicing and developing his own work. Over the last number of years he has been able to spend the majority of his time on his own practice mainly as a sculptor but also in drawing and animation work. This has been made possible due to several sales of his work, residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Belmont Mills and bursary awards from South Dublin County Council in 2006 and from Offaly County Council in 2007. In May 2007 he received the prestigious Royal Hibernian Academy sculpture award of €10,000 at the annual RHA exhibition. These achievements have enabled him to concentrate fully on his practice and he will be a participating artist at the Sculpture in Context exhibition taking place at the Botanic Gardens in September 2007 and Offaly Open Submission 2007 in July 2007. Ken attributes his recent achievements to his surroundings and time at Belmont Mill.

“I have found my time over the past ten months in Offaly to be the most inspiring and productive period of my life as an artist to date. As soon as I had arrived I developed a strong feel for the place, it really captivated me in the autumn; the colours of the large maple and birch trees, the horses straddling the fields, the layered history of the immediate area of the Mills.

When I look at the original mill house with its doorway intact and inscribed in very definite and elegant French ‘Le Strange’ above the arch and dated 1673 it fascinates me. I think the delicate style of the writing is juxtaposed to both its age and its seasonally harsh surroundings; essentially it is so stylish and so French. Then there is the house that I am presently living in with its quirky English gentrified post war feel and the writing ‘Perry and sons Estab. 1927’ across the front window in an art deco type face. This area was not just lived in by the French Huguenots and the Anglo Irish it was also cultivated by them. Hopefully as we grow and mature as a contemporary Irish society we will value these simple doorways and houses as part of our heritage. In Ferbane there are some great crafted windows and doorways. Seamus in the hardware shop ‘Bits and Pieces’ told me that these particular features were made by a carpenter by the name of Jackson known to the area at the turn of the century.

I feel that these elements of our towns become more precious as the monoculture of Spars and Centra’s spread out from the larger cities. I know that these convenience shops are probably a much welcomed addition to a lot of towns but how they are nestled in towns such as Ferbane is very American. In this respect I hope that in the future we will look more to our European neighbours for architectural and town planning inspiration..

This whole area around Belmont has become so special to me, the bridges, the weir, the walk along the canal. I have never spent a full cycle of all the seasons in the countryside before and it really has been a powerful time especially the spring, watching the birth of so much life simultaneously. I feel that I am experiencing Belmont Mills at a great time of renewal; I have seen the mills get new roofs and the pebbledash taken off to reveal such beautiful brickwork in the glorious month of April as I sit writing this now in the tempestuous month of June! Presently I am working on an installation to be exhibited at the botanic gardens in Dublin during the month of September.

The work will consist of seven full sized microcrystalline wax toy horses placed in a group amongst the trees. The theme of the horses is based around a sense of cyclical rebirth and a personal homage to ‘Der blau reiter’ group and artists such as Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky.

I feel that Belmont mills and its immediate area is a precious part of our country and heritage and should be both treasured and nurtured for our future generations. I would like to thank Sinead O Reilly, Tom and Sandy and family, Pine and Sandy, Jeff and Kay Perry and say hello to everybody else I’ve had the fortune to call a friend in Offaly and like Arnie, I’ll be back!

(This article first appeared in Visual Artist and by their kind permission we are able to replicate it here on our website. We are grateful to them for this facility.)”