About Eoghan Daltun
Islamic spolia reused in Sicilian church
‘Archaic’ sculpture, Tuscany
There has always been a fascination with the combination of shape and stone as a material for Eoghan, as testified by a collection of found stone fragments — natural sculptures — from such disparate locations as the Sinai desert, Greece and the West of Ireland. However, the realisation that this was more than just one amongst many interests matured whilst single-handedly reconstructing a ruined 18th century cottage of calp field limestone in Kilmainham, Dublin.
Having completed his cottage, Eoghan made straight for Carrara, Italy, where he learned his craft — and much more besides. This small town in the foothills of the Apuan Alps in the north of Tuscany has attracted sculptors since Roman times on account of the quality of the marble in the many surrounding quarries. Michelangelo, Bernini, Canova and many others frequented the place over the centuries, often living and working in what remains a sculptors′ Mecca to the present day.
Carrara became home for Eoghan for the next seven years, a period spent immersing himself in Italian culture, language and, above all, in sculpture. The process began with a nine-month intensive course in the techniques of carving marble and stone sculpture at the Scuola del Marmo, followed by a similar period acquiring further carving skills in a professional workshop environment at Nicoli Sculpture Studios.
He afterwards decided to broaden his knowledge by attending a four-year multi-disciplinary course in the Conservation and Restoration of Stone and Marble Sculpture at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Carrara, run in collaboration with the world-famous Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Florence.
His final thesis was a study of the use of spolia (i.e. architectural sculpture and other similar material reutilised in a period later to that in which it was created) in Italy in the period 300-1300 A.D. Research for this thesis took Eoghan all over Italy, from Sicily in the south to Friuli in the far north. It provided an opportunity to acquaint himself thoroughly with many of the most important medieval monuments in the country, including Rome. He was able to gain a good understanding of how the changing demands placed on sculpture were manifested, as well as technical aspects of the past uses of stone.
Eoghan completed his years studying sculpture by undertaking a postgraduate research degree in art history (M. Litt.) with Trinity College, Dublin. His dissertation, titled "Early Medieval Artistic Styles in the Romanesque: ‘Archaic’ Architectural Sculpture in 11th-13th Century Tuscany", explored a type of sculpture that occurs in Romanesque churches in many rural areas of Tuscany that is strikingly similar to the style of carving prevalent in Langobardic Italy, roughly five centuries earlier.
This period of deeper research also required extensive travel, in Tuscany, Umbria, Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna. While the principal focus was on iconography and its social and historical context, close study of a vast body of sculpture gave rise to an intimate knowledge of medieval carving methods and materials, and the ability to read vital information from the clues contained therein.
Throughout his years of study in Italy, Eoghan returned to Ireland for several months every summer where he worked, either carving or in sculpture conservation, very often acting as assistant to Jason Ellis, sculpture conservator.
In 2005 he returned to Ireland permanently, where he has continued to work in the same field. Initially based in the cottage in Kilmainham, in 2009 he moved with his family to the Beara Peninsula in West Cork, having bought a long-abandoned farm of 73 acres. There he is putting into practice a passion for another form of conservation and restoration: that of natural habitat, as much of the land has reverted over many decades of disuse to its original cover of sessile oak-dominated native wildwood. Immensely rich in terms of its biodiversity, it is home to several rare and protected species, including Lesser Horseshoe Bat, Kerry Slug, Marsh Fritillary and Killarney Fern.
Beneath the canopy of trees, the forms of the landscape are sculpture in their own right, with towering craggy escarpments, scattered gargantuan boulders and deep gorges with rushing torrents, all formed from age-weathered sandstone. Combined they create an ecological and aesthetic wonderland, in which gnarled old oaks, carpeted in moss and ferns, grow from the rock fissures or ledges where chance happened to sow an acorn, their roots twisting out across the naked stone.