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The Royal Hibernian Academy’s 2012 exhibition, “Seán Keating and the ESB: Enlightenment and Legacy” was the inspiration for the Corrib gas project’s art commission.

Richard Hearns began his Corrib art commission in 2013

Richard Hearns began his Corrib art commission in 2013

Keating’s portfolio on the construction of the Shannon and Poulaphouca hydro-electric projects from the late 1920’s and 30’s captured the majesty and scale of those ground-breaking energy developments.

At Bellanaboy in North Mayo, the largest energy infrastructure development in the history of the State had been under construction since 2006. This project surely deserved to be recorded in a manner similar to Sean Keating’s portfolio from the Ardnacrusha Hydro Electric Scheme. 

And so the search for an artist who would capture the Corrib project on canvas began. For an engineering company like Shell Ireland, the artist selection process was remarkably unscientific. We were looking for a fulltime artist with a figurative style and a portfolio of previous work we admired. She/he must have an appreciation for the natural environment and, if possible have some connection to Mayo.

Richard Hearns, a young recognised artist establishing himself both at home and abroad met all these criteria. Born in Beirut in 1980 and raised in Dublin, Richard Hearns studied Fine Art - Interdisciplinary Digital Media and Art Craft and Design Education in IADT and NCAD respectively.

Richard derived much of his early inspiration from the 16th and 17th century old masters such as Rembrandt and Velasquez.  His work has a strong design focus and painterly quality while his subject matter ranges from landscapes in the rural environment, to still life and the human figure. He works primarily with oils and uses a limited colour palette.

He visited the work sites on numerous occasions
At work in his Ballyvaughan studio in the Burren.

Richard began working on his Corrib commission in mid-2013.  His brief was not constrained and the choice of subject matter was left up to the artist himself. His working style involved numerous site visits for observation / sketching / photography, during which Richard met and talked to the workforce and gained a technical understanding of the complexity of Corrib.  

Over the following 18 months, he produced two large canvases and fifteen smaller paintings, some painted on location and others at his studio in the Burren. A selection of Richard Hearns Corrib gas project’s portfolio is included in this gallery.

Men Working in Tunnel Shaft

I used lines, gestures and repeated patterns to illustrate the working actions and mechanics of the construction team as they prepared shuttering in the tunnel entrance shaft.

Through Aughoose

My concept for this piece was to use dynamic directional brushstrokes to lead the viewer’s eyes and vision in and through the Aughoose site as if navigating a space.

The welding inspector

Portrait of Roger Hutchinson, a welding inspector who works for Murphy International Limited. My time with Roger and his team of welders was one of the highlights of this artistic commission.

The big wheel

The character of individual workers is expressed through their well-worn protective clothing. This changing room reminded me of Sean Keating’s poignant drawing ‘The Bunkhouse’ from his Ardnacrusha collection.

The Tunnel Entrance

Tunnels are an alien environment to most people. Here I evoke the atmospheric quality of the tunnel entrance by the intense use of colour. The outline of a statue of Saint Barbara, the patron Saint of Miners and Tunnellers, stands sentry just to the left of the tunnel entrance.

Soft rain and reflection

I captured this reflective moment during a long walk along the onshore pipeline route. The image evokes a wet and damp day in rural north Mayo.

The Welders’ Habitat

This study of welders working on the onshore pipeline uses dynamic lines to portray the industrial atmosphere and intense concentration required when welders are at work.

The Bellanaboy Terminal

This composition shows a section of the Bellanaboy gas processing facility. Here I have used precise drawing and subtle colour to reflect the engineering complexity and detailed knowledge that goes into designing and building a major piece of energy infrastructure like Corrib.

At work on the Methanol Column

To my non-engineering eye, the Bellanaboy terminal is a magical maze of pipework. The steely coolness of the methanol column is contrasted against the warm and dense bog land in which it nestles.

Portrait of the artist with tyre tracks

In a fleeting but significant moment, I observed my shadow falling alongside project machinery tyre tracks during one of my earliest site walks.

Landfall, Glengad

My memories of the Glengad site are some of the most prominent from my time on Corrib. This painting captures the image of an engineer, his hard hat slightly askew, gazing out across the beach at Broadhaven Bay.