Meet the Artist: Derek Birney

Skerries Rock Art

I started like a lot of people during the first lockdown. I had finished tidying my garden and when I started in the shed I found a couple of moulds I’d bought years ago and out of boredom I thought I’d do a few castings for fun. I started to experiment with what medium gave the best results and concrete was the best for outdoors so I started making concrete skulls from the mould I had. After I’d made a few I started getting interested in how to actually make moulds. Youtube of course was the best place to start,there was a craft shop (RPM) that delivered during lockdown so I sourced my latex and casting powder from there. I began making moulds using brush on latex from ornaments i’d bought in various parts of the world..the first was a gargoyle figure from carcassonne in france. It turned out pretty well. My interest in medieval and pagan art goes back to my childhood..i’m not sure where it comes from..maybe it’s a racial-genetic memory from a previous life or life,i don’t know.

The image of the green man is my favourite i think. I first saw the Green Man in the 1973 movie the Wicker Man,its the name of the Inn that Edward Woodward stays in,i researched it (pre-internet) in various books and it was a recurring theme in medieval folklore and in art especially from the south of England..Harvest festivals often featured Green Man characters as symbolising the life and rebirth of the woods…remember in medieval times forests provided everything in terms of materials..shelter,food,handles for tools,boats,carts,medicine..the forests were hugely important so in my green man art i wanted to celebrate this important resource and by doing so bring the mystery and magic of the forests to the people of today

I also wanted to explore Pre-christian themes such as the Medusa of greek mythology,the mythical head of the Gorgons whose gaze turned people to stone and had snakes instead of hair..the female classical anti-heroine but hugely popular today. Likewise the Sheela Na Gig,an obvious fertility symbol with an element of cheekiness..i make these in many different colours and finishes and i’m always experimenting with new techniques and the past 6 months i’ve started to use coldcast metals ( a mixture of resin and metal powder) which gives great results,particularly for the Medusa plaques..i have used bronze,iron,copper and brass or sometimes a mix of all 4..its all about evolving and offering different designs!

I’ve ordered some large moulds from the UK which i hope will arrive soon which represent a medieval king and queen holding swords..a new direction for me but i’m looking forward to getting started and seeing what happens with them,which colors and finishes will look best etc etc,to me this is a hugely enjoyable journey and i’m very glad i started!

IG: @skerries_rock_art

Skerries Rock Art on Etsy

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Derek Birney
Derek Birney
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