President praises youngsters at Texaco art prize-giving

Competition winners gather at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham

President Higgins met with winners of the Texaco Childrens Art Competition today in the Institute of Modern Art. Video: Darragh Bambrick

Wed, May 28, 2014, 01:00

Some of Ireland’s most talented young artists gathered in the summer sunshine at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin today to celebrate the prize winners of the 60th Anniversary Texaco Children’s Art Competition.

President Michael D Higgins, who was invited as guest of honour to present the awards, stood before dozens of talented artists accompanied by their proud parents and congratulated them on their “astonishing and impressing” originality and their “ability to let their imaginations run free.”

Before taking to the podium, the President was guided around the Great Hall of the Royal Hospital where he was introduced to the 127 artists and shown their prizewinning artwork. He later reflected on the words of Pablo Picasso who once said; “every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

“It is important,” said Mr Higgins, “that the young people being honoured at this event do not ever abandon their great gift for fresh thinking, creative expression and generous communication.”

He added that the young competition winners would go on to contribute to Irish society like previous winners before them, citing a list which included such familiar names as Paul Costello, Jean Anne Crowley, David Begg, and even the current Minister for Education, Ruairí Quinn.

Before closing his speech, the President reminded his audience of the power of art and its ability to teach us a “democratic truth”, showing us how we can work together while also “celebrating the diversity amongst us.”

Mr Higgins was joined on his tour of the artwork by the chairman of the judging panel, Professor Declan McGonagle, director of the National College of Art and Design. Mr McGonagle said he continues to be pleasantly surprised by the improvement in standard every year.

He gave particularly high praise to this year’s overall prize winner, 16-year-old Shania McDonagh from Mount St. Michael Secondary School in Claremorris. He described the young artist’s pencil portrait of Galway fisherman Coleman Coyne from the Vanishing Ireland series as “hypnotic”, adding that her work had established her as one of the most talented artists of her generation.

“It goes way beyond the source material, it produces something almost hypnotic,” he said. “She’s created every pore in his skin.”

Mr McGonagle added that the Texaco Art competition gives young Irish artists the chance to embrace their creativity. “Young artists will try anything,” he said. “They’re free, open and fresh.”