Murals are an original way of altering mood and creating the illusion of depth and grandeur. Three muralists who have completed stunning projects in Ireland tell us about their work …
Murals are a great way of completely altering the aspect and ambience of a space no matter what size; they can shift mood and create the illusion of depth and grandeur. They can also be purely decorative by creating a frieze or tile effect or even floral trim. They are extremely versatile and can be done anywhere. Whether externally or internally, as long as the surface is properly prepared and sealed, murals have durability and can last for as long a time as the client wishes with minimum maintenance.
Recently featured in THE GLOSS Interiors and on RTÉ Nationwide, Michael Dillon is an Irish mural painter of international acclaim whose work is found from New Zealand to Zimbabwe. While Dillon has undertaken many private commissions in Ireland, his public works include commissions for Ballymaloe Cookery School, Mount Juliet and Loughcrew Estate, Co Meath.
Dillon’s interest in murals began when he was 27, when he helped his brother-in-law, Alec Cobbe, restore the Chinese Cabinet of Curiosities at Newbridge House, Donabate, Co Dublin [Cobbe’s former family home]. Dillon worked as his assistant on that project and others in Ireland and the UK. Since then, Dillon’s own reputation has grown and he has travelled widely transposing his clients’ pictorial fantasies onto walls. He once spent three months on a game ranch in southern Zimbabwe, painting one room, and has frequently travelled to Mustique for commissions in addition to Seville and Madrid. The multilingual Dillon has also undertaken small commissions in Canada, USA, the Middle East and New Zealand. Dillon has also completed commercial decorative art for the Beltichburne Riding Stables, Termonfeckin, Co Louth [where he grew up], The Gallic Kitchen, Francis Street, Dublin and signage for Huntington Castle and Gardens, Co Carlow. In London, he counts Harrods and Fortnum & Mason as clients.
Dillon explains: “The process is normally a site visit and then a painted design for the client to approve. Sometimes for foreign jobs I have to work from architectural drawings. On some commissions abroad I will take an assistant and I enjoy the variety of working on building sites in different countries.” The time taken to execute his exquisite murals can vary from a few days to months. “I frequently paint murals on a very large canvas as this means the mural can be painted off site, then sent abroad, with me following to install at the other end. Another advantage is that if the client moves house the mural can be removed and relocated.”
Pick up a copy of THE GLOSS Interiors this weekend and you will see Dillon’s impressive mural at the Regency home of interior designer Tara McNally, who says, “The whole experience was great fun, Michael stayed with us while he worked on the hallway.”
“I really love working on a big scale – it’s so satisfying. I start with a sketch to scale (1:10) in watercolour. I am very analogue in that way and will then show the proposed mural to the client who gets to see how the room in question will take shape,” explains Lucinda Oakes from her home in Hastings, East Sussex. Oakes has worked on numerous projects in Ireland, the UK and abroad, frequently collaborating with interior designers at Sibyl Colefax and John Fowler. Her clients have included Jane Churchill Interiors, Mario Buatta, William Yeoward and Imogen Taylor. She admits, “My biggest influence was my father – the decorative artist George Oakes who worked in the traditional English country house style of 18th century and also John Fowler, with whom he painted.”
Should you check into Ballyfin, Co Laois, you will discover the full range of Oakes’ talent – from romantic landscape paintings, to grisaille screens and a series of watercolours for the bedrooms of rustic follies (now reproduced in prints) as well as trompe l’oeil and chinoiserie details. The beautiful Trellis Room is possibly the piece de resistance where Oakes’ mural is playful and pretty, in keeping with interior designer Colin Orchard’s overall vision for the hotel’s interiors. Oakes has a longstanding relationship with the owner of Ballyfin too and has worked on his private home.
Like many high-end muralists, Oakes must sign an NDA (non disclosure agreement). She admits many of her projects are seldom easy or straightforward, but it’s the spontaneity and the versatility of her job which she enjoys most. Working onto a canvas in her studio, the finished mural can be applied very much like a wallpaper. At the time of installation she will add some final details and also hide the joints.
Geraldine O’Reilly Hynes
Dublin-born O’Reilly Hynes graduated from the National College of Art and Design with a First Class Honours degree in Fine Art and Art History. In addition to spending a large part of her working life teaching and training, she has been painting murals for years. Her first efforts were aged 15 years for a friend’s bedroom, followed by a local youth club. She has also completed many other community murals, as she explains: “On graduating from NCAD I supervised a mural painting course for the former FÁS, a community based training course involving local young people. We carried out murals in Dublin Zoo and several local schools including St Joseph’s School for the Deaf, to name a few. This programme was a wonderful outlet for the young people involved and a great opportunity for me to build and expand my skills.” The advantage of community murals is that they are far less likely to be vandalised, or desecrated as would a space that is left derelict or neglected, especially when they are carried out by people from that community. They also contribute to the context, interests and attractiveness of an area.
In tandem with exhibiting her art at The Doorway Gallery, O’Reilly Hynes has completed murals for Bloom 2019 and admits the projects have been a great way to combine her interests of gardening and painting. “I suggested a mural backdrop to create the feeling of continuity and depth to our garden. The garden was about biodiversity, bog lands and preserving our indigenous species of plants and trees. Our aim was to create a place of restful serenity and beauty. We were awarded two gold medals, one for our garden, and another for the overall winner of our category.” The mural, measuring 24ft by 12ft, contributed significantly to this achievement and was painted on marine plywood and mounted on wooden frame attached to the stone wall. Since then, O’Reilly Hynes has completed several other garden murals creating an atmosphere that relates to the garden that surrounds it, often providing the illusion of pathways and gates as well as shrubbery.
Sign up to our MAILING LIST now for a roundup of the latest fashion, beauty, interiors and entertaining news from THE GLOSS MAGAZINE’s daily dispatches.