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Poulnabrone Dolmen - Image by Jon Sullivan

Poulnabrone Dolmen - Image by Jon Sullivan

Have you ever noticed the work of amateur artists, copies left standing beneath the masters’ work in public art galleries? For generations prospective artists and schoolchildren have gone to study and paint the great monuments of art, painting and sculpture, in museums like the Louvre in Paris and the National Gallery in London, using materials such as colour and paper, or canvas, often a replication of the media used before them.

The ambition to mould life from paint, or, paraphrasing Michelangelo, to carve stone away from the life trapped within, is a common one and there have been occasional artist alchemists; Michelangelo, Rembrandt, late Raphael, the mature Cezanne, whose work seems to live, more than this, move and sing, with the motion of creation before your eyes.

It is difficult however, to imagine any of these amateur copyists turning, if they are studying a statue, to the nearest pillar or wall and starting to chisel away in imitation, or marking out their work in paint on the floor, or over a nearby masterpiece. Yet, in the Burren, in the area around Poulnabrone, the huge leaning cap and slender pillars of the Neolithic portal dolmen are, unbelievably,  being copied just so, by using chunks of the delicate local landscape.

“The tourists erecting the dolmens are engaging in a form of vandalism. This is a wonderful ecosystem and the erection of these dolmens is like scribbling on a masterpiece… Unique and vulnerable habitats are being destroyed by visitors when they illegally remove protected limestone pavement to build the dolmens.”

Innocent, perhaps and indicative of how powerful a symbol these dolmens are, still singing their enciphered lays of creation, but more obvious instruction must surely be provided for visitors, before it’s too late.



October 2009

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