‘15:35’ by Vivienne Roche at the Cork School of Music

In the 19th century, there was a tradition amongst architects and builders that when a project was nearing completion they would jointly bequeath a piece of art to celebrate its completion. That tradition was revived in 2009 when builder John Sisk & Son and Murray Ó Laoire Architects jointly commissioned and funded a number of artworks for the newly completed CIT Cork School of Music. Sean Ó Laoire approached Cork artist Vivienne Roche about the idea, as her work had explored the connections between art and music in the past.

Roche’s core concept was to take a single moment in time when the architecture of the building filtered light, which then cast as a reflection on the walls of the atria. Her Light Ensemble idea was simple – timing lies at the heart of music, light at the core of the visual.

The reconstruction of the CIT Cork School of Music building, which was an amalgamation of a 19th century building with a 1950s building, has resulted in what has been hailed as one of Europe’s finest purpose-built music conservatories. Light Ensemble has at its centre reflections of light inside the building on 5 June 2007, when Roche visited the building. One of the paintings, entitled 15:33, captures the exact shape and place of a reflection at 15:33 on 5 June.

A stuccodore plaster work, entitled 15:35, is positioned at a different level to its originating reflection, evoking the idea of a reflection being like an echoing reprise. The final element of the ensemble, entitled Night, plays with the way in which the elegant blackness of a grand piano passes on reflected light to the visually attentive music lover. Maoiliosa Kiely, marketing manager with Murray Ó Laoire Architects, says Roche was a joy to work with.

“We couldn’t have entrusted the work to a better person. She and her team worked on a proposal using graphic designers and 3D computer modelling and was really enthused by the idea of light working through the atria of the building,” says Kiely. “She had to work onsite, when the place was still very much a construction site, and Sisk had to construct a scaffold for her and her technical team. It was a very good example of solid teamwork.”

Roche has had an illustrious career in the art world, having participated in international group exhibitions in France, Finland, Sweden, England and the US. In 2000, her piece The Amen of Calm Waters formed part of the Expo 2000 exhibition in Hamburg. She is also no stranger to the Allianz Business to Arts Awards. In 2007, her installation Whitelight Garden in Park West for Harcourt Developments won the Judges Special Recognition Award.

Roche says her knowledge of the CIT Cork School of Music building from early in life gave her a strong respect for its traditions. “I was conscious how it (the building) is primarily a public space and that it has a large enrolment of schoolchildren as well as adults, so its engagement with the public was important, especially in terms of the concert hall.”

Roche explains that the art project took 14 months to complete.

“What was important to me at the time was engaging with the students and physically working in the building. The painting aspect covered an eight-week period, while builders were workingall around me.” She says the overall experience is an encouraging example of how business and artists can work together to make a genuine contribution to society.

The new building also includes original artwork in the form of plaques created in the Fifties by artist Seamus Murphy, which were on the outside of the original building and have been reincorporated.

Design by New Graphic.