The breathtaking landscapes of Ireland tell a wonderful story of a proud nation. From the sculpted valleys of Wicklow and the majestic mountains of Mourne, to the dramatic coastlines of the west and the brooding wildness of the north, the sense of history is tangible. The monuments of our past, such as Brú Na Bóinne, Clonmacnoise and Cashel connect us to a people long gone, but we can still feel their presence. When the Irish landscape is captured by our artists and photographers today, we are reminded of the great beauty of an island steeped in the culture of its people, and defined by the stories they tell. We can hear the laughter and songs, smell the rain and the grass, and experience the soul of the vibrant cities. At Súileir, we’ve brought together a carefully selected group of photographers, artists and illustrators that understand what it means to be Irish. We are proud to showcase our country’s natural beauty, but also how it connects us to the quirks, shortcomings and achievements of a proud people.
About the curator
The eldest of 3 children, Leo O’Connor was born in Dublin in 1958. Earliest memories included his father, Leo Senior, bringing him to welcome President John F Kennedy in the Phoenix Park, and hanging onto every word of Eamonn De Valera’s speech at the GPO for the 50th anniversary of the 1916 rising.
It was his father that instilled his love of history and travel in Ireland with visits to Kilmainham Gaol, Bolands Mills and frequent holidays around the country. He told him stories of Irish history and legend, featuring Cu Chulainn, Queen Maeve and The Tain. He wanted the family to see as much of Ireland as possible, and appreciate everything it has to offer before they started looking abroad.
Leo Senior had been a competitive cyclist in his youth, winning many national cycle races, including being on the champion team for the 1954 Rás Tailteann. But he also always had a camera with him and had a keen interest in documenting his life and events as they unfolded around him.
It was natural for his son to share an interest in hiking and photography from an early age. It was a chance encounter as a teenager that the younger Leo really developed a passion for capturing the landscape around him. After meeting a talented photographer Peter Moloney, he was invited to Peter’s darkroom in Ranelagh and he was immediately hooked. Leo joined the national youth hostel’s photography club, built his own darkroom in Finglas, and spent many years helping to run An Óige’s photography club and organising photography-themed walks and hikes. Leo remains close friends with Peter to this day, and his enthusiasm for travelling and capturing the urban and rural landscape hasn’t changed.
And so, Súileir was naturally and lovingly created. Meaning ‘Ireland’s Eyes’ in Irish, this collection of curated work is close to Leo’s heart, and is born out of his desire to bring a piece of Ireland to homes across the world.
It’s a testament to the love that he has for his father. It’s a reflection of the great breadth of talented artists and photographers that we have on this island. But most of all, it’s a heartfelt celebration of an intriguing and storied landscape.
“I want to bring a piece of Ireland to as many homes throughout the world as I possibly can.”