Apples and Atoms

Artist Name(s) Eilís O'Connell
Artwork title Apples and Atoms
Context/Background A series of highly polished, mirrored stainless steel spheres,which increase in size as they rise upward, appearing to defy gravity. Maximum height 420cm. Describing her concept for Apples and Atoms, O’Connell stated: ‘Having researched Walton’s drawings at the Churchill archives in Cambridge, I noted that he could convey the maximum amount of information with minimal line drawing and text and his minimal aesthetic influenced my design. Spheres as a formal sculptural element appealed to me because they were used to create spark gaps for the particle accelerator used by Walton and Cockcroft.’

This sculpture was commissioned in 2013 to celebrate the life and work of Ernest T.S. Walton (1903-95), Nobel Laureate for Physics, and former graduate and professor at Trinity College Dublin. Walton was the physicist who famously collaborated with John Cockcroft in Cambridge to ‘split the atom’ in 1932. It was the first time that Einstein’s E=mc2 was verified directly in a nuclear reaction. The pair were subsequently awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1951.


Eilís O'Connell's proposal was selected by a panel that included representatives from the Walton family, the School of Physics, Trinity College Art Collections, and students and external visual arts professionals.

For a Powerpoint presentation on the artists’ proposals see:



Eilís O'Connell was born in Derry, N. Ireland in 1953. She studied at the Crawford School of Art, Cork. (1970 - 74), Massachusetts College of Art, Boston (1974-1975) and Crawford School of Art (1975-77 ) where she received the only award for Distinction in Sculpture that year. She has represented Ireland at the Paris Biennale in 1982 and the Sao Paolo Biennale in 1985. She is a founder director of the National Sculpture Factory in Cork, a former member of the Arts Council of Ireland, a member of Aosdana, and a member of the R.H.A.

Previous awards include:

  • Fellowship at The British School at Rome (1983-1984)
  • P.S.I. Fellowship for New York from the Irish Arts Council.
  • Two-year residency at Delfina Studios, London (1999-2001)
  • Royal Society of Arts Award (1998)

Previous commissions include:

  • ‘Secret Station’ (1992) for the Cardiff Bay Arts Trust
  • ‘Vowel of Earth Dreaming its Root’ for the London Docklands Development Corporation at Marsh Wall, The Isle of Dogs, London.
  • Pero Footbridge (1999), London, designed in collaboration with Ove Arup Engineers
Commission Type Schools/Colleges,Private Commission
Commissioner Name Trinity College Dublin
Commissioning process Limited competition: Six artists were invited to develop proposals. Aideen Barry, Brian Duggan, Bea McMahon, Dennis McNulty, Eva Rothchild and Eilis O’Connell were invited to compete for this site-specific sculpture commission.
Partners The commission was made possible with the support of the Walton family, of the Provost, the School of Physics, the Trinity College Dublin Association and Trust, the Department of Education and Skills, the Institute of Physics in Ireland, the Fellows and alumni of Trinity and the Science Gallery.
Artform Visual Arts
Funded By Private,Department of Education and Skills
Location The FitzGerald Building, School of Physics, Trinity College Dublin.
County Dublin
Street Address Trinity College
Content contributor(s) Web editor
Relationship to project
Associated professionals / Specialists involved

The commission was managed by the Trinity College Dublin Art Collections.

Photo credit; TCD Art Collections.



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