St. Mary’s CBS, Portlaoise

Artist Name(s) Paul Gregg
Artwork title St. Mary’s CBS, Portlaoise

Paul Gregg’s Per Cent for Art commission for St Mary’s CBS comprised four distinct but interrelated strands which activated the interior of the building as well as the expansive school grounds.

Ancient Ecology Pavilion’ is a viewing area set into a grass embankment on the school grounds. It was fabricated by a specialist concrete company to resemble the textured geological layers of sedimentary rock formations. Cast in bronze, and emerging from the ground (suggesting an entire skeleton may lurk below the surface), are a set of antlers of the extinct Irish elk (Megaloceros Giganteus). The surface of the rock bears the imprint of fossils and flint arrowheads, as well as the embedded footprints and tail drag of an ancient Tetrapod, referencing the one found on Valentia Island, off the Iveragh Peninsula in south-west County Kerry, thought to date from the Devonian period (350—370 million years ago). They are of major global significance, as they provide the oldest reliably-dated evidence of the transition of four-limbed vertebrates (amphibians) from water to land – a momentous turning point in evolution.

Elsewhere on the grounds, an ‘Observation Pavilion’ was fabricated in cement as a flat lunar form, with a cratered surface. Telescopes are mounted on the pavilion, fixed in position to focus on other artworks and various parts of the school. Placed at the highest point of the school grounds, the ‘Observation Pavilion’ offers students the chance to metaphorically “stand on the moon and look back at the earth”.

Solar System’ is a ‘true scale’ sculptural representation of the sun (fabricated as an 8inch stainless steel sphere) and its orbiting planets (depicted as stainless steel discs mounted on poles staked into the ground). The planets are proportionately sized to one another, while the distance between the planets is also to correct scale. The planets are dispersed across the full 30 acres of school grounds, but given that our Solar System grows exponentially from the centre, Neptune and Pluto had to be omitted, because in order to maintain the proper scale, they would have had to be placed up to a mile away. (The option to locate the remaining planets in a neighbouring field was explored but was not ultimately viable).

A series of ‘Trophy Figures’ depicting a range of sports, were cast in bronze from reconfigured existing trophies, and situated in various locations around the school interior and grounds.


An American artist living in Dublin since 1995, Paul Gregg has exhibited in Europe and the United States. In recent years, the primary focus of his practice has been the creation of large scale commissioned projects. Gregg earned a Bachelors of Arts degree (summa cum laude) from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and a Masters of Fine Arts from the Rinehart School of Sculpture, Maryland Institute, College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland U.S.A. He was awarded membership to the Phi Beta Kappa honour society (U.S) for his work at UCLA, and received a Fulbright Scholarship to Ireland upon completion of his MFA. He is currently a lecturer at the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology.

Commission Type Schools/Colleges
Commissioner Name St. Mary’s CBS, Portlaoise
Commissioning process Two Stage Competition
Project commission dates January 1, 2012 - December 31, 2012
Artform Visual Arts
Funded By Laois County Council
Percent for art Yes
Budget Range 35000 - 70000 euro
Project commission start date 01/01/2012
Project commission end date 31/12/2012
Location St Mary’s CBS Boys Secondary School, Borris Road
County Laois
Town Portlaoise
Content contributor(s) Web Editor and the artist



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