Sourced from

School Play

Artist Name(s) Ronan McCrea
Artwork title School Play
Context/Background School Play is a Per Cent for Art Scheme commissioned work by Castleknock Educate Together School, a primary school in Dublin 15. 

The project consists of two elements including a design for a schoolyard, which is the permanent installation of a series of painted circles and arcs, and a series of coloured photographs which capture children at play with the installation. The work was developed over a number of years. The commission allowed the artist, Ronan McCrea to develop his ideas from an initial loose proposal.

The new school had a tarmac playground that was more or less an empty space. Here the artist devised a series of markings as a permanent design for the schoolyard for use by children during play time.

Time was allowed so the artist could not only test out ideas, but it also gave him the opportunity to make the work at a time when he could give it his full focus. School Play was curated and project managed by Ruairí Ó'Cuív.


Ronan McCrea spent time observing the pattern of the school day, noting how carefully it was scheduled and full of creative activities. He became particularly interested in play time, in the huge release of collective energies, and very noisy and vibrantsettings, stating:

"It is a time when the children can engage in self initiated and self organised play without adult direction."  

The markings are in the form of various coloured circles and arcs. The markings do not signify any game or sporting code, but are used by the children in their own play they invent for themselves everyday. Some circles are very large in diameter and extend into other tarmac areas of the school property such as the car park. Some are so large that in one's imagination the circumference extends beyond the school property and into the hinterland of the neighborhood.  

In some subliminal way the circles are linked in the artist's mind with the image of childhood, education and ego from Joyce's bildungsroman, Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. The following quote illustrates this:  

"Stephen turned to the flyleaf of the geography book and read what had been written there himself, his name and where he was:

        Stephen Dedalus

        Class of Elements

        Clongowes Wood College


        County Kildare



        The World

        The Universe."

McCrea purposefully did not mediate or discuss this aspect of the project with the children or identify the markings as being anything in particular (particularly as being art). They were just there one Monday morning.

The second element of the School Play project was the production of a series of photographs. These photographs were all shot from various elevated positions looking down onto the schoolyard during break time. He would fix a camera position before playtime began and then he relied on the random entrance and exit of figures into the frame of the viewfinder, shooting more or less continuously for the duration of each break. From 400 negatives a final set of 30 images was selected to constitute a series. Twelve of them were selected to be printed 112 x 90cms. In ways the photographs recall Rodchencko's photography of city streets in the 1920's. On one level this is evident in the composition of angles and elevated perspectives, but McCrea also intended the rhetoric and traditions of making representations of a new collective subjectivity, which has an immediate resonance in the spheres of education and play. 

The project was curated and managed by Ruairí Ó'Cuív.

The above description is taken from the Visual Arts News Sheet, May-June, 2009


A critical reflective essay is being commissioned


Ronan McCrea is an artist living in Dublin working in photography, projected slide installations and sculpture. Recent projects include School Play and New Town Centre Project (Extract #1) a project produced with Draiocht Blanchardstown, Dublin. He has exhibited extensively in Ireland and internationally. Recent solo projects include: Medium (Corporate Entities) a project for the Irish Museum of Modern Art's 10,000 to 50 exhibition in April - June 2008, Medium at Gallery for One & Goethe-Institut, Dublin, 2007. In 2005 he was one of seven artists who represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale.

Ruairí Ó'Cuív is an independent Curator and is currently Public Art Manager with Dublin City Council.

Commission Type Government Department
Commissioner Name Castleknock Educate Together National School, Dublin 7.
Commissioning process Limited Competion through a curatorial process
Artform Visual Arts
Funded By Dept. Education and Science
Percent for art Yes
Budget Range 35000 - 70000 euro
Project commission end date 01/02/2009
Location Castleknock Educate Together National School
County Dublin
Town Dublin 15
Street Address Castleknock
Google Map Insert View this projects location
Associated professionals / Specialists involved

Ruairí Ó'Cuív, Manager and Curator of the process and project