Second chance for site foreman gives art to the nation

By Mary Dennehy

A FORMER site foreman, Fergus Smith has in his sixties swapped building landscapes to painting them, with the emerging artist’s work being selected for the State art collection.

Living in Killinarden since 1977, Fergus Smith worked for an engineering firm on some major local sites over the years including The Square, Liffey Valley and County Hall in Tallaght.

Fergus Smith 04

Fergus Smith outside County Hall

The father of six was also part of the team that installed the sculpture that now stands outside the council offices.

In 2011, when the recession hit, Fergus, who is now 67, was made redundant.

“When I was made redundant, I didn’t really know what to do,” Fergus told The Echo.

“I felt my age was against me, which shouldn’t be the case.

“I never had an education, I came out of school young for all of the usual things that happened back then.”

He added: “I’ve always loved art and wanted a second chance, so I enrolled in a part-time art course, it was in sculpting, in St Dominic’s school in Tallaght.

“I’ve always painted, painting was in my family, but it was just a hobby, in between a full-time job and six kids.”

After completing the part-time course, Fergus moved onto Ballyfermot College of Further Education for a year-long portfolio course – which resulted in him being granted a place in the National College of Art and Design (NCAD).

“When NCAD accepted me [for an Honours Degree in Fine Art, Painting], I thought I’d won the Lotto,” Fergus said.

“When you get a college place all sorts of thoughts go through your head, but I did it and it was great.”

During the Degree Show 2017, Fergus sold all of his paintings on display – with one piece bought by the Office of Public Works (OPW) for the Irish State Art Collection and another by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Recently, Fergus has been contacted by the Department of Foreign Affairs to inform him that the painting it purchased ‘Emigrant’ was selected for the Irish Ambassador to London’s residence.

Fergus Smith Emigrant


The painting bought by the OPW, called ‘Soft Day’, was selected for the annual cross-border exhibition Landscapes, which is on show in Rathfarnham Castle until the end of January.

Fergus, who was over the years involved in the Sacred Heart parish folk group and the summer projects, pours paint onto the canvas and uses a combination of brushwork to create his scene.

He also removes paint to expose a part of a painting, with his work centring round the themes of landscape and memories.

“I’m blown away by how things have turned out,” Fergus said.

“I’m very thankful . . . and believe that there should be no restrictions to being an artist.

“It shouldn’t matter if you’ve just come out the door, if you’re an artist, you’re an artist.”

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