Page last updated at 09:00 GMT, Thursday, 8 April 2010 10:00 UK

New sculpture tilts Ulster hero

For the love of Emer sculpture
A new sculpture trail guide for Armagh will be created later this year

Armagh City's first commissioned public artwork depicts Irish legend Cuchulainn balancing on a tilting 20ft pole.

The sculpture, called For the Love of Emer, is by Northern Ireland artist Martin Heron.

It has been installed at the foot of Scotch Street in Armagh's city centre.

The 30ft stainless steel structure is part of a wider public arts programme in Armagh and provides final creative touches to the city's recent refurbishment.

The artist said his inspiration for the piece came from stories told about Chuchulainn's search for a wife.

Having set his heart on Emer, the daughter of Forgall Monach, he had to prove himself in battle and as a warrior.

Mr Heron said, "I chose to focus on the unusual aspect of the Cuchulainn story. This piece does not focus on the great heroic deeds, great battles won, or warriors slayed.

"It is about overcoming one of many tasks faced by a hero. A task that resonates with us all: the art of balancing ourselves with the world around us, the balance of love and hope, and achieving the seemingly impossible through hard work and perseverance".

Cuchulainn, also known as the "hound of Ulster" has many associations with Armagh and is said to have been brought up at Emain Macha at the city's edge.

Five other artworks will be installed in Armagh this year including a miniature sculpture trail inspired by the two Cathedrals, ceramic wall art, railings and two sculptures at Upper English Street and the Market Place Theatre.

The artworks have been funded by Armagh Council, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Department for Social Development.

Armagh City and District Council intend to create a new sculpture trail guide later in the year with information about the artwork and the artists.

Jugs, dolls and balls

In Northern Ireland, once known for its murals, there has been heavy investment in public sculpture in recent years.

In February 2009 a £800,000 sculpture, entitled Mute Meadow, was commissioned at Ebrington, Derry. It is expected to be completed in 2011.

Famous Belfast sculptures include Andy Scott's Beacon of Hope on the banks of the River Lagan, also known as "the doll with the ball", and Dan George's Spirit of Belfast which sits in Arthur Square, Cornmarket.

The sculptures cost £300,000 and £180,000 respectively.

A 5.5m tall granite jug designed by sculptor Joss Smith has recently been commissioned for Belfast city centre, at an estimated cost of £100,000.

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