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February 19, 2010

Irish Bogs - A Vanishing National Industry

Irish Bogs-A vanishing National Industry captured in UNDER A GREY SKY by Simon Burch at Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge

UNDER A GREY SKY - an exhibition by Simon Burch

Simon Burch Exhibition Under a Grey Sky, an exhibition of photographs by Simon Burch opens at Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge on Thursday, 25th February at 6.30pm. Simon Burch’s work for this exhibition is located around the midlands of Ireland, centering on Co. Offaly and parts of Co. Galway and focuses on a vanishing Irish landscape, a national industry of fuel production and the communities that have grown up around it. 

This area photographed is the centre of peat production in Ireland, with the harvested peat being used as fuel for power stations, to provide electricity for the Irish National Grid.  It is also sold for domestic use in the form of peat briquettes.

The harvesting is a clinical process.  The peat can be up to 30 feet deep with gorse bushes and small trees at the surface.  They drain the bog over a period of two or three years.  Once it is dried out sufficiently a forty foot wide machine, dragged by tractors, skims off a two or three inch layer of peat.  This is left to dry and then another machine pushes it to one side where it is collected by a small train.  This process is repeated until all the peat is extracted and they get down to the bottom where there is sometimes gravel, which can also be extracted, or a clay type material.  During the winter they stop harvesting because it gets too wet and in the vicinity of the River Shannon there is flooding.

The culmination of these commercial efforts is now represented in the black landscapes of developed bogs, but this natural resource is finite and production is estimated to cease within 15-20 years.  Once this happens these exposed landscapes will disappear.  The land will be put to agricultural and recreational use, and the visual evidence of a significant national industry will be hidden. 

It is against this background that Simon Burch sought permission from Bord na Mona to photograph on their lands.  The focus of the work is the bogland areas of Co. Offaly, the black landscapes of turf, and the community and individuals who live and work there.

The work is a striking and powerful depiction of a landscape familiar and well-known by those living near bogland areas. The opening reception takes place at Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge, Co.Kildare on Thursday 25th February at 6.30pm and continues until March 30th. Simon Burch will also host an artist talk/workshop on Saturday March 13th from 10.30am to 12.30pm. For further information on the opening reception or to book a place on the workshop please contact Riverbank Arts Centre on 045 448327 or email

*A book to accompany this body of work is available for sale from Riverbank Arts Centre.

For further information on Simon Burch visit or