Killyleagh Artist Shows Art Work For Paisley Play at Opera House

A three-metre square, neon dove is a local artist’s response to a controversial new play about Rev Ian Paisley.

Called ‘Release’, the huge bird has been designed by local artist Deepa Mann-Kler, built in Belfast by the only company of its kind left in Ireland and will be suspended from the ceiling at the entrance to the Grand Opera House ahead of the opening of the play.

Deepa Mann-Kler pictured in the Opera House in Belfast with Chris McNevison of AM Light and playwright Martin Lynch.

Paisley and Me, which opens in the Grand Opera House at the end of October is produced by Martin Lynch and written by Belfast-born writer, Ron Hutchinson.

Deepa was appointed artist-in-residence last year with Martin Lynch’s theatre company, Green Shoots – and this is her fourth piece of work in that role.

She is an award winning artist living and working in Killyleagh and has held extensive solo exhibitions and has exhibited internationally, most recently in Berlin Biennale “Art Wiki” and New York in 2012.

Her work is held in private and corporate collections across the world including the Aschaffenburg Municipal Museum Art Collection, Germany.

See Deepa’s paintings at

“My response to and interpretation of the play was to recreate Picasso’s Peace Dove in white and green neon: the outline of the dove and olive branch are white with the olive buds green,” said Deepa.

The famous and symbolic image of the peace dove by Picasso was chosen as the emblem for the First World Congress on Peace in 1949.

“After reading the script, I was challenged as an artist about how I should respond to Paisley.  To his 30 years of controversial politics – or to the unprecedented step he took towards peace?  I have chosen to focus on what I feel will be his legacy, hence the use of the dove.

“I chose glass and neon as a medium because it conveys light – because it shines at its brightest when it is dark – because of the fragility of the glass that contains the gases – and because of the belief held by some that the path of religion offers light. And light represents hope.

“For me, neon can be used to illuminate ideas, feelings, memories and emotions. I also find the fragility combined with the strength of glass appealing. It is moulded into its shape at high temperature and then hardens.

Flying High. Killyleagh artist Deepa Mann-Kler with her latest creation, Release, which can be viewed in the Opera House in Belfast.

“The dove will be suspended in the entrance to the Grand Opera House, allowing a 360 degree view for the visitor, which was an important part of installation project for me. Release represents a bird in full flight and so should be visible to all, day and night.

“There is a long history of skill and craftsmanship in glass-making and I worked with a father and son company from Belfast on this project with more than 50 years’ experience in neon.”


Adrian McNevison has been manufacturing neon since 1958 and set up AM Light in 1973. His son, Chris who comes from an engineering background, works with him too.

Chris said: “Neon has been around for over 100 years and the core manufacturing techniques of manual glass-bending remain the same. The dove is a neon lighting display made of glass tubes that have been bent into the shape of the decorative design and filled with an inert gas.

“The project brief set us a challenge in terms of both the manufacture of  specialist neon tubes and the installation method. The techniques required the most traditional methods. Even the glass tubes, onto which the neon is mounted, have been custom-made

“Our products are used in shops, tv studios and theatres and they also make up some of the most iconic signs across Belfast: from the BT Tower, the Hilton Hotel and Central Station to Victoria Square, the Obel and Titanic Belfast.”

Martin Lynch, Producer of Paisley and Me said: “This play offers a unique insight into the Protestant community and the impact one of our most controversial politicians, Ian Paisley has had on it.  Deepa’s work with us has resulted in a very successful artistic collaboration which responds to this positive political move towards the end of Ian Paisley’s career. I am sure her neon peace dove installation will provoke a reaction from and a strike a chord with the public too.”

Release was installed at the Grand Opera House on Monday 15 October.

The play Paisley and Me is part of this year’s Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen’s and runs in the Grand Opera House from 30 October to 3 November 2012.