Installation, Interview, Performance

Sound Off: Steve Maher



Steve Maher

I met Steve when studying my masters in Limerick, and his unique way of working meant he was one of the first people I wanted to interview. I’m really excited to share his practice as I have already crowbared his name into many a conversation about art (as many will attest to)


Lets start off with Heavy Metal Detector – that’s a really unique project, especially for music fans!

I’m actually not that into metal! I appreciate it, but it is a more an ethnographic interest. I just think that it’s a very special community and a global community. I’ve met a few people from different countries who are involved in it, and it’s huge. They are a very passionate community, and I think that is passion that we all could do with more of in our life.

I found in art, just as in music, people will often stick exclusively to certain types of genres and won’t check out pretty much anything else. There have been a lot of studies on the similarity of the neural mapping of people who are listening to different musical styles, and it is very interesting. But the same areas of the brain are triggered in people who listen to classical music as those who listen to metal, and that makes sense because the two genres are very theatrical. So they kind of speak to people who like that kind of thing in their music. So when I heard that, I wondered how do we broach that chasm separation of musical taste, and what kind of platform do we create?

Whatever rituals that we seem to find ourselves in, people will dictate what kind of type of artwork they will encounter because associations they create with taste. These are the things that separate us from hearing local sounds.


Heavy Metal Detector – STRP (2017)


And how does the project work?

Usually it’s aimed toward some kind of arts festivals, biennales– places where the communities that are predominately participating in the project are going in with an open mind, to experience something different. They are either creative practitioners themselves and they have an idea of what kind of artwork they like, or they’re the general public who are going to see art as it should be. I saw an opportunity in that.

It’s always local bands that are part of the project – I initially started with the local bands in Helsinki, and I’ve done it now in Eindhoven, Amsterdam, twice in the UK. And I’ll be doing it again in September in Bournemouth and I’ve done it in Moscow as well. Anywhere I do it, I reach out to local scenes, and that’s kind of the spirit of the project.  well there is a lot around people every day. People don’t seem to realise just how much is around them – I use the detectors that show us how much metal is in our environment as a kind of analogy to local music.



Heavy Metal Detector – AND (2017)


You also have an interesting piece relating to Athlone can you talk a bit about that?

A lot of people don’t know this but Athlone, it was the centre of broadcasting in Ireland, with Raidio na hEireann. So there were two radio transmitters in Ireland prior to the building of the radio transmitter in Athlone in 1927 – there was one in Dublin and one in Cork. But they were low-scale and they didn’t really transmit outside of the cities.

The government at this time, they had two largescale projects that the created at the foundation of the state (before it became a Republic). So they built Ardnacrusha, which is the hydroelectric dam at the end of the Shannon in Clare, and they also built the Moydrun electric transmitter in Athlone. Athlone is in a unique situation in Ireland… it has four generations of broadcasting and that is quite rare in Europe.  It’s particularly rare in Athlone. It’s a big town, and a nice town, but it’s not a major city. It was the terminus for many different things like the rail lines, but now you have to go to Dublin or to Galway to get to Sligo. But even before the rail network, everything else went through Athlone because the Shannon goes through Athlone, and it connected Athlone to other parts of the country. So, it made sense then to use the canal networks to bring a lot of the equipment and rail network to Athlone, and then to Moydrum.

Athlone has an original Marconi transmitter – England doesn’t even have any anymore. I recall Marconi worked throughout much of Ireland forming the transatlantic broadcasting technology. Up and after independence. I think it got too fussy for him…. a lot of his Anglo-Irish patrons upped and jumped ship. They were getting pushed out, the big houses were getting burnt down. To be on the site of Moydrum, it is a big house and it is the cover of U2’s album, The Unforgettable Fire. I’m not a big U2 fan but you can look it up!


Moydrum transmitter station interior



So I thought all this history was really interesting, and for the project I wanted to work with that history in mind. So we would build crystal set radios, and the idea was to make a documentary about this history and about this workshop, and then broadcast it through AM radio waves and then listen to it through these crystal set radios. The Luan had an open call which I applied for, and I didn’t get it. I thought: ah crap, well anyway look I did all this research, so I’ll try and pull it off myself. So, I applied for Arts Council funding. And I got enough to produce the project myself, and then I contacted the Luan. And they were like, alright! I guess I explained my case a bit better the second time round. This is how galleries work, you can’t just roll up and expect to get anywhere. Only applying to open calls all the time, no-one will ever know what the hell you’re doing, you must be that bit bolder. They lent me the use of their space downstairs for the exhibition aspect of the project, I did a workshop and I collaborated with the local radio station Athlone Community Radio. It’s part of the Craol networks, which is a kind of community radio network in Ireland, and they have an office near Limerick.

Anyway, I was in touch with this woman called Mary Lennon who was the director of the station, and then through art networks, I was in touch with Owen Francis McCormack who was in the same year as me in college. I also knew his brother Cathal when he would come up to visit Eóin, and Cathal had also done work with the community radio station as well. Anyway, he sorted me out and helped me with the project. We also had participants from the local graphic design course from Athlone Institute of Technology, and we had some participants through open call through the radio station.

When I kind of came up with the idea, I didn’t realise how powerful your transmitter needs to be for crystal set to pick it up. AM radio will amplify a signal, whereas a crystal set has no amplification, because there’s no power going through it except the radio waves, so you could pick up radio on them because that is still being broadcast on AM. But that is about the only thing being broadcast on AM except for on the low wave you get a lot of churches in rural communities that broadcast sermons so that the infirm or the housebound can listen to mass. The cathedral in Athlone. That was the idea to see out this project through this community focused workshop, and that is what we did. And it was a great success – everyone was pretty was happy in terms of participation. It was part of this online exhibition called Project Anywhere which is based out of New School Parsons in New York. Sean …… I had gotten in that year.

And that helped a lot, in terms of funding and getting people to take the project more seriously. In that way external accreditation is very useful – the crowd in New York don’t know me from Adam, but the crowd at home are ‘this guy, we should know about him if he is working in New York and abroad’! It’s a way to communicate that you can produce what you claim to be capable of. You must show these signifiers. That’s the aim of the game I wouldn’t knock anyone for it. People won’t know unless you tell them. Don’t assume that people will know that you are this really talented fella, because at the end of the day, they are people with jobs. They would love to be reading e-mails from everyone, but they have to talk to some superior who is in charge of their funding or whatever depending on how the model of their institute works.



Calling Athlone (2016)


Your work seems to have a DIY aesthetic that shows through, and not only in your efforts to get projects going. Is it intentional?

I’m not so concerned with aesthetics. Aesthetics are just going to happen. I’m not saying that I’m anti-aesthetic, that’s a ridiculous position to put yourself in – there’s aesthetic in everything, you can kind of choose to author it I suppose – but I’m not trying not to be aware of the traditional aesthetic authorship that is in fine art for the most part. Because I feel that it is very contrived, and a lot of people are doing things and they don’t really know why they have made things look a certain way. The appearance is just something that is going to happen. I’m more interested in the mechanics of how participatory art works. I kind of do have some aesthetic acknowledgements, I have cultural references within the work, but they’re more kind of like easter eggs to broader ideas. Because ideally those ideas are kind of written in how the ideas are integrated. I suppose because I stop at a certain point where other people might make it look finished, you know? And not really focusing on the core of what it is that is the work.

If I was to say there’s anything that truly ties my work together, it would be that I’m interested in cultural coding. I’m interested in language too. For me, the focus on music and language is one and the same and it is also to do with technology. There is a way of figuring out our environment through these mediums.

Saying that, socially engaged art often has detractors why do you think that is?

Yeah, that kind of cynicism, it comes about for a reason. That is because a lot of stuff that says it’s socially engaged really isn’t what it says it is, and it’s given a lot of social practice a bad name as a result. I think there is just a culture that has evolved from the idea of social practice, collaborative art, whatever you want to call it.  That form of art making has wound up filling a gap in local councils’ budgets as a replacement in some cases to social workers, because these projects are cheaper. I think it’s a mistake to conflate the two.

Saying that, I don’t think the majority of people are worn out by actual socially engaged practice. I just think a lot of people are protective of their discipline in a dogmatic way, in the same sense that people are protective of their religion, but I think that there are two sides to it… it has kind of gotten a bad name for itself, but there is an irrational side to that scepticism.

I would like to touch on something that is important to me, and get your thoughts on it: dyslexia. We have both been diagnosed with it, and we both have gone through the educational system.

Dyslexia is a nebulous thing, I think a lot of things get lumped in together with – it’s because it is hard to pin it down as any one thing. There are probably hundreds of different reading disabilities, and I wasn’t severely dyslexic. After having a period in my life where everyone else could read and I couldn’t read, I learned to read a lot quicker than my peers. After fourth class, once I did learn to read, I kind of went very quickly from there. But I think the main thing was that it affected me creatively, and I think a lot of dyslexics have had a similar experience. When many of us were in school and tried to pretend that we were doing work, and also during time when people were reading, we had to invert into our own minds and our imaginations. And meanwhile the schools weren’t identifying that we were having trouble reading. I think they are a lot better now today. I think a lot of dyslexics wound up in art college because they were doodling in their books the whole time. None of the scribbly stuff made any sense to them! That period in my life formed me as a person, but I wouldn’t say I’m a dyslexic, because I don’t think it’s fair on people who actually struggle with language problems for me to say that I am still a dyslexic, because it doesn’t affect my day to day life. I make mistakes when I’m spelling, but I get by with spellcheck.

Let’s talk a bit about your influences.

I’m a bit of an artistic misanthrope – I don’t get really fanboy-ish about other artists. I can appreciate good work but I don’t get into someone’s practice so much. There are a few people that I kind of generally like what they do, like Mark Manders the sculptor – I used to be really into him while I was in college. I do feel if you say that if you say you like an artist, people look for their influence in what you do. saying that I really like my peers. In Helsinki in particular, there is like a ton of amazing artists that I’ve met. Looking back, the majority of the reasons why I make things is because the so much of mainstream art really annoys me. I think the stuff that gets attention is put on a pedestal, and there is far more interesting stuff being made by marginalised artists. Artists who don’t have a whole press office behind them putting their name forward. And when people ask you, what artist are you into? I don’t know. Not to sound like a big hipster,I really don’t care for it. it’s just how I feel. I really don’t like the overhyping of certain work. I don’t want to look at it. I don’t want anyone telling me what is good – I want to decide for myself.

When it comes to painting, I understand there is a history there, and I like a lot of painting… you have to ask what you’re doing when you are physically participating with an art form that has existed for five hundred-odd years. When you think of Renaissance period, there are aspects to painting that are so redundant… remnants of tradition.

So, people don’t ask. There are a lot of good painters we have today been a lot of painters are just focused on pigment which I think is just amazing I think it’s interesting. But then the question is what kind of pigment are we talking about? So, we are talking about pigment and we are talking about paint and pigment through painting and painting through painting and that is cool but then what? I kinda get a bit bored cos people are continuing to have the same conversations and they are not getting to any more of a point, and I’m not saying I do is better or something huge gaps between what I do. But that is what makes art good when there is actual huge cognitive dissonance in what we are doing cos it’s not meant to be perfect it’s not a science.

I could talk about writers that I really like?

If I was going to say writers I would have to say Warren Ellis. That was one of the first people who introduced me to a lot. My school of philosophy was all though these comic book writers that would insert philosophy into their work – Grant Morrison, Garth Ennis. There was a point in time where I was buying anything with Warren Ellis name on it. Another one is Paul Chadwick, who wrote Concrete which used to be under the Dark Horse imprint. Even aspects of comics I like Thargs editorial in 2000AD.

A good book that I got recently is Sonic Warfare by Steve Goodman. He is a DJ and academic. he is more famous for being a DJ than being an academic but it’s a cool book that I’m enjoying reading.

Reading seems to be a big influence and core part of your practice.

I’ll admit, we all bought into this idea of artistic research. I’m as guilty as anyone for doing it. We have to look at the history of artistic research, because in the nineties it came about… it came about because artists wanted to access funding and because institutions expect the scientific model in funding applications. This is why we are all trad disciplinary stuff, or really deep end self-referential art for artists.

I just don’t know how people don’t read a lot about before they go about their practice, you know? You’re making an artwork about something, you are saying you have some sort of authority about the subject, unless you are very airy fairy and all about experiential stuff (and I wouldn’t totally rule that out or detract from that). There are different ways of being creative, but for me, everything creative is: you’re presenting to the public. That indicates you have something to say about a subject, some sort of insight, ergo some sort of authority. I wouldn’t be so brash as to say that I am the utmost authority or that I’m an expert, but I feel that when I say something, I have done what I can to research what I am talking about.

But at the same time… how can you not want to know about things?

You can find out more about Steve’s work through his website link below

 thank you Adrian Mc Hugh for your work editing


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Installation, Interview, Painting, Video

Organic Evolution: Laura Mc Morrow

Laura McMorrow Exhibition The Lost Acre Leitrim Sculpture Centre

Laura Mc Morrow next to her paintings in Fragments (2018)

Laura is an artist that I’m very lucky to have gotten to know though Painting in Text. Laura’s exhibition The Lost Acre is a great example of pieces from different modes of practice complimenting each other – this interview gives insight into Laura’s practice and the influences behind her work. I really enjoyed the interview, and hope you get as much out of it as I did.

Let’s Start with you Recent Exhibition

My most recent exhibition was The Lost Acre in the Leitrim Sculpture Centre. I was doing a residency there.

The title came about from a story that my dad told me he is into hill walking. He was coming down the mountain and he was talking to a farmer and the farmer had asked him had he gone through the lost acre, my dad didn’t know what it was and asked about it. The Farmer explained that it was a patch of land that you get lost in if you walk through it. You can be lead astray and become disoriented, Places that are familiar will start looking strange and even though your close to home, you feel like your really far away.

I felt it tied in with this residency because Manorhamilton is my hometown.Because I’m so familiar with this landscape I wanted to look at it in a new light and revisit it and look at it in more of an artists perspective compared to how I was looking at it when I was growing up. When you’re younger you don’t appreciate how beautiful it and it’s only when you’re away that you realise that you start missing it. I had recently moved home when this residency came about. And through the residency I got a studio in the town and I was living on main street.

What was your planning for the exhibition?

I knew I wanted to have a few different elements to the show. In my studio I mostly focus on painting but in this exhibition I also have a video, collage and sculptural elements as well.

Let’s start with the painting first

Most of my paintings have come from working with archival imagery that I find online. I mostly use two archives, one is the British library collection and there is the New York Public Library. They have uploaded these huge online archives of images which are copyright free so you can do whatever you want with them and often I would use them as a starting point to trigger memories. I would spend hours scrolling through these websites looking at tiny thumbnails and sometimes one just jumps out at me. I’m really drawn to certain ones probably because they remind me of places within my memory so then I’ll start painting from the images but often I won’t include a lot of the detail from the original image. I pair it down to a very minimal composition. Most of the photographs are black and white and I’m kind of inventing the colours based on my memories. When you see the paintings together they have a strange dream like quality because of the muted and distorted nature of the colours. My painting is moving to be more and more abstract. I think they are still landscapes but they are quite paired down, they are almost empty. It’s been a natural progression of my work. I general work really small I would like to make something bigger, but I also find it difficult. sometimes if I try and go bigger I end up painting something really small onto a big board!


Orange Forest (2018)

Found Materials

Sometimes I work with found materials like old frames I find in charity shops. When I work with found materials often the first thing I will do is take it apart in some way. I might sand it down or peel away what’s there. I did an installation with the found objects for The Lost Acre exhibition called Fragments. I let the object inform what I would do to it. Another example, this one was originally a religious souvenir and the dome was made out of plastic. So, I decided I would change the image and I scratched the plastic, so it obscured what was inside it. For one piece that was a frame that originally had this twee landscape glued into it and I really wanted to take the image out. But you can see the remnants of it I couldn’t get it out completely, but I ended up really liking the texture that it created! So, I kept it. I spent so long trying to get the image out and eventually decided to just work with it. But these range from everything from things I found in a charity shops to things I find on the beach. A lot of them are coasters and old frames. Similar to the archival imagery I spend a lot of time rooting/collecting stuff trying to find objects. Sometimes it’s the cheaper one’s I prefer to work with because I can be less precious with them and don’t mind destroying them. I quite like how someone’s gotten rid of the object and don’t see the value in it, it could be the material or sometimes I turn the frame around and use the back of it because I like the shape. And create new surface for it.


Fragments (2018)

Material can come from anywhere. My parents were adding insulation to their house and they didn’t know how to get rid of waste because you can’t burn it you and it’s too big to throw it in the bin and they were like oh Laura you will be able to do something with it. It looks like marble but is actually that I’ve covered it in wax, it’s something that was discarded Its very tactile people would want to touch it. And find out what it is your reflex is to reach out at it with your hand and try and figure out what a material it is people are usually surprised about how light it is I also like the idea of putting it alongside an actual rock albeit a strange looking one I look at them kind of like drawings even though they are objects they are something to draw from.

You also do video can you talk about that?

When I first started doing video I felt like I had to have a narrative to it, so I sort of ended up forcing this narrative and it just didn’t work so I I’ve just decided to change tact, it’s more of a purely visual experience. A material exploration and I’m not forcing a narrative into it. I’m self-trained and I would approach video from a painting perspective like composition wise I’d compose it the same way I would approach a painting. And a lot of the time I would see video as a moving painting. It has some elements of landscapes. I’ve even used paint in my video, I’ve had Jelly was sitting on black oil paint on a copper plate and filmed that.

Laura-McMorrow-the lost acre-video-still

Lost Acre Still (2018)

When it comes to my video is almost a scientific process and you are experimenting you don’t know where it’s going to go or what is going to come out of it. I usually surround myself with materials I want to work with but then sometimes I might use something that I hadn’t planned on using just cos it happens to be there.

A scene from The Lost Acre video came about because I was trying to recreate the formation of an erratic rock. I was down in the burren doing a residency. I wanted to see if I froze a rock in a basin of water then melted it would the rock move. I filmed it melting then I’ve reversed the footage.

Time seems to be a factor in a lot of your work in different ways?

Time does feature a lot in the whole show even with my sculptural work I had a big green sculpture it’s actually foliage that I have shaped into an orb. And that came about because I wanted to create a sculptural work that would change over time. When I lived in japan for a couple of years I came across this traditional object made from cedar branches that they would hang outside sake breweries. When the sake was ready to be drank they would know because it would have turned brown so it’s almost like a natural timer. A really long timer! When you see them in japan they are perfectly shaped I left it a bit scraggly. It’s a more interesting object that way. it did turn brown over course the exhibition but it’s so slow you almost wouldn’t notice it. It’s gotten much lighter as it dried out a lot during the exhibition. So, yeah a natural way of telling time! A lot the found objects I was working with also have been changed through time. like the rusty frame,


Sugidama (2018)

And with my video work I have manipulated the time, sometimes I speed it up and sometimes I slow it down. Sometimes it’s not straightforward and it’s really hard to grasp what you are actually looking at!

Most of my video work is made in the studio, if I had more time to develop the work I would have liked to film in the landscape and create these experiments that I do in the studio out in the field. One time I carried with me a huge basin of jelly up the mountain and when I got there it started raining. And when I would put the basen down my dog would keep eating the jelly! It was such a disaster and I thought “what am I doing?!? this is ridiculous!” I retreated back to my studio!  It didn’t work that time, but I have it in my back of my head that it is how I would like the work to develop.

your collage work is very interesting

In my collage again I’m working with archival images often postcards, I think there’s an element of humour in it, I might do something like place a buffalo in an odd location! There is something really beautiful about the quality of these old postcards though because they have been hand coloured they were originally black and white and they have been hand tinted so some parts are still left black and white and there is a parallel with the way I approach the paintings because I’m working from a black and white image but I’m adding colour.


Buffalo Man (2017)

Will we finish by talking about your influences?

I watch quite a lot of sci fi movies, more older ones because of the D.I.Y aesthetic and the practical effects they used kind of influence my work in a way. I watched one recently called Beware! The Blob and there is this red blog that attacks people, and I really want to know how they made the blob move!

Painting wise I like Fergus Feehily’s work he works with found material and often his work is just so beautiful I saw a show that he did in the Douglas Hyde and it kind of stuck with me just his use of materials and his minimal use of paint.

You can find out more about Laura’s work through his website link below


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Interview, Painting, Photography

Lead By The Process: Craig Mcleod


Craig Mcleod

Craig Mcleod Scottish artist currently living in Portugal. Having gone to college with Craig way back in the bygone year of 2008, I’ve long found his approach to art to be so unique. It invites further assessment and I’m glad to have Painting in Text as an avenue to explore work like Craig’s. The past occupies an important position in Craig’s work, so it’s fitting that our interview takes in memories of our college years, his “blow-in” childhood, and the formative influences on his work.

Let’s start with your work from college, like Becoming Archive.

God, that was a long time ago! What was the thinking behind that one? At the time I remember being interested in archival processes, keeping archives. In the run-up to that I did a series of books, for a project about making interventions in a public space. I made mock-up Pelican books using 1800s geometry books – I blanked out a lot of the text and just left a few words per page, that strangely made this kind of story that tied in with the title of the book, and commented on the current state of society. Making the books got me interested in the idea of keeping an archival record, the act of collecting and keeping materials and recording observations of everyday life.


Becoming Archive (2010)

At the same time, after a talk with an external assessor I started to look at my own personal history. We talked about being a Scottish person living in Ireland and attending an Irish college – I mean, even though in distance and culture they’re not far apart, there was still this notion of the outsider, the “blow-in”. This conversation started me looking at my childhood, family photo albums and archived images of the places I lived when I was growing up. The real foundation of Becoming Archive was a photograph of me and my two brothers when I was around five or six, a standard shot with the three of us lined up dressed in kilts; very rigid, almost military. (Maybe it was before going to a family event.) That led into Becoming Archive. I altered the image of us standing there with our kilts, by obscuring our faces with a blue paint that I had been using a lot at the time, and incorporated text which came from my experience of making the books. And that was the foundation for kind of looking into my own childhood – not necessarily looking at the concrete, real pictures of where I grew up, but more like from memory. Like, looking at how your memory colours things. I was interested in not so much the reality of what happened as a child, but the way that you remember it.  That nostalgic kind of memory of the street that you grew up on, and the toys you had as a kid, and all those sorts of things… there are also images of my two boys in there, which was kind of like tying the past to the present.

My next work was Transparency, and that was nearly all about the manual processing of producing images. For Transparency I didn’t take any photographs at all. I just concentrated on the photographic process the images were created from. I was interested in the iconography of other people’s images; my source material came exclusively from Sunday magazines, The Irish Times and The Observer. I liked the way I could alter and subvert the reading of them by the way I displayed them. And I really got into the whole alchemy of the thing. It was like some kind of magic, I would go into the dark room with a bunch of magical chemicals and play around with creating pictures I was using real old school manual darkroom mediums like using liquid silver gelatin, gum bichromate and gum arabic processes. To even get my head around the processes I was using to produce my images was mentally draining – there was no tutor that had any experience of these chemicals, so I had to teach myself everything from books and trial and error, but if had tried to do it other ways like with photoshop it wouldn’t have worked, it wouldn’t have been truthful, ultimately it wouldn’t have satisfied me. I could happily spend all my time in the dark room.

2012-06-13 12.09.41

Transparency (2012)

The process of working on Transparency was like putting in a shift, you know? You go to work, you put on your work gear, you clock in, get to the work of producing images and at the end of the day you clock out. Then you come back the next day and see what you did. It was enjoyable every single second of it. Process led everything that came out of it, dictated everything that happened. So I didn’t have to think, what’s my idea? I was very lucky to have the facilities, and the freedom to make this work and also to be supported by the college financially in buying all the materials I needed to realise this work.

When you moved to Portugal you and Marlene[Mar, partner] had an exhibition which you used photography again – what was that like? Especially since you didn’t have the access to the same facilities that you had at GMIT.

When we arrived here we wanted to do something in art, to get involved in the local art community. I had started taking my own photographs while we were traveling in a camper van around France and Spain and Portugal – I’d been using an old 35mm Olympus OM101, a manual film camera so I needed a place to develop. So I converted my bathroom into a darkroom and tried to do my work while the kids were at school or in bed.

How did you find setting up an exhibition in Portugal?

The major adjustment for us (aside from the language) was that we didn’t have any idea how slow the art scene is here, if you live outside the major cities like Lisbon (which we live about an hour outside of). Our plan was to do this exhibition in the little fishing town that we live in, so we contacted everyone we could that seemed in any way involved with the arts. Which was challenging! We talked with several people at the local and district council level – they don’t have an arts council – until we found someone who was like the arts officer of the district. They were enthusiastic about our proposal, but informed us that there was little interest and even less investment in culture and the arts in the area, and that funding was mainly put towards surfing and tourism. Despite this we continued, and eventually we managed to get an exhibition space. The show that we did for this town was very conceptual in nature, which wasn’t the norm here; when they have art exhibitions, they tend to be little more than decorative painting sales. There’s no theme or concept behind those shows, so when our show The Property of Dreams opened, the locals thought it was completely weird, there were no colourful paintings and no price lists. It wasn’t immediately obvious that it was art for sale. Reading material to explain some of the work was a new thing to many who turned up, some were like, “this was amazing and we have never seen this kind of thing” and other people just thought, “what is this?”

In the end, the actual setup was simple: we didn’t do anything too complicated and because we hadn’t that long come from college, we still had fresh memories of our degree show setup and all that was involved. I’m not saying we were trendsetters, but maybe we facilitated some change as after we did what we did. There have been a series of small exhibitions, with a couple being quite conceptual and a few that were borderline, still a few paint sales but there was a bit more cohesion to it. More of a concept or theme, at least! And an art gallery opened in the town the following year as well its great see small development like that happening.

Lets talk about the painting you started doing in Portugal.

It started off purely as an exercise to get back into painting because I hadn’t painted for… I don’t know, since second year [at GMIT], so maybe five or six years? I just felt that I


Untitled woman in shaft of light (2017)

wanted to make some paintings from some pictures. So the very first paintings were just images, photographs from photographers that I like, that I found online and in books. Most of them by famous photographers like William Eaglston, Paul Graham, Martin Parr, Gregory Crewdson.  I wanted to paint and I was looking at these photographers, and I started to paint their photographs, in a kind of Richter style. I used images from books or newspaper cuttings, I’d start painting them, and I eventually started to include my own photography as a subject matter.

After I did that I felt that I wanted to push my practice a bit further rather than just looking at these pictures I wanted to develop my own painting more. I felt there was a language in the painting that I needed to start to understand and explore. That was more of what I wanted to do, rather than just making pictures. That’s when I started making these recent larger paintings – they came out of a desire to go beyond photography, to try to make pictures that contain a fuller story. Not just a picture, not just replicas of the photographs I was looking at. I wanted to try and capture the wholeness of the image, not just the picture. Not just a static picture of one thing – it’s not a still life.

Could you elaborate more on your thought process with these paintings?

I don’t know how to describe it. it’s kind of like the way that you would describe something that happens in your day – you don’t just see the picture. I’m trying to get to a fuller story. There’s a whole bunch of things that went together to make that moment, past and present. I think that’s what I’m after… that’s where I’m trying to get with these paintings. I don’t want it clearly documented and described. I’m not trying to create an accurate documentation of the moment. But I’m trying to get a more complete essence of the moment. There’s still a long way to go, I am still struggling to find the necessary language required within the paintings.

As an example, this painting [Palavras da vida] came about after hearing the accounts of these friends of a friend. We were helping them clear their land and piece their lives back together after the big wildfires that happened here in November. Their house and everything they owned was burned down.  In the night, they had to free their horses and flee from where they were living. The basis of the painting came from five or six different drawings based on the events described to me – each drawing was drawn over the last, then kind of different aspects of each of the drawings would come through to the foreground and be kept. All went together to make the story or narrative of the final painting, and it was all done at quite a speed. I am trying to not be overly consumed about the thought process… To be honest, it’s a bit of an anomaly in my recent practice, as more often than not my work usually starts without taking outside influence as a jumping off point.


Palavras da vida (2018)

I would usually start with a blank canvas – often I would sit there and stare, and nearly the whole day could pass and nothing would happen but sometimes it’ll come in a flurry. I’ll start to make marks and those marks remind me of something, and then that something makes me think of something else, and I just keep drawing. I start off with charcoal, and then move onto oil pastel and just keep drawing until it starts to take some sort of form that is interesting. Then I go in with thinned paints. Paint goes on, paint comes off, building it up… I think, for me, the most interesting part of it is the materials and the dialogue with the painting. The actual subject matter isn’t that important to me.

Looking at you most recent work the colour has changed to a much brighter palette – do you think living in a much warmer climate is the reason?   

I think so, maybe? I have never thought about it consciously at all, but it does appear that the colours that I use have come drastically brighter.

Let’s finish by talking about your influences, especially since your work has taken so many turns.

Gerhard Richter comes to mind from our time in college. For me, the ones that were the most compelling were those little black and white paintings which came from newspaper cuttings and he reproduced them verbatim. I don’t care much for what he is doing now with his abstractions. I love watching videos of his process, but what comes out, not so much. I imagine they are great fun to make. I like a lot of photography, maybe I’m more influenced by photography and cinema than painting.

I’m really taken by cinema, it’s always played a big part in my life – I always wanted to be a filmmaker. I love a wide variety of cinematic styles and genres, a wide variety of directors, each one is a visionary. I love the work of Coppola and Kubrick, but also equally the work of, say, Wes Anderson or David Lynch… he has a unique vision to his work that’s quirky and engrossing.

Don’t get me wrong though, I love paintings and great painters. At the moment I’m interested in the works of artists like Wilhelm Sasnel , Peter Doig… I’ve just discovered the German painter Daniel Richter (who I found out isn’t related to Gerhard!). It was hugely inspirational for me getting to see Francis Bacon’s work when I visited the Tate, some time ago now, that had a big impact on me. The red triptych with the weird figures [Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion], when I saw that in person, I was blown away. I’d seen it in a book that I had and thought cool, but when I stood in front of the scale of the work… it changes the way you look at it. But for me, when it specifically comes to influence it’s not so much individual artists, more instances that happen in paintings, little things, like the translucency of colours in a painting.

 thank you Adrian Mc Hugh for your work editing


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Interview, Sculpture

Playful Experimentation: Anna Spearman

Anna Spearman is an artist tailor-made for Painting in Text. Whether she is analysing influences on her sculptural work or talking about Sligo Global Kitchen, her ability to assess the strengths of the process she is working in and how to take advantage of them has to be admired


Anna Spearman

This transcript has been edited by the interviewer for the purpose of this blog.

Sligo Global Kitchen has had some recent success, can you talk about its inception?

Well I stepped back from Sligo Global Kitchen almost a year ago now, as it had found a level of independence and I felt the need to get back and spend more time in the studio.  But yes, the project recently received the Community Food Award at the 2018 Irish Food Writers Guild Awards.  It was great recognition of all the hard work and commitment by everyone involved.  The project came about after Megan Johnston, former Director of the Model invited me to develop a socially engaged project.  She was really interested in socially engaged work and was keen to open the doors to new and more diverse communities and to explore ways in which they could more actively engage with the Model.

For me knowing that there was an empty commercial kitchen in the Model while at the same time a community living close by in Globe House (Sligo’s direct provision centre for those seeking asylum) who had little or no opportunities to cook food for themselves, the project seemed like an obvious proposal.  It was conceived as a gesture of solidarity to those living in these really difficult conditions.

Can you describe Sligo Global Kitchen for those who might not know what it is?

Yeah, it began as an invitation to those living in direct provision to come to the Model on a regular basis to meet, socialise and cook for themselves and their friends and families.  Mabel Chah, was one of the first Globe House residents that I met with and proposed the idea to and she was hugely supportive and enthusiastic…encouraging people to come along to meetings and get involved in the project.  The project developed gradually, a collaboration between myself and a core group of residents of Globe House and with the support of the Model.  In the early days sessions were quite informal and would involve a handful of people getting together to cook for the day and then to sit down with family, friends, staff of the Model and passing visitors.  Over time Sligo Global Kitchen developed a more public face as participants gained confidence and a desire to engage with the wider community.  Over the past couple of years the project has hosted numerous public events, in the Model and offsite and has continued to bring people together who might otherwise never meet over a plate of food, music, chat and dancing too sometimes.  The project is continuing to grow and develop.


Sligo Global Kitchen


Do you approach the socially engaged work differently to your sculptural work?

In some ways it is totally different.  When I work in the studio its a very solitary thing, there is a very different kind of rhythm to it and I kind of like to do things in my own time and in my own way, not having to answer to anybody.  I have the freedom to experiment and explore without any pressure to come up with a particular outcome.   The other side of my practice, the socially engaged and community stuff is different in that there are people and deadlines and commitments.  You’re not just working on your own, it’s a collaborative thing which can be equally rewarding but in a different way.  There is a common thread in my approach though. That would be that I’m kind of coming with an open mind, a blank page in a way. So, with Global Kitchen I’m coming with an idea but there are not really any preconceptions about how it might pan out…it’s kind of this is an idea let’s just run with it and see where it might lead too and that is how I approach work in the studio too. I generally don’t have a fixed idea when I come into the studio, I am starting with the materials and putting them through a set of processes and seeing what comes out the other end.  Mostly I’m foostering around with lots of different things depending on my mood and what catches my eye.  I’m not always very good at finishing things but sometimes I will get sick of looking at something and so will persevere until I finish it, or I’m fed up and put it away!

Your work seems very conscious of its relationship with the viewer what is your thought process in regard to that?

Interaction between the work and the viewer is something that happens when the work is out in the world, but it’s not something I think about when I’m in the studio making work.  But yes when it comes to putting the work out there I am interested in that kind of encounter between the audience and the work.  I’m excited by the performative aspect of sculpture, when its not a two dimensional thing on the wall its going to be something you actually have to move around.  Depending on how you do that you might have a different experience, your understanding of the work develops as you move around it.  When I’m looking at other people’s work its the excitement of walking around it and the thrill of something unfolding over time. I know you can have that experience with a painting the longer you look at it the more you see but it’s a different kind of a way of experiencing something. I suppose with socially engaged work there is a similarity in that unknown aspect of the encounter, depending on the particular circumstances, all the variables and those involved you are going to have a different experience its kind of an open-ended conversation?


Untitled 2017

Could we go more into your practice as an artist?

Yeah sure, probably when I think about what I do it reminds me of how I used to play as a child, you know that thing of piling chairs up on top of each other and throwing blankets on top of them to create a kind of secret space.  That pulling together of things to transform them into something else – I suppose creating a space to daydream in and about.  At its simplest that’s maybe what I’m tapping into.  Its interesting watching children react to my work – they can relate to it in a very direct and playful way which I love.

When I’m in the studio I’m not necessarily working towards finished pieces of work…I am trying stuff out, playing around with materials and processes, working quite intuitively.  I’ve developed a way of working where I’m not consciously thinking about the outcome of the end product when I work, but saying that I do sometimes deliberately pick processes that make me step out of my comfort zone, there must be some element of the unknown for me whether it be seeing what this is going to look like? or is this going to work? or if it is even going to hold together?  I often find myself doing things in a really slow labour-intensive way that is kind of unnecessary but I think that slow process allows me time and space to daydream while I’m making and thats where the work comes out of really.

Material plays a very important part in your work, could you talk about the influences that got you into that frame of mind?

Well I’m very attracted to the that kind of playful quality in peoples work.  Phyllida Barlow comes to mind, her use of materials and that ad-hoc way of making work, there is a kind of raw energy there.  Franz West is another artist whose work I love. He plays with your expectations of what things are, the way he uses materials sometimes seems to be turned on its head – massive objects that look like papier mache but are made of steel, or concrete that seems like cardboard – unexpected juxtapositions of materials and just really exuberant, playful work.  There are so many artists who have made/are making amazing work…it is hard to know where to start…Eva Hesse, Louise Bourgeois, Jessica Stockholder, Hannah Wilke, Achraf Touloub and Irish artists like Caoimhe Kilfeather and Sam Keogh are just a few, but the list is endless really.  There are so many interesting artists out there.

Do you have any new projects or exhibitions coming up?

Yes I will have an exhibition in the Foyer Gallery at the Model in September of this year, thats as a result of the Model Cara Award from last years Cairde Visual exhibition.  I am really looking forward to that.  And I have just been selected for a commission – a collaborative project between Age and Opportunity, Dr Sorcha O’Brien of Kingston University London and the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life, based on Sorcha’s research project, “The Electrification of the Rural Irish Home: Housewives, Electrical Products and Domesticity in the 1950s and 1960s”.  The outcome of that will be an exhibition of work made in collaboration with communities in Castlebar over the next twelve months, that will run alongside Sorcha’s exhibition in the National Museum – Country Life, Castlebar in 2019.

thank you Adrian Mc Hugh for your work editing


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Interview, Painting

Re-Defining an Artist: Tricia O Connor

Tricia O Connor is a Kerry based artist who’s perspective on art could not be replicated by anyone else. Her enthusiasm is infectious, and to talk to her reveals the great passion for art that drives her forward.  Speaking to her recently about her work, her personality shines through from her painting and her projects like the Feminist Tea Party and her Crafted workshops.


Tricia O Connor

This transcript has been edited by the interviewer for the purpose of this blog.

Let’s start with your project 40 Paintings in 40 Days.

So I recently had an exhibition called Anchor The Flow in Killarney, run by the Art House Gallery, which is run by a former winner of The Screaming Pope prize in K-Fest, Tracey Sexton. I had an exhibition there, and set myself the challenge of doing a painting a day for forty days. I decided to do the challenge to create a conversation around the reasons we create, and I hadn’t painted properly since I was in college. The element of getting back into painting again was a driving force, because I had been doing a lot of socially engaged work and I wanted to get back to what had gotten me into art in the first place – and for me, that was painting. The emphasis on production in the challenge was to get me to create without thinking – to see what type of a body of work would emerge out of that.  And it was getting really hard around the thirty day mark, if I’m being honest!

Being Irish, the forty days element has a connotation with religion for me…

Hahaha! It takes forty days to retrain the brain to do anything, so the number was about retraining the brain to access more creative flow! There was kind of a performative element to it.  But in the end, the forty day aspect of the challenge was a means to an end. It got me creating. And when it was done I could look back on how the process affected my work, without bogging myself down with thought experiments while I was making.


Anchor The Flow (2017)

Can you talk more about how the restraints of the challenge changed your work?

What happened was a huge change – I always used to paint in a quite small scale, and after I had finished the 40 Paintings, I found that I started to make bigger work. And now my paintings are moving toward larger projects, so there has definitely been a shift in my style and scale of work. As a practice, it gave me a lot of confidence to create again, and specifically working at a larger scale. For me as an artist, finishing art college and doing the Masters, I got stuck in trying to say something and trying to make a body of work that is relevant. And what I found was that I got so stuck in my head about it, that I actually stopped creating anything. The levels of mental energy it takes up, creating socially engaged art projects… My art practice is definitely going back into painting. It’s a space where I don’t have to think to create, and I don’t have to be attached to an outcome at the end of the process.

Can you talk about your socially engaged practice?

I guess the best place to start is The Feminist Tea Party. I started doing the tea parties when I was studying my Masters in Limerick, and they were a methodology I used to discuss a wide variety of topics concerning women’s rights and feminism. The conversations from each tea party are documented on the inside of each teacup. The teacups are then kept as an archive of women’s history in Ireland. The Feminist Tea Parties are influenced by my love of DIY aesthetics, and there’s an Irish twist on domestic home life there as well. And I love having subversive conversations! For me, it was a really fun methodology to use. And I think people really enjoyed it.


Feminist Tea Party (2016)

The tea party was an interesting practice, and I’d created an impressive archive of conversations people have been having around feminism and women’s rights in Ireland over the last few years. So I decided to move it into a more specific subject matter, and went on to create an archive around what men and women were thinking about abortion rights in Ireland last year. It was a really funny one, bringing it into abortion rights to have a conversation about it – you would think it would be easy, because it’s everywhere now, but the conversation around it was very stunted. When I got to the point that I was talking about abortion rights, I actually found that spaces and organisations don’t actually want to have that conversation. It seemed to come up against me when I would bring it up. And this killed my enthusiasm for it, and I just stopped.

I think the conversation around feminism flowed much more easily, because it had so many different elements and there were so many different opinions that could come from that. But with abortion rights, many are very guarded about their opinions for fear of being told they are wrong. I’m not saying it is impossible – I had a tea party in Tralee Institute of Technology and had 30 people at my tea party, both pro-life and pro-choice as well as the chaplain, so it is possible to have the conversation. But it is a very difficult conversation to have. I’m influenced by my methodology from The Feminist Tea Party when it comes to my work and how I facilitate my workshops.

Can you go into that in more detail?

I’m doing a residency this year with Crafted, which sets up artist residencies in primary schools across the Kerry, and I’ve become the regional coordinator for the programme. You go into a primary school, and work with a class for two or three months. It’s just an amazing programme – you can choose to work in any discipline. I’ve been doing printmaking, we’re making a play… The kids in the class are eight to ten years old, and the aim of the art practice was to get them listening to each other, and creating something as a group. I’m coming to the end of that residency now. It’s been great, I have been using my experience with meditation and how to do group work from my time running The Feminist Tea Party: I find I can use what I learned for my time learning about socially engaged practice with the kids, and that has been working wonders with their imagination. I mean, when you say ‘picture an artist’, they only think of a painter. I have been trying to teach them through meditation how to grow your imagination, and how to develop ideas to understand that there are more avenues to being an artist beyond just image making and to get them to tune into very specific things around them – like for example, the colour of a boat, or the colour of the trees, or even the sound of the wind. and all these different elements to create a holistic kind of way to get them to tap into their imagination.

With such an ever-changing changing practice, could you talk about your influences? 

For me, I’m really interested in listening to people’s conversations and listening to music more than looking at art. I prefer to be driven by influences that I can’t directly replicate, that I have to somewhat translate into my practice. As an example: my paintings at the moment, they’re very abstract and the colours are quite bright, because they are all inspired by conversations that I have had with people.  And because a lot of my conversations are about moon cycles and meditation, I find my work reflects that sort of conversation! The paintings are an attempt at expressing the movement of the conversations, the back-and-forth that takes place. Listening becomes very important when you’re trying to convey this movement, and the work becomes very reflective.


Sacred Art (2018)

I think everything is my creative practice; to me, everything that I do informs another type of creative practice, whether that’s painting or writing music or any other type of practice. I have my space set up with boards for painting near where I write, so if anything write influences an idea for a painting (or vice versa), I can pick up on that instantly. I might be painting for half an hour and go back later in the day. There is a flow to how I work, where I can move seamlessly to from one thing to another, kind of like jazz; for me everything bleeds into everything else. I love Benjamin Clementine, I love Sun Ra, and improv jazz – and that is the sort of music that would inspire me. 

What do you have coming up?

I am on the visual arts committee for K-Fest, an arts festival that shows emerging artists’ works, and it’s been running for six years. On June Bank Holiday weekend every year, the town of Killorgan becomes a space for over 150 artists and pop-up galleries which are set up throughout the town. There are twelve/fourteen people of us on the committee, with Neil Browne as the Artistic Director and Rachel Coffey and myself as the Assistant Artistic Directors. It has a nice DIY punk element to it, and there’s a very good collective mix of painting, sculpture, and others. Every building you go into is completely different from the next. We try and mix it up as well, putting video and paint together in a space one year and sculpture the next, and try and keep the spaces completely different from each other each year.

I’m also working on an online exhibition of my work. I just decided the amount of time it takes to apply to a gallery, to get refused by a gallery and come up with the costs to get my work to a gallery… and in the end it doesn’t even guarantee that the work will be seen! Just all this made me think: ‘why don’t I just use the internet to my advantage?’  It’s accessible to anyone, without the hassle of setting up in a physical space.

You can find out more about Tricia’s work through her website:
and thank you Adrian Mc Hugh for your work editing


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Interview, Performance

A Modern Day Renaissance Woman: Tracey Moberly

Welsh artist Tracey Moberly is a woman of vast talents. You just have to look at the multiple practices that she uses in her work! working as Tracey’s assistant was one of my first jobs post-college, and the experience influential for me going forward in art. I’m delighted to share with you her insights into her work and practice below.


Tracey Moberly


Your work has a strong line of community involvement to it. Would you like to talk about that?

Yes, definitely. I’m just finishing one of two residencies in a South Wales Valley village named Fochriw. Fochriw is quite an isolated Welsh Valleys area, initially built up around the coal mining industry. Since the decline of coal mining, there’s little or no industry or manufacture left and unemployment statistics are high. Fochriw is not a place you would pass through, so you would need a reason to go to there. It has many socio-economic problems, but also a fantastic, unique community.

The main aim and brief of the first project Spinning Yarns Weaving Community was to bring the community together and identify role models that would lead, by identifying and assembling a core steering group for the project. The whole project is based on this community. The industrial scars left from this post-industrial village have now knitted themselves back together to its former rural beauty. Sheep from the local farms far outnumber people, they’re left to wander and graze on the oaks of roads and in gardens. I began with teaching the groups how to spin the raw fleece we found on the hedgerows and within the housing, gardens and fields; this followed by teaching them how to dye the wool with natural dye-stuffs such as lichen, madder, onion skins or cochineal beetles.

From there the project developed looking at the people, the communities, in their houses and homes – focusing predominantly on this as the theme running throughout the project.

This then resulted in professional photographic portraits of people inside and outside their houses, almost Grand Budapest Hotel style… Another residency I am doing with the same community, with a particular focus on the school and a craft group is called Hour Eyes. This is a community photographic project: I’m giving set days and times to children and adults to take photos of what they are doing at these moments. It is becoming a cultural heritage archive of this community. The response has been great – 1,200 photographs to date. I am half way through the project and we have just had a preliminary exhibition with the work so far. It’ll culminate in a large outdoor photographic exhibition where I am also cooking my Cushendall Curry with a group involved in the project for the opening – at which the group chefs will be awarded their food hygiene certificates. For the curry we are using locally sourced meat from the nearby farm and a vegan curry. There is a documentary being made on the Hour Eyes project for the Wales Film Festival 2018. The Spinning Yarns Weaving Community project will also result in a final show, with a book/catalogue detailing the journey of the project from start to finish and a lot of artworks- textile banners, sound installation and photography. The first exhibition I did with this project was at the National Portrait Gallery in London. We were invited to create a response to the Picasso Portrait exhibition that had been curated there, which we did in the form of fabric self portraits titled Face-It. The exhibition title was called Everything You Can Imagine is Real in which I was exhibiting some of my own work.

What did you do for Everything You Can Imagine is Real?

Everything You Can Imagine is Real was an exhibition Inspired by the Picasso Portraits exhibition that was current at the National Portrait Gallery in London, and a response to it, curated by Martyn Ware from the band Heaven 17 and Illustrious. I produced a       self-portrait, which I made from the app TriTrace, designed and made for me by


TriTrace – Self portrait 1 (2017)

Jonathan Moberly (the app can be downloaded for free from the AppStore). The artwork was made in response to Picasso’s cubist portraits, where I developed the female form of the triangle, the upside down triangle the symbolism representing the female form in history. I have a rare condition of enhanced colour vision found predominantly in women and called tetrachromacy. It means that I can distinguish between colours that may appear identical to most -four colour cones instead of the usual three. It is also responsible for colour blindness in male children from the X chromosome.

Tetrachromacy? That’s interesting as an artist – that means you are literally looking at art differently!

Yes, I’ve always wondered why this has never been identified in any art movements throughout history. This is probably because it is predominately a female condition: if it was male, then it would be a household name with people having a fuller understanding of it. It also has massive implications for the arts world specifically through art history. When one of my sons (who is colourblind) and I went to be tested in a North East England hospital research department, I was shown a painting by a red/green colour blind person. The painting was described to me before I looked at it as vibrant red poppies in a luscious green field. When the image was presented to me, I saw a grass landscape which was the colour of old dead straw, instead of the luscious green I had expected and the supposed vibrant red poppies were depicted as small smoother images which were shaped like poppies, but were a slightly darker shading of the straw colour. This opened a huge range of questions to me regarding colour, sight, the reliability of art history and the questions posed within art between male and female. Especially with that of a colour blind male artist to a tetrachromat female.

It further put into context every argument I’d ever had about colour through youth and adulthood; such as if something like a wall was mauve or lilac, or whether the Central Line on the London tube map was red or dark orange. I knew I was seeing colours differently to many other people. Although happy about my own findings and enhanced colour vision, I was more concerned about my children’s colour vision and the implications it has for them and many other colourblind males. I hope to do a project further down the lane based on this with my sons.

Your work is in so many mediums and has many different outcomes – can you talk about your practice?

Although I work in a multitude of different mediums, my work is of the same overall structure and theme which I have been working on since I was seventeen. This is best explained with the term ‘ethnomethodology’, which is a perspective within sociology which focuses on the way people make sense of their everyday world. I call it the chicken wire effect, so I can explain it through a visual structure … If you can imagine a piece of galvanised steel chicken wire, with the artwork metaphorically positioned inside the hexagonal gap in the centre of each section. Each of these hexagonals has six leads or strands leading into forming the next hexagon – where another art work is metaphorically positioned. The six variables or the strands from the hexagon are the options the next artwork has, with the medium and form it takes as a response to the last artwork.

For example, if the art work was a performance, then some of the six strands could lead to (1) a person’s response to the artwork suggesting it, like a painting at a gallery; (2) someone recommending a film based on the subject of the artwork; (3) a suggestion that a ballet may have resembled some of the movement within the performance… Selecting the most logical response of these suggestions, I would follow it up, and this journey and response would create the next artwork. For example if I chose number (3), the ballet that may have resembled some of the movement in the performance, then I could go along to the ballet as a follow-up and be given a number of variables that would produce the next artwork. I could reject the statement in the ballet and continue on the original theme of the artwork, creating and experimenting with more; I could be knocked down en route to the ballet, which would result in me changing focus on the artwork and including the accident. The variables are non-quantifiable, but the links are endless, just as our journey through life is.

I could be inspired by the movement within the performance liking it to my performance and go on to produce a new dance artwork – I try and keep it to six, but the outcomes and new artworks created are infinite. Themes and mediums are always different, but each artwork follows on from the next. Some artworks go off on tangents and others go in twists and turns within the metaphorical chicken wire structure. I change media in response to each artwork, so for example I make bricks that make buildings; or intricately embroider fabric from text messages; or make large mosaic structures; or work in photography and film; or write books, or poetry and so on…

Approaching all mediums in a similar manner, I believe that every form follows a similar structure pattern: for example that using a piece of fleece one spins it into a yarn, then dyes it with a natural plant dyestuff, then knits it into a jumper, is fundamentally the same as cutting a piece of wet clay, firing and colour/glazing it to make bricks, then building a wall out of those bricks. Because I approach all mediums in a similar manner, I can weave them together much like the pieces of wire in the chicken wire – and keep crossing between mediums. Saying that, everything must be organised and planned out: if you have seen my diary, everything is colour-coded because I’m in a different city or town every few days, and it would become very hard to keep track of everything if I didn’t organise it this way. I’m never usually more than four days in the same place. But once something is in in my diary – if changes happen that’s fine, I go with the flow, but it has to be organised in the first instance. With all of my work, it’s pretty much like that even though it might not at first instance seem it!


Tweet-Me-Up! (2012)


Tweet-Me-Up! (2012)

whenever I can, I really like doing mass participation projects. Like with one of my projects, Tweet-Me-Up!, I have used a mobile phone and social networking to invite audiences to participate in creating evolving digital exhibitions of photography, art and action – subgenres and              counter-cultures that teeter on the mainstream. Another project I like to do is to make a curry at the openings for projects, and it’s become a bit of an institution. Cooking is such a social experience, and I love to use it as a way for people to engage and socialise, the whole chopping and the talking, making the curry as a group thing. There was a Tunisian artist whose work was all about cooking and tradition: I helped him do this piece a huge meal at Void Gallery in Derry last year – this was linked into a project, and the curry I do for Heart of the Glens Festival, in the Curfew Tower in Cushendall. Every year the title is: ’Stay Here & Make Art’. Artists and writers residencies happen here every year where people go and stay in a Curfew Tower, which is the symbol of the town.

What artists inspire you?

There are or were some artists whom slightly inspired me, specifically when I was doing A’levels at school and foundation level before my degree – Egon and Gustavo Klimt. The main inspiration I got from these were their skill and craftsmanship of life drawing prior to the stylised work they became known for. What inspiration I gained most from artists like this was that if you master a basic medium, then you can transform and develop that medium into your own stylised approach. Movements inspire me more than individuals – I liked Picasso, his peers and that period of art history. My favourite and most inspirational movement is undoubtedly the symbolist movement, incorporating both art and poetry – I am also published poet and write prolifically – it was from this movement I became interested in synesthesia and did a masters thesis on both. One-offs of artists work have inspired me such as Judy Chicago’s car bonnets; again I like how she mastered the craft of car body spraying and then the politics of the art along with the designs she created from the mastering of the craft.

I also feel that if you let yourself get lost into other people’s work you don’t really come out with anything that’s new or original. When I listen to music there isn’t a full album I really like, there may be an individual track from any given album and this is the same with art and artists. I like new fresh things I suppose. I’m not saying that what I do may be perceived as entirely original but it just seems tainted to me if I were to approach a piece of work or a project with someone else’s work in mind. My work such as             Text-Me-Up! where I archived and used all of my text messages from the first that I was ever sent. This is an original piece because I came at it with no notions of other peoples work and was a new piece of technology then. This became a book; a series of exhibitions and developed into my exhibition and installation at Tate Modern           Tweet-Me-Up! and is constantly developing. I lecture on it as history within universities as none of these generations remember life without mobile phones and texting.

Your work has strong social engagement elements have you worked with schools?

Yes, I am currently working as both Creative Agent and Creative Practitioner in Welsh schools based on the new Donaldson Report. I also work closely with schools when I am doing large community engagement projects. Professor Graham Donaldson was commissioned by the Welsh Government to consider new assessment and curriculum arrangements. He identified ‘progression steps’ to provide a more coherent basis for learning, teaching and assessment. I am working alongside a number of agents and practitioners with the Arts Council of Wales on creative learning through the arts as an action plan for Wales. I’m involved in some extremely exciting creative projects. Working with the geography department with the head of geography Nicola Webber in a school in Senghenydd, Caerphilly. The focus was to increase higher levels in maths and english through creativity as a creative practitioner. It became a model project that the Arts Council used to illustrate the programme During the time I was working with this particular year group I’d been invited to Ludwigsburg in Germany which is twinned with Caerphilly to exhibit there in a show called  and it was here the Mayor invited me to create work with the city and refugees in the city. I invited ten of the group I’d been working with at St. Cenydd School in Senghenyddand, their teacher, along with ten pupils of the same age from Novy Jicinin in Czech Republic and fourteen refuges in Germany. Gained funding for it and titled the project Yourope, it involved twelve different nationalities.


Yourope (2017)


The project we devised was to make up the flags representing the countries that the participants were from so we made twelve flags by taking 10,000 photos of our host city of Ludwigsburg. You can see the work, photos, film and tv coverage in the link This has now progressed further as the City of Ludwigsburg holds its 300 year anniversary as a city this year where they are up-cycling the flags and making into bags along with postcards and information on the Yourope project for visiting delegates. The flags included Kurdish, Turkish,                Czech Republic, Wales, Syria and Brazil to name but a few. The second project I did in this school is titled Caerphilly Chronicles, it is a project worked on as creative practitioner with Sara Sylvester and Nicola Webber. It is a book based on working with poetry; Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Welsh myths and legends – it focuses on Caerphilly Castle which dominates the town and is the second biggest Castle in the UK, the first being Windsor Castle. The book is titled Caerphilly Chronicles and just available on Amazon and other stores.

I am running projects in two other schools as a Creative Agent; the Creative practitioners here are producing an animation in one school and augmented reality work with fine art in another.

Your practice makes good use of social media and technology with Instagram being used as a tool here and Tweet Me Up! making good use of Twitter?

Because I’m working all the time, I see everything as my work – the internet seems like the most useful platform to be putting stuff up on, really. People think I post my life on Facebook, when in fact it’s all work- and exhibition- related. It’s accessible by anyone: it can reach people who might not be interested in going into a gallery. And I find you can reach people through other interests outside of art that way as well. Here is a link to when I started this in 2005 and titled it Mobilography – this was at the very beginning of mobile phone photography technology!

What work is coming up for you soon?

Oh, I have a lot of things coming up this year. The Spinning Yarns Weaving Community project is coming to an end and I’m putting an exhibition together, with all the photography/soundscapes gathered from those involved (including photos of those involved), their homes and their routines – I’m making a book out that project.              The Hour Eyes exhibition will also be happening in a couple of weeks.

Next week I am going to Hull where I am co-directing two plays with Tam Dean Burn, written by Tenzing Scott Brown (the alter ego of Bill Drummond) as part of                      The Heads Up Festival in Hull – Daffodils and Death Forty Bunches Of Daffodils deals with Bill’s commitment to give away forty bunches of daffodils to forty total strangers each year for the rest of his life. It also celebrates the slow death of photography as a form of documentation, this will be challenging as the play is written about Bill and myself. Totally Wired marks the death of Mark E. Smith; the killing of seven baby blackbirds by Drummond and the Second Coming of Christ in the form of the fish known as the freshwater shark:- The Pike. The last play I co-directed with Tam and wrote with Bill was part of the Hull City of Culture and titled Your Darkest Thought.

At Easter, Bill and I then leave for North Carolina USA where I will be directing two more plays by Tenzing Scott Brown, for the second half of a feature film which will be released in cinemas. March 29th an exhibition titled Power, which I’m doing with Martyn Ware and Sarah Hopkins (Printmaker) launches at the Trafalgar in Sheffield – we want to celebrate the visual and sonic beauty and legacy of the UK steel industry.

I have also started a new project working with bees and beekeepers, as photojournalist and an artist. The BEES project aims to bring together beekeepers from across South East Wales to develop a local/regional Queen Bee breeding programme to work towards sustaining pollinator population and improving ecological resilience in bees. We also want to raise awareness of bees, beekeeping and its importance to biological systems and diversity with organisations, schools and the general public, to encourage and educate new beekeepers. I’m really excited about this project.



thank you Adrian Mc Hugh for your work editing


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Installation, Interview

Impermanence and its Lasting Impact: Shane Finan

Shane Finan, a Sligo-born artist currently residing in Dublin, is a man who wears his influences on his sleeve, and it’s riveting to hear him discuss them in detail.  His work is uniquely his own, and I’m happy to give him a platform to discuss his art and his process in this in-depth interview.

This transcript has been edited by the interviewer for the purpose of this blog.

So, what are you currently working on?


Shane Finan standing in front of Everything’s Ephemeral (2016)

Well I tend to have several things on the go at the same time. I just made a list yesterday in an Excel document, it’s the only way I can organise my life these days! At the moment there are seven or eight different art projects ongoing, and I have to keep track of what stage they are at and what I need to do with them. Some are in the documentation stage, some are in the fledgling ideas stage. Probably an interesting one to talk about for my practice would be the project I’m doing with the Pierre Auger Observatory, because I just finished the research and I’ve just started onto making something.

I should probably explain.

The Pierre Auger observatory is based in Malargue in Argentina. They detect showers of cosmic rays, which are radioactive particles that are constantly moving through space. A lot of them hit earth and pass right through it and continue on their journey – their intergalactic journey.  What they have in Malargue is thirty square kilometres of water-pools with sensors, in a desert in the Andes, that are there to detect these rays. They are set up to detect why these showers happen and where they come from. And only this year, they published a paper saying that the major showers come from one specific area in the universe. This is ongoing research. Why that happens? We don’t know. But it’s great for speculation. From my point of view this is fantastic – it could be communication from aliens, an exploding star… you could come up with or create anything!


surface detector from the Pierre Auger observatory


The project came about around twelve months ago, when I got in contact the director of The Pierre Auger observatory. I dropped them a line and I said, ‘Hi, I’m an artist and interested in getting involved in making something off the back of the research that you have?’ And they said, ‘This is great, we would love to have you, and anything you need let us know. Tell us when you’re coming!’ As an artist I have found this reaction sometimes, and it’s always very heartwarming when people are interested. The director put me in touch with a few people who have written papers, and so over the following months I gained a very small knowledge of what the observatory did. My method is so based in research – I do so much reading. I read a lot of theory. I read magazines, newspapers. I love reading material. Reading in general, and listening – I listen to a lot of music constantly, sometimes podcasts too. I also take photographs and collect physical material, drawing up sketches, and being on site when I can. I get lost in my research. I like to have a lot information streams coming at me all the time. I would say if you were to measure it, research is around 70% or 80%, and the actual execution of a piece is quite quick in most cases.

When I’ve gotten through the research I begin to get a picture of what I plan to do. For instance, I will probably be doing a digital installation off the back of this – it just fits with the material that I have. For me, medium is dictated by the best idea communicated by my research, whatever that ends up being. That doesn’t mean I’ll always make something! Sometimes I will realise through the research phase that a project won’t be going any further. I might write a paper about it, which I’ve done a couple times before, or I might just leave it and let it disappear into the ether.

I chose digital installation because I feel I couldn’t express it through a lot of other media. Film or painting wouldn’t get it across across. I want to disseminate what they are doing in the observatory – the type of work they are doing, and the type of research, but also the idea of technology in its highest form being used for a purpose which is experimental and undetermined, I guess. We don’t know where this is going to go, and when the funding finishes up in ten years’ time this will all be cleared out – the buildings and technology will move on to another purpose. They might give some of the 1,600 water tanks to the local farmers, but the observatory will be gone.

Maybe what they learned will be useful at some point. We have this huge experiment – a staff based in western Argentina, from all over the world. And then at the end of it, you know where cosmic rays are coming from, and that’s it! You have this piece of information that maybe ends up playing no part in human progress, but it is fascinating nonetheless.

Technology seems to be a recurring theme to your work. 

I tend to focus on transient ephemeral things that disappear over time – things that change the relationship between people and place. Technology is one of those things that is constantly shifts and is constantly in flux…  something else I’m interested in is the idea of lost technology or lost ideas. I started a series called ‘Antikhytera etc.’ in 2016, that is all influenced by this idea: lost technology.

The first piece from this series was a project about the Chernobyl disaster – Mugwort, Wormwood, and how little we know about the end of the world. (I made that title as long as possible so it can’t be repeated.) At the time I was looking at the history of the Cold War era coming to an end, and the influence of that on a place like Ireland in a global community. There were a lot of great ideas in the technology from the Eastern Bloc, lost after the wall came down… there was a lot of propaganda in the West, that led to the belief that behind the Iron Curtain there was no such thing as a good idea, but these people put cosmonauts in space!


Mugwort, Wormwood, and how little we know about the end of the world (2016)

It was something I was interested in, so I checked out everything around the Chernobyl disaster. Which was an interesting personal event as well, because it only happened four months after I was born. My mother told me a story of bringing me out into the town when I was in the pram, and it was raining –there was so much fear and paranoia, that this could be acid rain. So she rushed to get me into the Quinnsworth Arcade [in Sligo town], to take shelter. That kind of hangs with you for the rest of your life. in fact, I looked back at my research from my first year in college and found old notes on Chernobyl, and realised that this had been rattling in my head for a long time.

All that led to me looking into the history of Chernobyl, and specifically the history of the name Chernobyl – which caught my attention, because Mugwort and Wormwood are both etymologically linked to the word Chernobyl. Mugwort was also the star that heralded the end of the world in the Old Testament. There is an interesting relationship between the blinding light which comes from a radioactive star, and a blinding light that explodes from a centre inside of the USSR. The Chernobyl disaster really marked a point where it was visible to the western world that something disastrous on a global scale could happen beyond the Iron Curtain, and it could affect people beyond it. This notion of the local-global and the end of the world, it’s striking. And what is an end?  Is the fall of the Iron Curtain an ‘end’? It caused a major social shift. That question made me think about location and social identity based on the local – which led me to Wormwood Gate in Dublin, which my partner Amy found along one of the points on the old city boundaries. I wanted to do something local that was responding to a global idea. I was very heavily influenced by the Nobel Prize laureate Svetlana Alexievich and her book Voices From Chernobyl, where she interviews eyewitnesses, and explores the experiences of individuals and how the disaster affected their lives.

Can you talk a little about your practice? You mentioned the relationship between people and place as an important theme for you, as well as the notion of transience, the ephemeral – how do these concepts influence how you work? 

Something that I think is relevant to my practice that I haven’t mentioned yet, and I should say before talking about the piece, is that I stopped working with galleries, and generally with all traditional exhibition spaces, around six years ago. Around 2011 was the last time I showed in what would be considered a gallery space. I will work with artist-led studios and art centres, but generally I like to work in spaces that aren’t art related at all. I like to work with places that are transient – as an art space, but also transient as other spaces, and this links to my thoughts on the idea of commonage or the public sphere. The public sphere was essentially a place where everyone would meet up at a specific spot (like, say, the drinking well), and this is where you would have all this communication, because they all have to go to the well anyway. But they don’t just use the well as a place to get water – they use it as a place to have conversations, to open up dialog and to get news. Really, this dual use of spaces resonates with me, and I want to be a part of something like this. There are legitimate criticisms of the theory surrounding this concept [of the public sphere], and I’m aware of that, but as an ideal for me it is fantastic.


Beyond the Black Stump (2017) at the Charlestown Arts Centre (a multifunctional art centre / library / music hall / community space)


I find audiences extremely important, and I think that when you are dealing with places that are established you are dealing with audiences that are already established also. In galleries, or on that route, I’d be speaking to the same audience as every other artist. Artists speaking to other artists is fantastic in a sharing ideas sort of way, but it’s not the be all and end all. I have had some success selling paintings a few years ago and that was going quite well, but I started getting pigeonholed a little bit by galleries who wanted me to do more of the same. You know what I mean? I’m not going to do more of the same, because I’ve finished that series and now I’m moving on to this series. I don’t want to work that way.

So in Wormwood Gate in Dublin, I set up the work. It featured lights that were triggered by pressure sensors, and the sensors were activated through interaction from viewers. The layout of the sensors matched the shape of the biohazard symbol; the layout of the lights formed the shape of the exclusion zone surrounding Chernobyl plant, days after the reactor fire. The idea was to create an impression of an exclusion zone, but one that could not be properly interacted with unless people stood on all sides (a minimum of three people). Otherwise there were constant ‘gaps’ in this zone. The piece becomes an ‘inclusion zone’, inviting people to move closer and become a part of the work, rather than remaining outside and forbidden to enter. I wanted it to act like a public space of some kind – a point of discussion, of mystery and reflection.

With research being a huge part of your process, how have you found the task of adapting your language to the audiences less versed in much of the theory you’ve been reading?

I suppose I communicate through my visual language anyway. My visual art is a form of communication as far as I’m concerned, and I think that if you spend enough time with an art piece you will understand it even if you have no background in art.

I don’t think I change my practice for an audience. I like to keep the ambiguity that I put into my work. I don’t change my practice for the audience – I don’t want the ideas to be in their face, but I don’t want to be to ambiguous either. I want people to read into the work the way they want to read into the work, which makes me think a little of watching the new season of Twin Peaks. There was one episode that I just watched there, and it has half an hour of mad avant-garde 1950s-style filmmaking, with a nuclear bomb going off, followed by another half an hour of black faced people coming through speaking in tongues! And as I watched this I felt: anyone could enjoy this. And I love that David Lynch is doing this in the form of a popular TV programme to entertain and confuse the hell out of people. He doesn’t compromise, but he trusts the audience to work with him to find meaning. If it is well written and well made, they will get something from it.

Funnily enough, when you make me think about this, I guess one thing has developed since 2011 –  I kind of insist that I do a talk with every piece that I do now (I do like to talk! haha). And I practice quite vigorously for these talks, to the point where they become kind of performance pieces and part of the work. I don’t generally talk in a very straight line either, but I always try and communicate in the missing pieces for people who might not know my background, or don’t know my way of working, so I try and bring that across in my talks. And I find that people are often interested engaging in conversation and dialogue after looking at the work again in a different light. So yeah, that has become more of my practice since I stopped working in galleries.

You have such a broad set of tools when it comes to approaching a project – how do you see yourself as an artist?

I’ve been reading about specialisation. One thing that jumps out is the book Chronicles, by Bob Dylan. It’s a fantastic book, where he really defines his point of view as a musician. The artist as musician – he’s not thinking [wholly] about songwriting or revolutionary causes, he’s thinking about being a musician as the thing that is important to him. It’s a form of identity and that singular identity of ‘this is what I do, and this is what I do well’ has been reviewed in what I have read over and over in other sources. I think sometimes that’s the only way to really perfect something – a process or a practice. But saying that, I like being scattergun. I’m not a specialist in anything, but I can be good in a lot of things, and I like that. Sometimes it can be disappointing because it can lead to having more failures, when I have grand ideas for projects because I’m got good enough at programming or I haven’t figured out how to paint something well enough. But it allows me a broader scope, which I’m grateful for. This way of working also opens me up to collaboration with people who have better skills, and that is an important part of my work. A lot of what I have done recently has been collaborative, and I love to develop ideas with other artists or people with other skills or ideas.

You can find out more about Shane’s work through his website
thank you Adrian Mc Hugh for your work editing


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Interview, Painting

Ways of Showing: Andy Parsons

Andy Parsons is a Sligo Based artist whose work has been shown in Amsterdam, Dublin, London and Tokyo. Andy is not only a painter. But a curator, critic and facilitator. In this interview we talk about these many facets of his practice and how they effect each other. from his Floating World project with Glenn Holman to the Per Cent for Art scheme Play Spaces and his concurrent painting at the time.

This transcript has been edited by the interviewer for the purpose of this blog.



Andy next to his self portrait

How would you describe Floating World?

Floating World has used the Artist Book as a catalyst for complex participatory projects. Floating World was started by me and Glenn Holman in 2002 – we were very interested in making artist books and putting them out into the world, somehow. Books as a format has a lot of benefits: it’s cheap, you can move it around easily… it’s a format that people understand. You open it and you flip through it. It can be in many places at the same time. The books could be shown in different venues, some gallery venues and non-gallery venues. You could fit a whole show into a box and send it somewhere. Or that same box could fill a whole room.

It was, and is, an unusual model because we asked people we knew that had an interest in books, to make books. It was and is a very informal structure where a number of artists contribute books, me and Glenn being the administrative… kinda curatorial centre of it. The books were very short editions, some of them were one-offs.

The first thing we did was the now defunct ICA book fair, that went really well, and we sold the books in the ICA for about three years. We then configured it so it could be shown in galleries: what we did culminated in a big show called Unfolding the Archive.

Unfolding the Archive?

Unfolding the Archive was a show curated by Riann Coulter alongside Donna Romano. It was all of the Floating World artists responding to things in the NIVAL (National Irish Visual Arts Library) collection in NCAD. They had this huge collection of old books and publications posters, what you might call ephemera from the production of art since the 19th century. Really interesting stuff – unpicking the mechanics of art making. What each artist did was to make a book or [something] book-like, as well as create other objects alongside it.

And your own Involvement?

So I made an artist book about making a raft, but in order to make the book, I had to make the raft! The raft was used to draw on, so it was a drawing board which I sort of sat on to make drawings of the lake isle of Innisfree. Because one of the things I was responding to was a 1st edition of Yeats’s poetry, that and a brilliant poster from the 1970 which I found by accident.

And the show itself?

For the show this is plural – there was one in NCAD and the F.E McWilliam gallery. There were the books and then there were the objects. So for me there was the book about making the raft and the raft itself. there was quite interesting things about the nature of artist books, in essence the artist book was the thing the raft was made to make the artist book, there was a flipping the traditional hierarchy. Normally you get a big art object and maybe publications are made as a peripheral thing to it.

What have you been doing since Unfolding Places?

Since then, me and Glenn have concentrated on a project, The Rebel(s), it’s based on a 1961 movie called The Rebel by Tony Hancock as a starting point. Basically The Rebel(s) is an artist’s book that uses the Movie as a starting off point.


The Rebel(s), promotional poster

For me and Glenn, the project is also interesting because it’s about not really understanding the art world, but really liking to make art! And in the film, even though it is quite satirical and quite reactionary in some of its positions it takes on the art world and the making of art… at the end of the film Tony Hancock’s character goes through a series of mishaps and fails spectacularly as an artist, and his life is trashed, by [the end] he is back where he starts making this godawful sculpture. So it’s about navigating through the art world and taking the all the shit, and then still wanting to make art despite all that.

So for instance, there’s a private view scene at the end of the film where Hancock’s character presents the work he has made to the public. With that in mind, we recreated a private viewing in my studio here, and we made cardboard cut-outs of the kind of people we’d want to come – Hans-Ulrich Obrist, Charles Saatchi and Larry Gagosian at the viewing. If you have seen the film Lonely Guy by Steve Martin, there is a fantastic scene where he has a party in his flat with cardboard cut-out film stars,  which was kind of the inspiration for it. That idea of re-staging things but differently but also being quite funny and poignant.

A little bit like The Raft, you create all this stuff – you make all these objects, you do all these quasi-performance type things, and then weeks of work can be like one photograph [in the book], and it’s, like, 128 pages. That’s why it took a year and a half!

Glenn lives in Suffolk but spends a lot of time London. So, we decided that Floating Worlds would be based between Sligo and London. When we started it, we were both in London. I feel that distance has improved it, in the sense of… rather than leaping in and following impulses, you have to have that “cool off period” where everything has to be done via Skype or email. It makes you more analytical. You can’t just have enthusiasm and follow it up – everything has to be that bit more meticulous. Without Skype, you would be stuffed, but I’ve been over there and he has been over here a lot. A lot of the things have been made quite independently, but there is a shared authorship.

What do you think of the book now that it is done?

The book is kinda quite sad… I think it’s quite funny, but also quite sad. Still, there is this sort of redemption in it. It comes from our love of making art, despite the cynicism of the workings of the art world. We couldn’t have made this twenty years ago. I don’t think we could have made it ten years ago! It’s about being old and still wanting to make art.

The other thing about it is that it’s happened while at the same time we have made our own personal, not collaborative, work as well. These pictures you see around have been done exactly contemporaneously with the book.

Would you say that the book has influenced your painting?

Yeah – I think the making The Rebel(s) has made me think about conformity in the art world, and how much of it there is. I think it has kind of emboldened me to make very, very… unfashionable work. I suppose I care less about what an audience might think of these objects, because making the book has made me think of the patterns of behaviour that we ride – and sometimes fall into – in terms of creating exhibitions, or creating bodies of work, or even how one behaves in the art world. Why try and tailor ones responses to the world to fit into patterns one could discern from other practitioners, or from critical theory? I think to myself, just make the work!

I have an aesthetic I call “ugly beautiful” [laughter]. There’s a deliberate and knowing awkwardness about the way they are painted, but there are quite lyrical bits in there as well. I could iron out those kinks, but I kinda like them.

Could you talk more about your current painting?

The new body of work are all portraits – they’re all very big. Life size well, size- size actually. Each one is made through a process of dialogue, where I ask the sitter where they want to be depicted and they select a personal place – somewhere where they want to be pictured.

For instance, Tina Brooks – one of the first really big ones I did – asked to be depicted on Dorrins Strand, where she lives. So I took the big piece of paper down to Dorrins Strand, drew the beach, and then Tina visited me in the studio and I super imposed an objective painting of her onto the beach scene. So, the background and the figure are done objectively. I’m intrigued about not using photography, and very little of my work use any photographic source material at all.


Portrait of Tina Brooks

There is almost an element of making as hard and as awkward and as annoying possible for oneself, I think, that is quite interesting. It gives them more what I feel is a bit of more…  authenticity?

Take the one of my dad. The central part of that drawing, I shipped it over to my Dad and it was done there in the front room. If it wasn’t done like that, it wouldn’t have the same legitimacy it has as an image. It is about my relationship with him; it’s about his age, it’s about time. It’s also about him, a person from a working-class background, who’s sitting digesting these enormous piles of books. It has a narrative but how essential it is that each one has as strong a narrative? I don’t know. they each have it. But that is almost a by-product of the process – they aren’t mapped out, it’s incidental. Those books, they were there, and I drew them, but only because I was recording what was in front of me. And it was only subsequently after that I was thinking about them in more narrative terms. It would be a lot easier to go photograph the scene, stick it onto a lump of acetate and use an overhead projector and just map it out there, but there is something about taking these big lumps of paper and just doing them that gives them something I couldn’t get otherwise.


Andy’s Studio

What I want from my work (even if it means it will never leave the studio!) is that it at least has an ambition, an aspiration of providing the viewer as much as possible and as profound an experience as possible.



With those goals in mind what artists inspire you?

This isn’t going to sound very contemporary… I was in London a few days ago, and I was looking the Frans Hals and the Rembrandt paintings in the National Gallery. I’m intrigued by Hals’s multiple, multi-figure portraits. Then the Rembrandt thing, where you look at one of his figures and you are acutely aware that it’s a person looking back at you. And it has a life!

Both are very contemporary – whenever you encounter one of them, you are acutely aware of your own mortality, and the fragility of life, and all these things that art should do. You question, you find beauty. It’s all there and they never age… in the sense that the way you as a viewer interact with them is always just as intense.

I’m not wedded to making art with paint. But I think I’m sort of intrigued by the idea of makings art that has some of the resonates of Hals and Rembrandt. And it’s less about style actually? My work doesn’t aspire to be pictures in domestic galleries. they are huge things I guess that shifts the function? maybe its to do with getting older? It’s quite interesting to look at work from ten, fifteen years ago: it was much more abstract and how descriptive these ones are in relation to that now.

I realise now I’ve always wanted to paint the same sort of thing, about people and places, but I’ve kind of meandered for years and found oblique ways of presenting it. Whereas this body of work is very direct. I think what really underscored it is this idea of collaboration, of working with people to make these things; where the subjects of the pictures are not passive, they’ve helped to make them.

I have worked a lot of collaborative and community-based work, and what one might describe as kind of socially engaged work. I kind of feel that is in these pieces, it’s almost like these two paths that have been working in parallel. One was object making, and the other one was curating various education projects, and these two paths were running in parallel – and in this these two paths have converged.

Speaking of Community based work, would you like to talk about Playspaces?

It’s an interesting one to talk about, especially in the context of what we were just saying. It’s a Per Cent For Art project commissioned by Mary McDonagh . It was very ahead of its time in the way that the commissioning it was framed. It was purely a socially engaged piece of work in its conception, [at a time] when that wasn’t as prevalent a methodology. The idea was it would provide context for a series of public-art works space projects. It was about reclaiming or re-imagining public spaces as something we could use societally, rather than something you would drive past. It was about working in the community with a bunch of artists doing, like, theater, performance, video, sound, painting, drawing, sculpture… it wasn’t about making objects or artworks per se, but to make Playspaces outside. To play outside in the world not so much to elevate it, but to celebrate it. To celebrate the beauty of it – not as an art thing, but as a thing as of itself. To be enjoyed. It was quite radical bit of work, I think. I curated it and project managed it. So I think if there are any plaudits to be handed out – Jean Marie Perinetti, Naomi Draper, Laura Mahon, Sinead Dolan, Tony Kenny.… those artists did a great job of coming up with amazing, interesting, playful things. We did a thing at the end that was like an open day, that was like a giant village fête, and all the play we did in the workshops was done outdoors in front of everybody. And then it just went away again. Yeah, very interesting to make a really big Per Cent For Art project and not make anything? Well, to make things that were temporary. Working with a bunch of kids over a quite a long time. Hopefully helping them think about art differently, think about public spaces differently. I think their idea of art was very much in line with what they learned in school? So when we were doing things like making these big sculptures that you could ride around on like bikes, or jump in or out of. It was expanding their understanding of what an artwork might do. It might not be a 2d work that you hang on a wall and look at. Think about Play differently! Not in a polemical way, but as an experience.

I think Playspaces is a period where I focused really intensely on socially engaged work. it’s like how I said socially engaged work has influenced the development of these portraits – it just follows on in different forms really. Like the project I’m doing recently, for Kid’s Own, called Virtually There. It’s a beautiful project whereby kids in a school setting Skype you while you’re in the studio, and you work alongside one another. With my [contribution], the piece I had just finished was this massive self-portrait, and when I was working with the kids, they were making their own self-portraits. There is this lovely idea of what the kids in Killkenny would do, and what the practitioner would do. Projects like that have the same kind of impulse that drove Playspaces – which is to try and enable children to get as much out of art as they can, and to think about it differently.

You can find out more about Andy’s work through his website link below

thank you Adrian Mc Hugh for your work editing


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Welcome to Painting in Text. in this art blog I will be writing about exhibitions and conducting interviews with artists that interest me and I know you will love too! I hope to create discussion that opens up understanding of art from different Perspectives- even though art is a deeply subjective thing, I feel that subjectivity is also one of its greatest strengths. I look forward to sharing what I learn along the way as I look back at art, and assess its future.DSC00047