Interview with Pascal Ungerer.

Pascal Ungerer is a visual artist from and currently based in Cork. He completed his B.A. in Fine Art in Crawford College of Art and Design, and completed his Masters in Fine Art at Goldsmiths University London. He primarily works with paint and has a background with lens based media. He recently completed a residency with Uillinn, West Cork Arts Center in 2020 and is a member of Backwater Artists Studios.

Specters of an Invisible Sun, 2020, 100x 100 cm, oil on linen.

I have a long standing interest in depictions and explorations of peripheral, liminal and obsolete spaces and your current series of work drew me in because of my own interest in these topics. I have only been able to view your current work through the online sphere, but the misty, vague countryside, punctuated by sharp telephone poles, of your paintings such as Crossed Wires II creates a feeling of the liminal, of a familiar space and at the same time unreachable.  How do you feel about the concept of psycho-geography, and what draws you to the non-place topic?

Just before I started my BA in Fine Art at CCAD in 2012 I worked on a photography project documenting ghost estates throughout Ireland. Many of those estates were situated on the margins of urban development in a sort of ‘edgeland’ environment at the intersection of the urban and the rural. Since then I have been fascinated by these urban hinterlands. I find that these kinds of peripheral landscapes are constantly changing between abandonment, development and habitation so it is very much a transient topography. I think these ephemeral landscapes or ‘non-places’ have definitely had an influence on my current work. I suppose when I go out taking photographs it is a kind of psycho-geography in way, though I have been doing this for many years long before I studied fine art or was familiar with the term ‘psycho- geography’.

Your practice has moved from photography, as I remember from your degree show with C.C.A.D., Edge of Place 2016, of lightbox’s holding grids of photographs depicting physical boundaries and social borders, to your current series of oil paintings. I understand during your MFA in Goldsmiths you also worked with found film. Is there something about oil painting in particular that helps explore your concerns more deeply, that it has the ability to depict fictional spaces, or do you think it was just a natural progression with your work?

I do have a background in lens based media and I still take a lot of photographs, particularly for research or documenting different places and landscapes and these images often become the source material for my work. In terms of painting, I’ve actually painted on and off since I was a kid but it is really only in the last 3 years that my practice has shifted towards painting full time.

I think that one of the main things about painting that differs from lens based media is your visceral connection to the work, it can be very instinctive in a way that just isn’t really possible with photography and video and that is what excites me about the medium because you have that physical connection and interaction between you and the canvas. What I also really like about painting is the ability to create an illusion of reality, a sort of fictional world that can be spontaneous and reactionary.

There seems to be more spaces of non-place due to Covid-19, with the closure of spaces, buildings, and outdoor areas that would normally be inhabited daily with people. I found these environments interesting during the first lockdown, where even roundabouts became wild and overrun. These spaces have a sudden lack of function and identity, with the easy encroachment of nature into the urban landscape. Has the current environment of a pandemic influenced your work, or given current or past work a new understanding?

I don’t think the pandemic has influenced my work directly because I was already working in this subject area and I would probably still be producing the same kind of imagery even if Covid never happened. Perhaps it is serendipitous in a way though because the subjects I deal with in my work are now a bit more
relevant since the pandemic and people can relate to it a bit more. There are also a lot of conversations internationally now about re-wilding places and I think that also fits into this narrative of uninhabited places or landscapes that are abandoned and left to grow and develop organically.

I understand your current series began at a residency in Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre. Was there a challenge in creating work in a rural setting, after having created work previously focused on urban settings? Has this residency created challenges or changes in your research process?

Yes, but I think that was a natural consequence of moving back to Cork from London and responding to my immediate environment. As an artist when your work shifts into a new subject area or terrain there are always challenges with that. For me it was an evolution of sorts, I didn’t want my new work to be completely alien or disjointed from my previous paintings. This is often the case with a lot of my work, because the various projects or series’ I do feed into each other conceptually.

Having an intense period of engagement with my work when I did the residency at the Uillinn in 2020 probably expedited this shift in my work. For me, many of the rural landscapes I depict in my current series of paintings relate to some of the abandoned urban landscapes of dereliction in my previous work through there sense of otherness and peripherality.

How/has your background as a commercial/press photographer influenced your current practice?

I think, in terms of being organised and trying to be as professional as possible. In art, as in any creative industry, you have to constantly push your work, make new contacts, develop ideas and collaborations. I am always developing new professional contacts through out Europe. Working in commercial photography in the past has helped me with many of these skills. I don’t think there is much creative cross over between commercial photography and fine art though.

Having lived and studied abroad, what is your opinion on the cork art scene? What are your opinions/observations of the positive and negatives of this smaller art community?

I am always surprised by how many talented artists there are throughout Cork. It is a place that seems to draw a lot of creative people to it — particularly West Cork. I think it is a shame how few exhibition venues there are here though. Losing the Doswell Gallery and the Catherine Hammond Gallery in West Cork in recent years is a real shame. I think I read somewhere recently that Munster was the second richest region in the EU after Luxembourg yet I don’t know of any high end commercial gallery in this part of Ireland which seems really strange.

The lack of a studio space has always been an issue for artists who have not had the ability or access before, do you feel there is a difference currently with studios closed, with this type of limit to studio spaces? And more personally has it been a challenge to continue working, with the stopping and starting of your residency opportunities this and last year? (I just know backwater was closed for some time this and last year, but I’m not sure if your residency with Uillinn was interrupted/cut short)

My Residency in the Uillinn was interrupted by the first lockdown but I was able to resume my work there last summer. I’ve had the same issue with Backwater and its really frustrating. That said, I have managed to continue painting at home throughout the various lockdowns, I just work on a slightly smaller scale when at home. I think you have to be able to adapt to the situation you’re in and make the best of it, that said I do miss my studio in Backwater and can’t wait to get back there.

Your work explores a sense of place, borders, political and social boundaries. I understand you have influences in literature, such as Victor Hugo, JG Ballard and in film with Tarkovsky, that deal with these topics. How have these different forms of expressions influenced you, like transforming a written experience into visual expression?

I read a lot, fiction and non-fiction, and this often feeds into my work. In terms of writers that have influenced my work, I read a lot of nature writers like Richard Mabbey and Robert McFarlane. I am currently reading ‘Stones of Aran’ by Tim Robinson who sadly passed away last year. In contemporary fiction I read a lot of J.G. Ballard, Cormac McCarthy and Paul Auster. Other academics or writers I like are Jean Baudrillard, W.G. Sebald and Ian Sinclair.

My work never responds directly to something I have read, but I think when you read a lot about a subject or different subjects that are interrelated this feeds into your work albeit sometimes on a subconscious level. It also helps you understand your area of interest and allows you to articulate that within your work. I think reading is so important when it comes to visual art and it has definitely helped me develop my work on many different levels.

Images curtsey of artist.

Interview with Peter Nash by Sarah Long

Peter Nash is a multi-disciplinary artist currently based in Cork city. He is a studio member of The Backwater Artist Group and Cork Printmakers. Nash’s work is widely exhibited throughout Ireland and the UK and is held in private and public collections in Ireland, the UK and US.

Visit: peternash.org and Instagram @peter__nash

Your work embraces pre-internet sources of knowledge and highlights the fallibility and folly of humans. Does this come from a place of anxiety or from a place of resistance towards the digital world?

Probably a bit of both and also from a place of experience! We’re constantly being sold this new digital technology to improve our lives and iron out the imperfections of humanity. Some of this technology is incredibly useful and enabling, some is at best a shiny distraction and some is actively sinister. Sometimes it can be all of these at once and I find that a fascinating area for research.

I’ve lived through this huge period of technological change. Home computers were only just appearing when I was a child, there were no mobile phones or email. And it is all moving so quickly, it can be really difficult to keep up with the rapid pace of change and to adapt to new ways of communicating and interacting with the world.

Through my work, I’m interested in exploring the dissonance that comes from living through that shift towards the digital era, attempting to understand what we might be losing as well as gaining and also contemplating my own obsolescence as I struggle to keep up.

Can you talk us through your process? I am interested in how you develop your ideas in the studio and how they begin to take shape. Your work can take a variety of different forms, from sculpture, to drawing, to sound and film and I was wondering at what stage in your process you begin to make these decisions?

It depends on the project, but almost everything begins with a drawing as it’s a such a quick way to catch an idea before it’s gone. Sometimes though, I’ll begin by making something three-dimensional and then develop/refine this through drawing.  

The final form an idea takes is then dictated by the process really, whatever is going to work best to get the idea out of my head and into the world. 

As a maker, I find the images that you share of your sketchbooks to be really fascinating and inspiring. Can you tell us more about the role of drawing and sketchbooking in your practice? 

Sketchbooks and drawing have always been really important to my practice. I tend to think through drawing. There is so much information you can get into a diagram, or a map. When I first went to art college it was drilled into us to keep sketchbooks and I have done ever since. I feel very fortunate now to have this personal reference library of images dating back years.

The role of these has changed over time. I began using sketchbooks a lot more like a visual diary; a place to practice drawing, to record experiences, notes and ideas and sometimes a place to escape into, where I could spend hours working on these pages. 

Recently, I tend to spend less time drawing in sketchbooks, and more on loose sheets of paper. I like having the option to put all these loose sheets on the wall of my studio to stand back from to literally see the bigger picture and to start composing new work from this collection of images. 

Galvanic Interruption (2017-2018) Materials: pine, found timber, thread, lace pins, electric motor, timer switch. Dimensions variable. Photo credit: Jed Niezgoda

What I always find immediately charming about your work is that it is very clearly man-made.In Galvanic Interruption, an installation piece that formed part of the exhibition The Paradise of the Heart in Elizabeth Fort in 2018 with Thomas Penc, a chorus of heads carved from wood would chatter their jaws and ‘speak’. Their chins were attached to a motor with a long black string, meaning you could very clearly see the mechanisms at work. Penc is also concerned with the dawning of the digital age in his work but takes a wholly different approach. For example, his exhibition ENDUSER at the Triskel Arts Centre in 2018 involved imagery of strawberries that were entirely computer generated. I think what’s interesting in your work is that you also have this meticulous attention to detail but it is married with a very labour intensive method of design. The output is clearly creations of the mind, a very focused mind, but a human mind. How important is it to you that the viewer understand the process of creating in your work?

Thank you! The process is important to me, and I think it is important that the viewer can see that this piece is (hu)man made. The way I look at it is this; that if something looks like it has been made by a person, then you know that it can be made by a person and I think there is something empowering or at least reassuring in that.

With the work for the Paradise of The Heart show, I really wanted to explore this kind of stubbornness, of a resistance to doing something a particular way just because it might be quicker. For example, a number of people said to me that when they first encountered the piece [Galvanic Interruption], they assumed all of those heads were mass produced plastic. They looked closer and realised they were wooden and then there is this realisation that somebody has made these, so they must have meant something to somebody, for them to spend hours carving away at these bits of timber. 

The labour intensive nature of how you create makes me think of the temporality of your work. With your interest in past knowledge and your scepticism (Do you agree with use of sceptic here?!) towards the digital age, is this way of making a way of speaking about the here and now and the state of limbo we sometimes find ourselves in?

I think sceptic is fair. Cautious even. I am wary of the claims that digital technology will liberate us from mental labour and complex tasks, freeing up our time. But freeing it up to do what? To update our social media, to stream repeats of a TV show we’ve watched already? To clear some space on the hard drive?

When I started out, I didn’t think too much about why I make the way I do. There were certain processes that I used, and they all seemed to take ages! The wood carving for example, is something that I started years ago, initially making chess sets from Christmas trees that had been dumped by the side of the road in January.

I’ve come to realise though, that time is a very valuable part of my process as an artist. Ideas develop organically as I am working and begin to shift and go to different, unexpected places, so I can’t be in a hurry, or I’ll lose that. One of the things I am really trying to get at with my work is to examine the sometimes obsessive nature of study and the solace and escape that can be found in meticulous work. 

When people talk about your work, in particular your I Remember Nothing, I Remember This show at the Garter Lane Arts Center in 2019, the ideas of Samuel Beckett and Waiting for Godot, are mentioned. Does Beckett inform the work and is there other visual research or writings that you find are important to your practice?

A few people mentioned the Beckett connection after that show. I have read Waiting for Godot, and I’m not proud of it, but I’m not very familiar with anything else by Beckett. I take the connection as a huge compliment though, if my work is tapping into some wider cultural reference, then I consider that a success. 

In terms of visual research, I love encyclopedias and reference books. I find so much inspiration in the layouts and the way text and images work together. I have spent endless hours in the reference sections of public libraries looking through books and periodicals, finding images to draw and bits of disconnected information. 

Museums are also important, they can be almost like a three dimensional reference book. I’m especially drawn to the amateur nature of some of these collections; exhibitions that have sprung up from an individual or group’s love of a subject and their willingness to share this with the world. 

Recent books I’ve been reading include The Shallows, and The Glass Cage by Nicholas Carr and How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell. I only just read The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck this year, and that was frighteningly relevant. I get a lot of information from radio documentaries and podcasts too; The Digital Human from the BBC is a favourite. I also read a lot of comics; the likes of Joe Sacco, Chris Ware, Jim Woodring, Lynda Barry, and the Drawn and Quarterly books. I read Soft City by Pushwagner a couple of years ago and that has left a lasting impression.

Clare Scott’s review for Circa of that particular show remarks on the black humor, again making connections to Beckett, to be found in your work. There is also a black humor in your film installation in The Paradise of Heart exhibition, when the protagonist’s humanity, his vomit, meets the cool architectural designs he studies. Can you speak about the use of humor in your work?

Humour is a tough one to judge, so I’m glad that people get it. I just try to be honest about my own observations and experience of life, and if there is humour in my work, I think that’s where it comes from

You teach drawing masterclasses at the Glucksman. Is something that you compartmentalise from your practice or do you find it can have a symbiotic relationship?  

There is definitely a symbiotic relationship there. With that class specifically, I have been exploring using sketchbooks, drawing as thinking, processing experiences and communicating. I’ve been sharing with the students how I use drawing in my own practice, which has led me to analyse my own working methods, and also to share some of the techniques from which I benefit so much. I find teaching very rewarding because I get to meet all sorts of people and it is always fascinating to see the many different ways students approach the same task.

I think it’s always interesting the varied paths that artists take in their professional careers. You completed your BA  in Fine Art at Shelfield Hallam University in 2003 and after some time undertook your MA in Art & Process at CIT Crawford College of Art & Design in 2016. How would you describe your experience of art education and can you talk us through the path you took to establish yourself as a professional artist today?

I first went to art college at 16 and studied for two years at Cumbria College of Art and Design in Carlisle. It was very liberating to be free from the rigid structures and social hierarchies of school at that age, and to be in a space with other students and tutors who loved making art.  

After that I did a course in Modelmaking for one year and then went onto study a BA in Fine Art in Sheffield. I struggled on my BA sometimes with the language and theoretical side of things. I’m sure there are times when I wouldn’t be helped either. My own youthful inexperience has a lot to answer for!

After I graduated in 2003, I didn’t have a clue where to start at being a professional artist. I worked in a series of different jobs in factories, warehouses, shops, among many others. The whole time though I was making, studying, keeping sketchbooks, sending off applications, and finally was accepted onto the MA in 2015. 

That MA was the turning point for me. I was fortunate to be in a class with some brilliant artists and very supportive tutors. We were in the Former Government Buildings on Sullivan’s Quay, so were surrounded by practicing artists from Sample Studios and the other groups of artists working in the building. I made some good friends and strong professional relationships during this time, I would have found it much more difficult to establish myself without those connections. 

What do you think are the positive and negative aspects of the Cork Art Scene? 

The best thing is the people! There are so many genuinely brilliant people working in Cork. In terms of artists, technicians, curators, directors, administrators, the people working in different arts institutions and organisations, enabling art to happen. There is so much here and also in Cork county. I’ve always found the Cork Art scene to be very supportive and accessible. Anytime I’m at an opening, or an artist talk, I’ve always felt welcome, and never like I don’t belong in a particular situation. 

If I had to pick out negatives I would have to say the lack of space. We have some amazing studios and galleries here, but it would be great to have space available for more experimental work, especially for students and less established artists to test ideas and to get people together. I think anything that can encourage more collaboration between organisations can only be a good thing too. It’s a much wider societal issue, but Cork is becoming an increasingly expensive place in terms of housing, and I don’t know many people working in the arts who are making piles of money. If we want to keep talent in the city, people have to be able to afford to live and work in it.

How are you finding maintaining your practice given the current Public Health situation?  Are you still making or, given how challenging life has become, are you able to even think about work? 

It has been completely up and down. I’m fortunate enough to be working right now. I’m working on a commission for the Science Foundation Ireland, but it has been difficult. I live in a tiny one-bed flat with my partner Fiona, who is also an artist and college tutor, so she is teaching online too. We both have studios in Cork city, which are closed, due to the restrictions, so we are living just surrounded by materials and work at present. The more progress we make with our work, the more uncomfortable we make our living situation! 

Public health has to be the priority though. I know I am lucky to be working, and everybody has their own struggles through all of this, but the honest answer is that it’s difficult. 

Your work has a socially engaging element. As part of the exhibition See You Tomorrow in 2019 at the Sirius Arts Center in Cobh, you created a little booklet in collaboration with youth groups in the community. How did this part of your practice emerge?

That part of my practice has come about through working with different people and organisations, all of whom have incredible energy to make what they do happen. The first project I got involved with was in 2016, through CCAD’s Creativity & Change programme. Since then I’ve been fortunate enough to work on some fantastic projects, many of which have been facilitated through the Glucksman gallery’s education and community projects.

See You Tomorrow was organised by artists Elizabeth Woods & Kevin Leong, who I met whilst they were artists in residence at the Sirius Arts Centre. They put me in contact with a few different youth groups in Cobh including the YMCA and Cobh Youth Services and over the course of a few months we developed the project together.

There is a recurring motif of hand-holding in your work, what does this gesture symbolise to you?

I never really considered hand-holding to be a recurring motif, but it does appear a few times. I definitely have a fascination with hands which can be found in a number of works. 

I think that hand-holding can be interpreted in different ways, like one of those optical illusions where you see two images in the same picture, but never at the same time. It can be a gesture of trust, love even, or it can be a way of taking somebody somewhere they don’t want to go. How the viewer sees that is up to their own interpretation.

The Future is Not Necessarily Set in Stone 2019. Still from stop-motion animation. Courtesy of the artist.

Laggard – Text by Lily O’Shea taken from a passive house (2020) – research and publication initiated by Cork-based curator Ali O’Shea.

Text by Lily O’Shea taken from a passive house (2020) – research and publication initiated by Cork-based curator Ali O’Shea.

a passive house

Fiona Kelly, Dori O’Connell, Mary O’Leary and Lily O’Shea, research and publication initiated by Ali O’Shea, Cork, Ireland, 2020.

This publication is the first iteration from a passive house. A passive house is a house which is truly energy efficient, a sustainable and comfortable structure. This publication presents a series of archival material from within a house – a house which is striving to become a passive house – the goal of energy efficiency is still present but for the occupants rather than the structure. This visual research stemmed from the early months of the Covid19 pandemic lockdown and retreat indoors. The house became the centre of many practitioner’s view, the pressures to create during so-called downtime emerged. The At Home Artist Residency programme mentioned in the beginning of this piece was created as a response to these pressures. The lockdown here is reimagined as a continuous artist-in-residence programme and as a result all activity within the passive house became inherently creative, whether this be watching endless television, cooking, gardening or cleaning. The production of this research has simultaneously been a search for a sustainable practice but also an ever-present pressure to create an output to validate the pursuit of a practice. Each occupant has generously responded to these thoughts, utilising materials such as time, dust and food.”

(Taken from https://alioshea.cargo.site/a-passive-house)

Laggard

The world stops being so insistent.1

I lied about reading a book yesterday. It was the first day since graduating where I felt under pressure to appear actively creative. I suppose I lied to make myself look cultured or productive, maybe both. While the arrogance of this lie makes me want to crawl out of my own skin, it also makes me want to delve further into my urge to react this way. 

I was already late – I underestimated the length of time it would take me to get to where I needed to be. I spent the night before watching a never-ending string of YouTube clips which chronicled the Top 10 Great British Bake Off Scandals. I dreamt of reaching my breaking point during biscuit week and being caught up in an iced bun disaster. It was the beginning of my first artist residency – a day I had anticipated since the beginning of my final year of college. However, since the pandemic, this day had become a constant source of unease for me. During quarantine, I failed to meet the criteria of pandemic productivity. I haven’t acquired any new talents or personality quirks. My ability to reskill or upskill were skewed by the instant gratification I would receive from binge watching Real Housewives. I found myself drifting in and out of college work. I could no longer relate to the academia and reference artists which I was admittedly so caught up with before this pandemic. Every phone call made me anxious and every Microsoft Teams call made my blood boil. I resented the expectation of production or creativity within this period of isolation. It felt intrusive. I also disliked the fact that I felt this way given my privileged position of being able to self-isolate while pursuing a third-level education. I found it important to acknowledge that this pandemic affects some individuals far more than others. Secure housing, a garden, and the ability to afford a weekly food shop put me in a fortunate position and made me consider my quarantine privilege. The cross contamination of feeling resentful towards the anti-climax of my college experience and the guilt I felt for feeling this way led me to a four-month cycle in which I produced nothing creative. This period of time was consumed by a variety of banana bread recipes, aimless walks, and intermittent can-drinking. It was infused with bouts of apprehension, indigestion, and laughter. Needless to say, once the day of my first residency arrived, I became aware of my estranged relationship with any sort of creative pursuit. I began to doubt the purpose of my practice and became increasingly insecure. I gracelessly did a half-run half-jog to the meeting while simultaneously questioning the integrity and viability of my practice. Do the issues I wish to address deserve a platform? Does my practice productively address political questions, or does it aestheticize and dismiss real-life experiences?  

All I could think of was what I was going to say next. I feared my shyness would appear impolite. I haven’t spoken about my practice for a considerable amount of time and couldn’t help but experience moments of dissociation. Out of sheer discomfort and a general lack of confidence in my own practice, I decided to lie about having read a book. At the time I was desperately racking my brain for something that would make my time in isolation appear productive – something that wouldn’t make them regret choosing me as one of the artist-in-residence. I was familiar with the framing of the book, so I just about managed to get by. As the conversation progressed, I began to think about a recent article I read about tsundoku – a Japanese term which is used to describe a person who collects a large amount of reading material but never actually reads them. While questioning the integrity of my practice, I began to simultaneously examine my intelligence and motives. Was I someone who used their bookshelf as a mere form of virtue signalling? Did I have books on my shelf just to make people aware of my productivity? It made me think of studio spaces in college and how students, myself included, would position a specific assemblage of books on their desks to make tutors aware of their intentions. From Whitechapel Documents to John Berger’s Ways of Seeing – these books began to collect dust while library fines inevitably escalated. I suppose it could be considered one of the many mini-PR stunts students inadvertently engage with during third level education. In my experience at least, this reflection symbolizes an unspoken obligation in everyday life – the appearance of activity and progression. This barrage of inquiries made me uneasy and I began to fall behind the pace of the meeting. Eventually, things began to flow, and awkward silences turned into moments of deliberation.

  1. Smith, Zadie, Intimations, Penguin Books, 2020, p 53

COM,MA, MA:AP Show Response

The Masters of Art & Process at Crawford College of Art & Design 2020 ran between the 14-17th of December and included 9 artists; Catarina Araújo, Padraic Barrett, Deirdre Breen, Aoife Claffey, Seán Daly, Joseph Fogarty, Inguna Mainule, Kate McElroy and Ida Mitrani. Their exhibition had to contend with restrictions so unfortunately it was open for a small period of time, however they have a video exploring the exhibition and the booklet available online on the Crawford MA:AP website. A selection of the artists’ work is still on display in the window of the Grand Parade white building, for those out for a wander, a coffee and a view.

I began the tour with a couple of others, brought through the building upstairs to a large white studio turned exhibition space. The name of the exhibition, COM,MA, utilises the language of a punctuation mark to link the works, to encapsulate the experience of creating art in a year of constant pauses and explores the need for making time for contemplation before action.

It’s exciting going to end of year exhibitions, to see a collection made by several different artists, coming to a course for different reasons and seeing the different expressions of that period of time studying.  A masters exhibition is such a different experience to group exhibitions centered around a theme or as a showcase, such as in the Glucksman or in smaller galleries like Studio 12 in the Backwater. It is a different type of viewing; jumpy, with an intense amount of information and new visual expressions of various topics. This is why I love going to these exhibitions, it’s invigorating to see and feel the depth of commitment, investigation and development of an intense period of time. I feel you need time, an open ended freedom to view, and circle back, give it a week then come back for a second look. However I could only manage to book one space. I was overwhelmed and exhausted at the time.

Masters shows produce work created through a structure curated by an institution; a word that denotes a sense of the impersonal; of a structure unmoved by individual needs. However, it is a form in which a body of people deem it is the correct structure of study to produce, elevate and explore individual practice. A structure that should provide space to push individual ideas, expand thought processes and individual work ethic. Community created by an institution manifests intense individual scrutiny and to fall or flow with this is a key skill that is taught outside of the structure of modules and essays. The group created, of strangers, of people who studied their undergraduate together and know each other through artists groups, plays an important role in the outcome of a masters. Not to mention the evolving relationship that comes from working and learning from lecturers the students may have known throughout their undergraduate process.

In order to view the show you had to book a tour, the open door policy of a normal exhibition changed in response to Covid-19 safety policies.There is an extra commitment involved in booking a space, rather than an apathetic wandering in. It’s not on purpose, it is actually detrimental to the viewing of the exhibition, to limit those being able to view work they otherwise would never have stumbled on. It is, unfortunately, letting a false sense of elitism that surrounds the study of Fine Art be proven.

In the center of the space stands the white sculpture of both styrofoam and a mold mimicking the structure of the packaging it has integrated into. It reminds me of ogham stones, a symbol of communication through wasteful and disposable packaging. Joseph Fogarty’s sculpture is interrupted by nuts and bolts, disposing of the objects proposed use to one that questions the materiality of the individual. His other industrial looking sculpture looked like a plinth; presenting waves of set silver metal on top. A mirror at the base reveals a rusted industrial object, round and circular and clearly decaying. It is hidden underneath this preserved silver paint, that could be melted metal, cleanly packaged by silver painted wood and glass. Leaving me with questions like ‘what is it, where is it from? What was its purpose?’

Two T.V. screens lay nearby, on the floor in opposite corners. The screens displayed a pair of hands moving in unison, the movements were contracting and releasing in rhythm, as if in sync with the breath. The artist Catarina Araújo had created ordered movement, the hands washed out in blue and surrounded by black. It felt strong and controlled. Another screen mounted on the wall showed a full body moving, remembering her work now this video portrayed this body moving more freely. The video was inverted, the body creating a full circle in parts. There was a triangle tattoo on the back, mimicking the triangle motifs of the prints and paper sculptures that interacted with the video pieces. The strong lines of both the images and sculptures felt important, clean, as if distilled from the rest of the environment.

A natural form; a sculpture, was encroaching on the space, freeing itself from the sculpture that was presented on paper hanging from the wall. This sculpture by Ida Mitrani consisted of strips of discarded plastic, pods from coffee machines, moss and grass, looking like a morphed and hybrid hedgerow. It is presented as organic matter, similar to the organic digital prints on the wall. The manipulated images of organisms were quiet in their tone, fleshy in colour, but unassuming against the white of the paper and walls.

I moved to a separate room of the exhibition, viewing Seán Daly’s work. He had created circular balls of earth that were satisfying to look at, in both their soft roundness and their size. Several of these objects were placed on a wooden table on top of graph paper. I wasn’t sure if the single drawn line depicted a graph or a map, maybe of a coast, maybe the origin of the man made manipulated mud. Above this was a large photograph depicting in detail one of these objects, exploring the objects planet like textures, ones the eye couldn’t perceive in such detail. Contrasting this image was a series of photographs showing the process of their creation, ending with their destruction. Underneath this lay the raw materials of clay, water and sharp fragments of one of the broken objects. Another one of these earth balls lay on the shelf, its outer layer cracked and breaking down already. It is perfection breaking down.

In this new room a sculpture of soft pink foam stood, in the shape of a chair. It stood solidly on four legs, shaking timidly like jelly each time the fan blew in its direction. Inguna Mainule had created softness in familiar domestic forms and packaged a ton of clothes in 3 vacuum packed bags that just stood solid in its compaction. The softness of these domestic forms translated onto a large painting of a section of ceiling, nearly all in white, depicting the molding of a ceiling and the light shadow of a ceiling light. The paint reveals a darkness underneath, the rush of paint revealing a depth. A soft, pink painting was mounted on a wall nearby, a pendulum hanging from the base, moving like a grandfather clock. 

Deirdre Breen’s sculpture interrupts the middle of this space. Black lines entwine in on themselves, creating circles, with the metal rods forming shapes out of the space. The circles hold strong pink forms, solid, cube-like and also soft looking. Like large sponges squelched and tied in knots together, they are stuck on the metal rods like a human sized bangle bracelet. A vibrant blue partner to the pink sculpture hides in the corner, rodless. Another black metal rod cuts through the space, yearning from the floor up towards the ceiling, held down by another strange soft pink sculpture. It sweeps up like a music note, a strange crochet. This work shares its space with Inguna Mainule’s work, the similarity of colours forms a colour motif for the show and further unites the exhibition.

In the space adjoining these sculptures hung various photographs and a large sheet of aluminum, with the photographs depicting softness and textures that were devoid of context, speaking more to the quality of light and colour. Kate McElroy had placed the plain, untouched metal sheets to the wall, mimicking the photographs, with the large rods that held them up sticking out. The sheets reflected back the space, and the individual viewing the space, in a similar blurry and non-saturated form the photographs depicted. A large sheet of perspex, or maybe even glass, interrupted the view of the aluminium,  hanging halfway down it from rods sticking out from the wall. The artist statement hung in the space, like the other artists, however it seemed to be printed on tracing paper, the words see through and ethereal.

I was led down to a room, to where Padraic Barret had set up a blacked out space. It resonated with a dull sound that graduated to a higher, intenser vibration. The only light source was coming off two video projections, that were shown on a large green rectangle on the floor and on an opposing wall. The rectangles were revealed, after each video looped to its end and faded to black, to be composed of multiple hard drives and switch boards from computers and sound systems. Both videos were intriguing in their continuous, single shot form, unsettling but familiar. The video on the floor filmed a nude figure of the artist from a height as he sprints around a grid-like concrete space, the camera seeming to chase him as he futilely bounced around the perimeter, searching for an escape. It is a video game with no controller. The second, similarly filmed in a continuous shot, gradually swept towards a figure pushing an industrial object up an enclosed slope, reminding me of Sisyphus.The pulsating sound was continuous, I could feel it in my bones. At the back of the room was a cage of wires, similarly this cage continued the rectangle motif.

 In the final exhibition area, after leaving the room where the sound seemed to control my body, Aoife Clafferty had set up visually immersive video and sculpture pieces. A structure of coloured perspex panels jutted out from the wall, overlapping with each other, creating abstract forms. It was dimly lit, but as light hit this structure the overlapping colours created dynamic and complex shadows that interacted with the structure itself. An acetate sheet was placed over one of the panels, the text on it projecting onto the structures below it in an interesting fashion. On a wall in the middle of the room another blue perspex glass jutted out, letting you experience the colour change of the whole structure from this perspective. This resounding work continued in the projection of repetitious video, of trucks driving, shipping containers and other textural video pieces, which was projected on an open ended box on the floor. This held water and three mirrors that projected sections of this video out onto the walls, creating a more immersive experience. The box held pieces of lego along with the mirrors, suspended in the water.

As much as I admired and felt impressed by the work in the show itself, with some pieces resonating with me still, it was the way in which I was viewing that left a lasting impression. It was the tour, waiting patiently outside in anticipation and the structured time limit of occupying the space that impacted the physical experience and perception of the exhibition. It was at a late moment that the lifting of restrictions by the government meant the exhibition could be viewed in person, this meant one of the artists, who had set up her exhibition in the James Barry exhibition space, had to undo the installation work and repurpose it to the Grand Parade building. This change didn’t seem to phase her, and continued on to adapt to these new changes. I can’t stop thinking about how there is an innate need to continue on with what we care about in our individual lives and so it demands adaptation and change. A change in how we study, produce and experience art; it isn’t detrimental or big but somehow it feels so important. It means that adaptation is doable, I’m not saying easy but that an institute can adapt is a positive outcome.

A Lockdown Lament

A response to Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s exhibition at Tate Britain; Fly in League With The Night, by Sarah Long.

I am sick of this interior life. 

I think of those poor, painted souls locked in the white-walled museum and it makes me feel sad. This interior life, that I get up and draw the curtains on, everyday; sit down in my own room and wait, looking out the window, is blue. Blue curtains, blue beds, blue sheets, blue notes. Colours change when they are in conversation with each other, Yiadom-Boakye’s paintings change when they are in conversation with each other. 

I haven’t changed, I haven’t conversed. I don’t want things – things – to change me. I am sick of buying things to self improve. I messaged my friend today to find out if all of her Instagram ads were also about therapy. I do need to talk to someone. I will talk to anyone. Yiadom-Boakye’s figures; these are people with exciting things to say. They have seen things that I have not – oh I’m going to make him smile! I will not rest until the corners of his mouth raise. I’ll listen. Tell me your story. I exist in dialogue and I am manipulated in narrative. I worry that I am a narrator; that I am destined to be around action but never in it. 

Yiadom-Boakye’s figures are wholly occupied with their own world, their own story. They refuse the politics of living in a time. Time; the machine we created and gave life to; the monster that oppresses us now, even as we sleep it is under our bed. It is as if that even though they are framed and boxed in, they chose it. I imagine them carrying the wood of their stretchers and setting down sticks, as if to pitch a tent. ‘This is me. This is not a cage, this is a boundary. You may skirt this area and no more; you’ll need a compass and a map; this is unfamiliar territory.’ 

I feel a strange jealousy that these souls will live on in their realm while I am frozen in the age of the Coronavirus. When I was in league with the night I swanned around the smoking area, giddy; I was an antagonist. I imagine them with a brush and a stroke swooping down and chatting to one another at night. Mingling in the warm breath of a room stuffed; full of people. Round, thick, fluid paint scraped and spread and contoured, catching light in licks and lines with gestures I haven’t felt on my body in months; craning their necks, bobbing their heads, averting their eyes, bouncing their tongues, feeling light-headed among people. They haunt the Tate every night. Ghosts. Except I’m the ghost because they are the ones who are living.

Existing: in many forms. Text responding to Bloomers Magazine Issue 6 ‘Hypertext’

For more information about the multi-channel arts organisation Bloomers visit @bloomers.art or bloomersart.com. The new issue of Bloomers magazine ‘Issue 06: Hypertext’ can be purchased online via the above social-media handles or in person at The Library Project and The Crawford Art Gallery bookshop.

Existing: in many forms

“Here I am – Old Betty Boop whoopsing behind the skull”

Allen Ginsberg- Television was a baby crawling toward that death chamber

In school, I remember the absolute glee we felt when we discovered that our substitute teacher had a Bebo page and was a member of the fan page ‘I ❤ UGGS’. Fifteen, giddy and not fully understanding irony, we delighted at the idea that this man before us, who occupied the position of teacher- of authority – had a whole other persona that existed purely (as far as we could tell) online. The classroom was humming with a surreal reality … the teacher-student conventional structure had been ruptured. We were through the looking glass.

The new issue of Bloomers ‘Hypertext’ contains several essays that explore our relationship with the digital sphere. Against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic, creative director, Enid Conway invites writers to respond to the idea of the cyborg as envisioned by Donna Haraway in ‘Cyborg: A Manifesto’. The texts and artworks explore ‘ the interface between the organism and technology and our acceleration toward the digital sphere’.Contributors such as Lily O’ Shea and Theo Hynan-Ratcliffe ask demanding questions. Lily’s essay Collaborative Survival in Precarious Times explores an anti-capitalist future and concludes ‘there can be no commons without community.’ While Theo’s essay Speculative Freedom: Othered considers that there might be a liberation to be found in recreating the female form in the digital sphere – perhaps a new narrative could be created? The issue raises questions about technology’s role in shaping our future. The utopian vision of ‘cyberspace’ has been corrupted by the structures of our capitalist world embedding itself dominatingly into the framework of the internet. The optimism of John Perry Barlow’s manifesto A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace has long been laid to rest. Trump’s wave of ‘Law & Order!’ tweets, with the ghostly  rattle of WWII radio waves, can’t even find the coffin to hammer in the nail.I am reminded of Hannah Arendt ,‘a political realm does not automatically come into being wherever men live together’. In many ways the internet is merely a mirror of our existence, even a diluted-down version of reality that causes us to cling to our already established labels – our femaleness (or as increasingly more dating apps are requiring – our liberalism/conservatism) – as our identifier in the drop-down menu boxes of our existence.

When I think of my relationship with the online world, I think of the Simon & Garfunkel song ‘Sounds of Silence’.

‘Hello darkness my old friend I’ve come to talk with you again’. I send things out into the void with a tender forehead kiss and watch it float down the river Styx into the wells of silence.

Last week, my co-worker was flicking through her phone as we experienced the 11am retail lull. ‘Oh’ she said, looking up suddenly ‘I saw that video you posted of you doing a reading on Instagram’. I felt like the colour white, blood ran from my face to my legs, as though the more of it that gathered in my lower limbs the better equipped I would be to run – run far, far away. My voice sounded from her phone; uncanny – like the narrator of nightmares. Not here, not now, not when I’m wearing my fucking name badge. A customer wandered into the shop and Emma was forced to stop playing the video. I breathed a sigh of relief – ahh the customer is King.

I wondered later what my problem had been. It went beyond the usual anxiety of watching someone watch you, hearing your impossibly high-pitched voice ( I can only apologise) echoing back at you. Had I been in an ‘art-setting’ – my studio, a talk etc.- would not have experienced the same existential dread. Sure, it would have been uncomfortable but not terrifying. I felt like Sartre’s waiter. In that space I was a retail worker and denied all other forms of my existence, I had – as they say- ‘compartmentalised’. My internet self didn’t exist here, nor did my artistic self. I was wearing my uniform and my name badge and I was working in sales. Oscar Wilde said that in all aspects of existence, form is the creator of life. In this particular form I am patient and helpful and most of all assured. My Instagram form was small and unpatient, eager to echo her thought. Zadie Smith gives an interesting take on the Facebook format for life in her essay Generation Why?.

Shouldn’t we struggle against Facebook? Everything in it is reduced to the size of its founder. Blue, because it turns out Zuckerberg is red-green colour-blind. “Blue is the richest color for me – I can see all of blue.” Poking, because that’s what shy boys do to girls they are scared to talk to. Preoccupied with personal trivia, because Mark Zuckerberg thinks the exchange of personal trivia is what ‘friendship’ is. A Mark Zuckerberg Production indeed! We were going to live online. It was going to be extraordinary. Yet what kind of living is this? Step back from your Facebook Wall for a moment: Doesn’t it, suddenly, look a little ridiculous? Your life in this format?’

So which form should I flit to now?

What am in print form? Bound in magazine. An artist magazine?

What does print mean in slang?

to take the fingerprints of a person.

P R I N T

fix (something) firmly or indelibly in someone’s mind.

make (a mark or indentation) by pressing something on a surface or in a soft substance

transfer (a design or pattern) to a surface.

Impress/punch/print/stamp/ingrain/register/record/note/fingerprints-index

PUNCH!   STAMP! (march)

Magazine: a store for arms, ammunition, and explosives for military use.

Fingerprints and arms.

Elbows and shoulders – being in print gives physical space to personhood.

Bloomers magazine is a space for new voices. In all aspects of existence form is the creator of life. The serial form of this magazine creates an infrastructure to index consciousness and a materiality to exist in the world. Thoughts and ideas that would otherwise flicker like shadows in the chambers of our minds begin to exist.

‘But they have to begin existing they exist in my poems.’ – Allen Ginsberg, As we flit from form to form our life shrinks and expands accordingly. ‘What people call insincerity is simply a method by which we can multiply our personalities’ – Oscar Wilde. As a woman I am particularly adept, if not always aware of this. We must operate in the world and as we encounter different forms of existence our life shrinks or expands accordingly.

I desire a place to expand. Somewhere where I don’t need to be categorised and I don’t need to compartmentalise-to co-exist in a community of others… but until then…

‘Good morning, and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening and good night’

Comments                                            ______________________________________

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JusticeForLiam The author is giving out about the number of women working in Silicon but gives no statistics … where is she getting her information? She just made it up! also why doesnt she become a software engineer if she wants to? Women just dont want to work in enginerieng…. FACTS!!

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Interview with Ciara Rodgers by Niamh Murphy

 Ciara Rodgers is a visual artist based in the Backwater Artist Group in Cork. She graduated from Crawford College of Art & Design in 2018 with an MA in Art & Process.

For more information on Ciara and her practice visit http://www.ciararodgers.com or @ciaraarodgers on Instagram.

So I have been following your work for a while now, and I’ve always been drawn to the aesthetic and themes surrounding your work, I hope to learn more about your development of ideas and the elements within your practice that you find to be key in making the work you have envisioned. 

When developing your ideas do you have an open way in the methods that you use or is it something more ridgid, e.g., constant exploratory drawings?

I tend to take a more open approach to develop my ideas. I am always gathering photographs, objects, postcards, and books. The edges of cities and rural towns are spaces I most often photograph and explore because with teaching and residencies, I often find myself driving to and from rural areas. The return journey will take twice as long as I must stop and photograph all those things I noticed on my way to the destination. As for the objects I gather, they often need to sit in the studio for a long time before I have figured out their purpose to my practice. At the time of bringing a found object “home” all I know is that I must take care of it and I tend to almost anthropomorphise old phones, gas boilers etc in doing so, there’s a strange lovingness to it. 

You create work through charcoal drawing, polaroid photography, found objects and models; as seen in your solo exhibition in the LHQ Gallery Cork ‘Monuments of Abandoned Futures’ in 2019 and in the group exhibition in the Blue House Gallery Schull, Cork ‘Alternative Views’ in 2019. Is there a certain sensibility with charcoal and polaroid photography that drew you to their use in your practice?

“Physicality” is a word that readily springs to mind regarding my material usage in the studio. Drawing, especially on a large scale has a lot of movement to it and there is a lovely clunkiness to the mechanics of vintage Polaroid cameras. They are noisy and heavy to hold and there is a sense of magic as you wait for the chemicals to settle and reveal your image. Charcoal and pastel have a wonderful velvety texture and are endless in their possibilities for interesting mark making. I treat them as both drawing material and painting medium as I often blend with bits of cloth and apply with brushes.

Is it your intention to use methods that reject the digital era? 

I must confess to using digital means for research or sometimes as a precursor to some of my analog processes so I cannot claim to be some sort of “purist” regarding working through analog media! I do, however, really cherish the haziness of both charcoal and polaroid images as my concepts so often allude to memory – memories do not tend to present as a crystal-clear digital image in our minds. – at least not mine anyway.

Your practice explores the defunct landscape, the relationship and the values we place on a historic built environment, right? (let me know if I’m off the mark here!) Do you aim to create a narrative of a personal history with this imagined built structure/monument?

There are a few elements at play when I’m looking at a particular site as a starting point for making work; the history of the environment, inputs from locals, literature and finally my own experience. These elements come together to form something new or otherworldly, I am often trying to convey a sense of the uncanny, a place that is familiar yet unfamiliar at the same time. As an early career artist, I am still developing my visual language and I’m currently in the early stages of developing a new body of work and looking forward to a sustained period of making in my studio.

There is a lack of human figure in your work- but do the images of abandoned and archaic architecture represent man’s futile attempt to leave a permanent mark on the world? Or is it more about the personal history a monument/structure holds?

I’m definitely interested in the defunct or failed aspects of our built environments. I’m in my thirties yet have seen so much change around me, from the function of a particular building to watching the fast dilapidation of another. I don’t quite catch up to it and find it quite an uncanny experience. During my MA for example, I looked at the old tax office building on Sullivans Quay for reference. I toddled along in there as a child with my parents, went in to get my PPS number at sixteen, studied for my final year of my BA in a studio space there and finally watched its demolishment from my studio window in the Grand Parade Campus during the MA course. The idea that some of the spaces we inhabit and utilise can be so temporary, yet others are protected enough to outlive us intrigues me.

Is literature an important component in your research and development of your practice?

The science fiction novels of JG Ballard are important reads for me. His post-apocalyptic writing from the 1960s highlight human error and the power of nature. I am about to begin reading “The Atrocity Exhibition” which pores over the ways in which violent mass media spectacles send shockwaves across the electric circuits of the global unconscious in a pre-internet era. 

The ability to present work in an exhibition is essential in being able to present a cohesive body of work to the public, and to have your work interacted with. During lockdown do you find that you have turned to social media(s) as a way of interacting, curating, and forming feedback for the work you’ve created? 

I find Instagram to be a useful tool to convey and curate some of my ideas and interests. Its image-based presentation can be used like a mini art blog or a place to share experimental works and it can be changed up as often as a studio wall. It is useful to engage with an audience online (even if it is mainly other artists who are commenting or giving feedback). There is nothing quite like the “real” time and space of an exhibition, however. Elements of a body of work come to life best in a project or gallery space and need less background noise that the internet so often disrupts us with.

Interview with Shane O’ Driscoll by Sarah Long

Shane O’ Driscoll is a printmaker and visual artist based in Cork Printmakers. He has exhibited his work internationally and throughout Ireland. Currently his street mural on Harley’s Street forms part of Ardú Street Art Initiative, an event he co-organised with artists Peter Martin and Paul Gleeson. Visit @ardustreetart and @shaneodriscoll on Instagram for more information.

Talk us through your process.

There’s a lot of building up and breaking down. I enjoy stressing compositions to create a visual tension, as my design background has taught me to have everything aesthetically pleasing, so I like to push against that order. I enjoy the errors, as they are the parts that create new possibilities. Compositions are loosely drafted before I work on the computer to play with scale and colour and define them a bit more.

I will have a general composition in mind before printing the artwork, but allow for changes in the final process when printing. That moment is the most enjoyable for me, otherwise the printing would be a repetitive process. When creating work, I view it almost like a Rubik’s cube where I rotate forms and colours to solve a visual puzzle.  

Is research for you purely a visual activity or is there writing that influences your approach to your work?

I really enjoy reading about other artists’ processes and thoughts. I have always found the psychology of people interesting. I’m not led by readings a lot but if I am creating a piece for an exhibition brief I will need to have a rationale that links it to the print.

Circles are ever present in your work. What is the attraction to this motif?

There’s a great strength in the circle. I used circles as suns in my first prints which were taken from photos I took in California. I developed a series of architectural based prints which always had the circle as a sun or moon. It was always the final piece printed and visually sealed it for me. About 3 years ago I took a month off from my job to focus solely on my art practice, to find a new direction, as my prints became formulaic. I wasn’t enjoying making art and took that month to experiment and make mistakes, find a new route. There was no planned outcome, it could have all gone in the bin and that was the exciting part. From that time came my abstract work, I dropped the imagery but the circle remained. 

Sleep Comes Tomorrow, Do the Do and Become the tiger are all very inventive titles of your work. Where does the inspiration for your titles come from?

Often from lyrics to the songs I am listening to in the studio at the time of making the print. It acts as a timeline to what I listened to over the years. Music plays a huge part in my creating, I am never working without music in the studio, it lets the mind wander. I find it interesting seeing titles on abstract artwork, as it can really guide the viewer in the artist’s intentions, which some want, but I prefer to play with words and equally abstract the meaning. 

You have talked about the role of the ‘element of chance’ during your print process. I find this really interesting because for me drawing is an excellent way to allow space for intuition and ingenuity during my process. Do you see your mark-making process as an extension of drawing or purely as a print-making technique?

The handmade gestures in the work are certainly a freeform drawing. As a lot of the composition would be created on a computer, the graphite marks can bring a looser and immediate energy and texture to a piece. A lot of time is spent making the composition digitally and the mark-making is a lot quicker and reactive to the shapes in place. I view it as a form of additional erasure, if that makes sense. It negates the clean hard edge shapes but adds to the final artwork.

You have been involved in a lot of different festivals such as the Openear festival in Sherkin island, Design POP the Architecture and Food festival based in Cork city and now Ardu. Do you consider this larger, experimental output more significant than your 2D prints or vice versa, or do you distinguish between either?

I feel printmaking is my core medium, but I enjoy applying my art to larger scale pieces, it’s always important to push your boundaries and see how the art works in different areas. It’s good to step away from the studio for a bit, which can be insular, and to work with people in other fields and locations. My work can compliment architectural design and I enjoy seeing how it interacts with place. The Design POP pavilion design was something I had wanted to do for a while and really enjoyed working in a 3D format but also tying the concept into the landscape where it stood. I don’t really distinguish between them, as I have a style and they are all extensions of this.   

What is the inspiration behind the mural you created for Ardú?

The artwork continues my use of colour and shape to create a sense of balance and interaction with place. Elements within the composition relate to parts of the architecture
in the surrounding buildings.

I like to let my art open to interpretation, leaving each viewer see their own story in the assembly of shapes. This way it resonates stronger with the individual and adopts a new narrative. 

When creating the piece in relation to the theme of “Rise”, I viewed the composition as a sum of its parts, much like a city, which is made up of many things from its people to its culture. All of these fundamental parts will have to work in unison to rise up and work together.

Ardú is a really celebratory festival and a fantastic contribution to the city. What do you think are the positive and negative aspects of the Cork Arts Scene?

The scene is quite broad like in any city. I like to collaborate with others, so have worked with various people throughout Cork. I have found that there is a great sense of community in the Corks Arts Scene, especially in Cork Printmakers, where I am a member. I enjoy working around artists in different stages of their career. I tend to not focus on the negative, there can be a lot of naysaying and people with a sense of entitlement sometimes. The important thing is to keep making work and creating opportunities.  

The printroom is an interesting space as many artists utilise the same facilities. Do you feel that this helps or hinders experimentation?

Definitely helps it. I come from a design background, working in a studio where we discuss ideas and designs, constantly criticising each other and looking for ideas. I love collaborations, as they can ignite new ideas. I find being in the printroom the same, as new ideas can be forged in conversations with other artists or visiting artists.

Talk us through the path you took from leaving college with a degree in Visual Communications and the position you have established yourself within the Irish Arts Scene today.

On leaving college I moved to Dublin, as it was at the time of the recession and most of my class went to Canada. I curated a series of art and design exhibitions with a friend for a bit, as there was a great creative scene at the time and this was a good way to meet other creatives and contacts while learning how to run exhibitions. We ran exhibitions for OFFSET creative festival, Design week, Electric Picnic and one in New York also. It was an inspiring time working with so many people. 

After that I worked as a graphic designer and art director in a creative agency for a number of years, while also making my printwork when possible. I was a member of Blackchurch Print Studio and Graphic Studio which was good to meet other printmakers outside of Cork. I started exhibiting work more often while in Dublin and got gallery representation after a bit. There is a great energy around opening nights which all happen on the same night in the month and everyone goes around the city meeting up in galleries.

3 years ago I decided to focus more on my art and took time off work to develop my practice and to plan what I wanted from a career with more creative freedom. I have been a fulltime artist now for over 2 years and it has its challenges, but ultimately it is what suits me and allows for learning many new roles and creative experimentation. I still do a bit of graphic design work and enjoy the crossover between the two sometimes and challenging people’s perception of what should be art.

Is there a work that you are most proud of and why?

I am quite proud of the large scale piece of mine in Trinity College and my first large mural in Caroline Street, Cork as part of the place-making initiative in the city, as they were milestones in my artistic career. The scale is quite commanding within both spaces and they are both instances I never thought my work would be viewed in.

Ardú: Rise of the city’s street art

Ardú street art initiative seemed to begin quick and fast, in the nature of street art itself. Running from the 12th to the 30th of October the festival began with artists working in several different locations throughout the city. The festival brought together artists from both Cork and around the country, to celebrate Cork City’s traditions, resolutions, history and art. It was invigorating seeing the process of change and a certain vibrancy come to life in the city, which has felt stagnant, in the last year. The lack of events, festivals, and gatherings that seem to pump life into the city have been cancelled, so being able to be involved, as an audience member, with the development of art on the streets was exciting. An opportune moment if I’ve ever seen it, Ardú festival was the only art event around to be experienced during the recent level 5 restrictions, open to everyone and anyone.

I noticed Deirdre Breen’s Mural on Wandesford Quay first in the lead up to Culture night and saw its progress with each daily passing. It popped up on a plain white wall at the entrance of the Backwater Artist Group building and the Lavit Gallery. The mural begins with lines that lead to a mesmerizingly optical convergence of shapes. The solid soft blue and vibrant orange reds reverberate off the wall, full of energy and with a sense of urgency. Her motif is similar to lightning strikes, melding with a chain link fence somehow, with an energy that bounces off each other. Her work attempts to capture and convey the community of artists, the creative energy and movement that lives inside the walls on which it is painted. There’s something about it that just fits, that feels like it has always been there, acclimatizing quickly into its landscape.

If you move from there onwards towards the Flying Enterprise, past the walls dedicated to graffiti, past the empty lot where the FAS building used to stand where large print yells ‘end direct provision’ and ‘black lives matter’. Follow the river to its bend, making your way to Anglesea Street, you will find Aches imposing and larger than life creation. A large wall, standing at a corner, is covered in a clean black where a tri-coloured hurler stands in mid-strike. The wall started off black and slowly began to be filled and marked out with clusters of doodles. It was a puzzling process to observe – were these doodles a way of marking the wall to create the wonderfully accurate and detailed mural?

This was a place I would come to several times throughout the process of its creation, the scale and the way in which it was painted was so intriguing. The spray painted lines of the different colours were slow to reveal their relation to one another, until finally I could see the hurler separated into three stances. The colours used, the strong red, blue and green, remind me of a 3-d image and this matches the artist’s attempt to capture the movement and the intensity of the player. The colours mingle in the movement, creating a kaleidoscope of colour in the center, helping distinguish each stance  What made me gawk up at that large wall, for several minutes for several days, was the skill in which the artist was able to overlap the three images, meshing the three colours to create a wonderfully vibrant piece. The image itself portrays the intensity and skill this sport needs and the pride in this very Irish sport.

If, from there, you walk down towards the river and make your way to the new(ish) pedestrian bridge, this will lead you to Shane O’ Driscoll’s mural on the long wall that leads to a busy McCurtain Street. The path is wide and the mural is just as expansive. This is not the first mural of Shane O’ Driscoll’s to brighten up the streets of Cork, last year his work covered a wall on Caroline Street. There are similarities between the two, print-inspired designs, with the uniform soft pink a background for various bursts of shapes and patterns, circles. The different designs seem to lead you along the pedestrian walkway, the various circles changing in size and colour. It is an unmistaken site of beauty. Abstract, I like the transfer of mediums, of print to a previously drab wall, adapting to this space and leaving a mark.

Keep walking along the streets, moving past old Camden Palace, where the facade still sits and the old painting on the side of the wall still peeps its head. You cross the river again. Down to the Coal Quay to Kyle street. Here on one of the shops, Peg Twomeys, that still brings its stalls out onto the street to sell their wares, stands a mural ‘Rising to the Bait’ by Peter Martin, depicting a man’s back as he faces the lee with a fishing line in hand. He is fishing across from an iconic building, St. Ann’s, which burnt down leaving its red building more dilapidated than ever. The dark colours make up the eerie scene, a strange purple sky with a looming full moon waits over the figure. For a city built between two rivers it’s a common sight to see lads in the summer fishing down by the lee fields, reminding residents you can’t go far before hitting nature. The nature of the city.

Do you know how to get to the Mercy hospital from there? It’s a two minute walk down north main street, with a left and continue on Henry Street to the entrance of Moore Street. It’s strange to see a large painting taking over a full wall on the side of, what I presume is, someone’s house. The artist James Earley, whose family has a tradition in stained glass making, has created a very delicate creation. Vertical strong lines interrupt soft, pink, pastel colours on the left that graduate to dark violet. There is a lightness to the mural itself, a delicacy on something so solid. I see it as petals on a flower, while a friend suggested a motorway through a dream scape. It’s clear however, when finding out about the inspiration of stained glass making, this other medium can be seen in the abstract forms created.

Making your way down that road, straight through the busy one way road you’ll reach the Kino. The Kino, since it’s opening it has had a couple of high quality murals on the front of its building, and has now decided to change it up again. A collage of solid popping colours on its surface created by Al Masser is currently against its black walls. The collage both drips paint and in some areas has colours that seem like a solid print. A solid black branch extends across the width of the graphic wall, like an olive branch, on the background of various painting styles. It feels like a statement of colour, encouraging a depth of looking, you could explore this mural for ages. It’s from here you can go down and over the bridge back to Deirdre Breen’s mural and start all over again. Choose your own path and keep looking.

Back in the spot where we began, I find myself thinking that with using these new and various murals as a guide around the city that from one piece to the next I became more aware of the years of street art that decorates the city. They are faded, worn down and demolished in parts. They are repainted, morphed and renewed. The memory of what once was there sticks in my brain. With the galleries and exhibition spaces around Cork closed it’s nice to be reminded of the unyielding use and creation of art on our walls. Even the marks and murals that have been unofficially created on our city walls are welcome reminders that there will always be movement and innovation.