ARTIST INTERVIEW: Stephanie Joy

August 5, 2005

"So you have this striking landscape that has so much going on in it, that at one minute is sort of abstract and beautiful depending on the light, then another minute, the tide comes in and it becomes another place, with horses standing in the water.”
(Stephanie Joy, August 2005).

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Stephanie Joy in conversation with Nicola Murphy on Friday 5 August 2005



Brief Introduction:

From Clonmel, Co. Tipperary, Stephanie has lived and worked in Dublin for some years. Her interest with the Arts and Photography was heightened by her experiences of living and working in Paris, in the eighties. Her travels to South America in the nineties, affected her decision to work as an artist - in particular the journey through Patagonia and the Beagle Channel. There she realized a long held dream to discover this untamed, silent landscape and created a visual diary. Now back in Ireland, she continues to photograph, creating new bodies of work.

This exhibition of photographs ‘Wondering’ was conceived on the wild, barren landscape of the Burry estuary in Wales and is composed of both landscape and portrait images. Stephanie elaborates - “I had no idea why I wanted to work there. However, as I explored this instinct visually, the work emerged. A web of associations formed, fleeting and hazy, between this landscape and holidays spent in Waterford. I was connecting with a past time beyond conscious memory.” We are reminded that it is with people, and locations, and through story that we make sense of our world.

Studying under Paul Seawright, Stephanie completed a degree in Documentary Photography in the University of Wales, Newport in 2003.


Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you got started as a photographer?

A:
I’ve been living in Dublin for some years, and being from the country, I like to go there – and do so regularly. I have travelled and worked abroad i.e. in Europe and particularly France, and more recently in Wales between 2000 and 2004. I’ve also travelled and experienced life in North and South America.

Once I began to travel at all as a teenager, I began to use a camera – it was something I always carried with me. I may have just picked up my mothers camera – she had a box camera. My father also had cameras and both had a good eye.

I still have some of those old images, some very dog eared. I visited art galleries and have always done so - creating images became a natural progression for me.





Q: Can you tell us what inspires you to start a project?

A:
There are a number of factors - it may be life itself and people that I meet at a particular time; events in the world and/or the landscape I find myself in - e.g. in the case of ‘Wondering’, it was the landscape and a strong instinct to stay and work on the Burry estuary.

The idea for another body of work, ‘Waiting’ came from the changing structure of rural Ireland. Where is it most evident except in a multicultural sense? Multiculturalism has been evident in Dublin for years but only recently in rural Ireland. My images included people from all over the world, focusing on our commonalities rather than differences. I felt this was necessary, as we endeavour to come to terms with a complete change in the structure of our society.


Q: You received an award of merit for this work, isn’t that so?

A:
Yes, the work received a merit at the Metro Eireann/RTE Media and Multicultural Awards, in the individual multicultural section in 2004 (MAMA). These awards are very important and encouraging to receive. I also brought a selection from ‘Wondering’ to Arles Photographic Festival and received a commendation from the Rencontres Arlatan/Galerie D’essai, Dotation Photo Service judges. Even though part of the fringe events, it was rewarding to be contacted.



Q: Do you prefer photographing portraits to landscapes?

A:
It depends on the work. Both are enjoyable though portraiture is challenging at times. It requires a particular skill photographically. I am conscious that some people don’t like to be photographed. Therefore I have included a portrait of Lilian’s hands in this body of work. Lilian is 92 years and was a cockle picker with her father in the 1920’s.





Q: Do you think that you have a certain style and if yes, has it changed over the years?

A:
I don’t believe I have a particular style. It is eclectic. It evolves through the influence of the subject matter.


Q: Have you ever tried other art forms like drawing, painting or sculpting, making music, or dancing for instance?

A:
I’ve worked with sculpture- bronze casting - for a few years at night and it is something I would like to return to. I also love both the sound of voice and the way people use words. I read and always enjoy having a book with me. I always fancied that I’m going to be singing in the chorus of a musical like Okalahoma! Listening to the flute is pure pleasure, it has elegance. So, all art forms are a pleasure.


Q: What other artists or people have influenced or inspired you, and in what ways?

A:
I’ve been inspired by the old masters, by the work from the Renaissance. I am captivated by Cubism and times where styles are changing and evolving. Many photographers inspire me - including Sophie Calle, Eugene Atget, Martine Franck. I accompanied Martine in Dublin and to Tory in 2000. Her professionalism and her way of working in our culture was admirable. Rineke Djkestra subject matter has been interesting, also William Egglleston’s. Paul Seawright has been an influence - I studied under him in Newport.

I’ve been very stimulated by education and will always be involved I expect. I am on the Artist’s Panel at IMMA. I am collaborating on some work there later this year and I’m looking forward to that. Engaging with the public and the connections we make in the Gallery and studios can be informative and stimulating. More people engage with the work too.

I love to hear about people who have retired and taken up art, like a friend of my mothers, who took up art in her 70’s, hanging it on her walls and also selling it. And I love the idea of de-mystifying art so that it’s for everybody.

Other visual art inspires me – seeing it without any pre-conceived ideas about what will emerge.

I appreciate listening to other artists. I love to see people’s immersion in their craft and being skilled at it. I would support and encourage people to be involved in various art forms at all stages of life.

I am also inspired by the people that I meet here, when I’m considering a new body of work. And then out in the stillness, in a landscape in a very quiet place, the notion of what I’m doing may become more defined.


Q: Tell us a little bit about the processes you use as a photographer?

A:
I use 6’6’ negative film, both colour and black and white. I find it interesting , that people are still printing ‘C’ type Prints, using the old regular print process, in the darkroom. Technology has changed the way people work and print work.

The thirteen prints that make up this Exhibition are colour, 60cms and 76cms square. All but two are ‘C’ type. Two of the larger prints are Lambda Digital Prints on Dibond - 101cms and 122cms square. The two processes work together and I see them as complementary.


Q: Do you ever have bad days and how do you motivate yourself to keep going?

A:
Once I’ve begun a project, and inspired to do a body of work, the work itself will demand a particular input of time, energy, research, and planning. All of these elements are hugely important, and I commit to it. Sometimes it can be slow and then it takes off. In general I am intrigued once a project inspires me; I’m always fascinated with doing more.

I wake up at 3 in the morning with an idea sometimes. And yes, there are often other sacrifices that are made in order to do the work. Once the drive and ambition is there to continue though, nothing will really stand in the way of completing it.

It’s a big commitment financially and in terms of time. Time is such a precious commodity – one needs lots of it, to be engaged with any artistic process. High quality work is costly in every sense.


Q: Do you have any advice for artists starting out?

A:
This is my first solo show and the learning is ongoing, indeed it’s a lifelong quest . You need to work hard, have commitment and keep at it. I think it’s really important to find supportive people to work and engage with.


Q: So tell us a little bit more about your forthcoming exhibition in Draíocht called ‘Wondering’, and about your time in the Burry estuary in Wales?

A:
‘Wondering’ was conceived on the wild, barren landscape of the Burry estuary in Wales and is composed of both landscape and portrait images.

Living conditions are harsh in this small, close-knit community. The estuary is tidal and my taking part was also governed by the tides and weather. High tide meant I couldn’t walk on roads that were passable beforehand. Not only that, but also the colours appeared more vibrant. Nature was a far greater force than people. Yet the people living on this landscape were totally in tune with nature.

One day, I realised that I needed to live there in order to capture the essence of the work. I followed a strong instinct. Once I did, the work began to emerge and a web of associations formed, fleeting and hazy, between this landscape and holidays I’d spent in Waterford.

At a local level, there is the story of the community itself, and its people, many facing hardship because of restrictions on collecting cockles; a devastating blow to them. This industry is part of their identity. The portrait of Lilian’s hands is testimony; she’s been picking cockles since the 1920’s with her father. They travelled out with the donkey and baskets. In the present, all that was left was the diminishing pile of empty shells.

I am enthusiastic that the work is showing in this space here, in Draíocht. I admire the way in which the gallery connects with, and involves the community. On a regular basis during the next six weeks, I will visit the gallery and collaborate with the community. A number of ideas have emerged – I am happy to be available to the public who wish to engage with the work in a variety of ways.





Q: Can you tell us a little about the stories behind some of your images, perhaps starting with the cockle pickers, as featured on your preview card?

A:
I waited months to go out with the cockle pickers, because of the Government ban on collecting. I went out on the sands at 4am for this particular image. The cockle pickers were working really hard so I worked around them. As the water recedes with the ebb tide, the cockles come to the top of the sand, though still partially submerged. They are scooped up, the sand is washed off in the water, and the cockle is left. It’s a way of ensuring supply that has worked for generations, and its how these people have connected with nature and survived. They work relentlessly.

So you have this striking landscape that has so much going on in it, that at one minute is sort of abstract and beautiful depending on the light, then another minute, the tide comes in and it becomes another place, with horses standing in the water.

There are so many stories to tell, and I’m looking forward to meeting the community to start the dialogue. People will make their own connections too, of course.


 



To find out more about Lilian, the 92 year old cockle picker and the horses that stand in the water, come to see Stephanie Joy’s exhibition ‘Wondering’, in Draíocht’s Ground Floor Gallery from 1 September to 15 October 2005.

Stephanie will be available to talk to members of the public at various times during the exhibition.

For Marketing or Press information please contact: Nicola Murphy, Marketing Press & PR Manager, Draíocht / Tel: 8098021

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By Draíocht. Tags: Artist Interview, Visual Arts, Stephanie Joy,

TAKE 4 COMEDIANS ...

June 22, 2005


Only a few days away from Stephen O’Carroll’s Comedy Night in Draíocht, we caught up with the 4 lads (Stephen O'Carroll, James Goldsbury, Declan Rooney & Brendan Burke) and asked them a few questions!

22 June 2005 / In Conversation with Nicola Murphy, Draiocht's Marketing Manager:

BRIEF INTRODUCTION:
Young comedian Stephen O’Carroll (from the Brendan O’Carroll comedy clan) presents his first Comedy Night in Draíocht featuring guest comedians James Goldsbury, Declan Rooney and Brendan Burke, as well as some stand up from Stephen himself. James Goldsbury’s comedy career began in 1998 with an opening gig in Dublin's International Comedy Cellar. He was a runner-up in the BBC New Comedy Awards in Vicar St (1999) and joint Winner of RTE’s New Comedy Awards in Vicar St (2000). He has have about 250 successful gigs under his belt and has performed in Dublin's Murphy's Laughter Lounge on numerous occasions. Declan Rooney has been an RTE Comedy Finalist for the last few years and has performed in Edinburgh and has sold out gigs in Vicar Street. In the last year Declan has supported The Camembert Quartet on Tubridy Tonight every Saturday on RTE . Brendan Burke is ‘one of the funniest men in Ireland’ (Hot Press) and his stage presence, delivery, timing and uniqueness of material are the reasons why his shows are always a fantastic success. Stephen O’Carroll is a new up and coming comedian, nephew of Irish funny man Brendan O’Carroll. In his first year he has sold out venues in Dublin and Kildare. This show contains adult content and strong language. You have been warned!


STEPHEN O'CARROLL

Q: Who are you?
A: Stephen O’Carroll

Q: Where are you from?
A: Blanchardstown but don’t hold that against me!

Q: What do you do?
A: Stand up comedy (well i try)

Q: What age are you?
A: 18

Q: You have a very famous uncle! Was he very influential on you trying your hand at comedy?
A: Yes he was. I would go see him when I was a kid and I would always say 'I want to do that!!' and Brendan said to me 'then why don't you', so I did and a year later I have not looked back - and if it all falls apart, at least I can blame Brendan!

Q: Were you intent on being a stand-up leaving school, or had you other options?
A: No I didn’t. When I was in school the other kids would say ‘Brendan O’Carroll is your uncle, tell us a joke’ and if I didn’t they would batter me - it was a rough school. Kids in there would rob the milk out of your tea. Then one day I told them a joke and they laughed so from there on I would always come in and tell them jokes. So when I left I had no other options but to do stand up because it was all I knew and if it all falls apart I can blame the kids who battered me in school - yous know who yous are!

Q: If you weren't a comedian, what would you be?
A: A baker like my brother, cause he makes lots of dough.

Q: How are you finding the circuit?
A: Great. The first gig is the hardest. My first gig reminds me of the first time I made love - very bumpy. I didn’t really know what I was doing but when we got that bus seat to ourselves it was great. 

Q: Who are your comedic influences?
A: Jack Dee, Lee Evans, Peter Kay. Oh yeah and Brendan O’Carroll. All masters at what they do.

Q: Are you a naturally funny person?
A: I hope so. Cause there is nothing worse then someone who is trying to be funny and they’re not. Oh god I hope I’m not one of those people.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
A: Hopefully a big name in stand up. And if not I would really have to become a baker. Oh I hope I make it big.

Q: What do you do to relax and wind-down?
A: Just go out with my mates and have a few drinks.

Q: Do you go to comedy gigs yourself?
A: Not as much as I would like to but I try and go to see competition as much as I can. Yeah right - what competition!

Q: Why are you putting on this gig?
A: "I am putting on the gig in Draíocht because it would be great for people around here to see Irelands top commedians. I thought of the idea when me and my dad were driving by Draíocht and he said 'Did you ever think of doing a gig in there', so the next day I rang them up and they told me to give them a list of the commedians who would do it. I was doing a gig in town and James Goldsbury was on before me and he was brill so I asked him to do the gig and he said he would. Declan Rooney was also on that night and I asked him to do it and thankfully he said yeah and Brendan Burke has been around for years and I saw him one night at the Battle of the Axe and he also said he would do it. I really hope to turn this into a regular event and I hope in the future that we can bring big names to the gig like Jason Byrne, Des Bishop and hopefully my uncle could drop by and do a gig or two aswell!" 



JAMES GOLDSBURY

Q: Who are you?
A: Is this a trick question?

Q: Where are you from?
A: Dublin, The Northern Hemisphere!

Q: What do you do?
A: Go on, guess!

Q: What age are you?
A: 8, going on a bit

Q: Where do you live?
A: In a magical land full of chocolate

Q: Were you intent on being a stand-up leaving school, or had you other options?
A: No. I did software engineering and then when I realised computers were a fad and on their way out I gave up to do this

Q: If you weren't a comedian, what would you be?
A: A software engineer

Q: How are you finding the circuit?
A: Most of the clubs are in the same place every week!!! Apart from that it's a small pond. The Dublin comedy circuit is small enough so I’m concentrating on UK gigs.

Q: Who are your comedic influences?
A: Peter Sellers, The Pythons, Spike Milligan

Q: Are you a naturally funny person?
A: When I'm drunk yeah

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
A: On telly

Q: What do you do to relax and wind-down?
A: Don't have much time for relaxation at the moment because I'm writing my new show for Edinburgh called "Da Bitchy Code", based on The Da Vinci Code. As a book it's a unputdownable, a bit like an unwanted kitten in a sack filled with helium! I'm previewing it in the International Comedy Club on Wicklow at the end of July so its go go go!!!

Q: Do you go to comedy gigs yourself?
A: Yeah quite a bit. I was performing in the Kilkenny Cat Laughs recently and got to see quite a few gigs.



DECLAN ROONEY

Q: Who are you?

A: A depressed comedian from Louth

Q: Where are you from?
A: Omeath, Co.Louth ( the wee county )

Q: What do you do?
A: By day I work and by night I dream of never working again.

Q: What age are you?
A: Very old but really a child

Q: Where do you live?
A: In my house

Q: Were you intent on being a stand-up leaving school, or had you other options?
A: I was always a bit of a clown and had a great talent for making me Ma laugh and making my Dad cry ...so I decided I enjoyed making Ma laugh more and I took the option of making more Ma's laugh. Now I'm a celebrity in my head ... and wrecking everybody else's ... so please come and see my show.

Q: If you weren't a comedian, what would you be?
Micheal Jackson's Lawyer

Q: How are you finding the circuit?
A: I'd call it more a circus than a circuit!

Q: Who are your comedic influences?
A: Eddie Naessens, Dave McSavage, Matt Sadler and a couple of mad bastards from Sligo … go on the Mac Morrow.

Q: Are you a naturally funny person?
A: Put it this way: Murphy's law tends to follow me everywhere.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
A: Settled with 3 children and a house in Louth ... oh and plenty of brown bread, boiling bacon and spuds and red lemonade and tayto crisps.

Q: What do you do to relax and wind-down?
A: If there's something out there that can relax me ... please call me!


 

BRENDAN BURKE

Q: Who are you?
A: Brendan Burke

Q: Where are you from?
A: Beaumont but live in Portmarnock now where they have a beach instead of a field with Decco loves Anto written on the walls.

Q: What do you do?
A: Stand Up Comedian

Q: What age are you?
A: 984

Q: Were you intent on being a stand-up leaving school, or had you other options?
A: I was a microbiologist. Yes I wore a white coat and stared down microscopes everyday. Riveting.

Q: If you weren't a comedian, what would you be?

A: A Golfer

Q: How are you finding the circuit?
A: Great. Millions of Comedy Clubs in UK.

Q: Who are your comedic influences?
A: Anto Griffin from Microbilogy Dept Beaumont and Phil Nickel comedian UK circuit

Q: Are you a naturally funny person?
A: So I am told

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
A: Playing more golf

Q: What do you do to relax and wind-down?
A: Stare at Lisa the weather girl on Sky News

Q: Do you go to comedy gigs yourself?
A: Usually when I am on the bill.

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By Draíocht. Tags: Comedy,

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Ciara Foster

May 31, 2005

"I would advise other artists just starting out to persevere in applying for different things and not to be disheartened by the rejections which are sure to be many."
(Ciara Foster, May 2005)

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Ciara Foster / 31 May 2005



BRIEF INTRODUCTION:

Ciara Foster took up the studio residency for six months in Draíocht from mid December 2004.

Ciara is a textile artist who specialises in embroidery and now works in a variety of media such as grass and straw sculpture, drawing and painting. In her sculptural work Ciara uses natural and recycled materials made in response to the environment and often abandons them to decompose back to their origins.

Foster graduated with a BA in Design specialising in textiles in 1998 and an MA in design specialising in textiles in 2003. She has exhibited widely including the Knit and Stitch show at the RDS 1996 and 2003, Sculpture and Context 2004 the MCAC open submission Textile Art Exhibition 2004. In June 2004 she spent a one-month residency at the Hall Farm Centre for Arts and Education in Vermont, US.






Q: Tell us a little about yourself, your background, where you're from?
A: I am originally from Clondalkin. I have always enjoyed Art and have been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. After I left school I spent a year in Ballyfermot Art College doing a portfolio preparation course in ‘Art, design and Craft’. This introduced me to new crafts such as tapestry, weaving and creative embroidery, the latter of which I had never even heard of before. I became really interested in texture and mixed media and with the idea of using unusual materials to create the surface I wanted.

After this I went to NCAD. The first year in NCAD was pretty much a continuation of what I had already been doing in Ballyfermot. After the first year I chose to specialise in textiles and in third year I narrowed my choice down to embroidered textiles. In the final year I decided to create textile art as opposed to designing textiles for either fashion or the textile industry, which were the other two avenues I could have taken.

After this I took about two years off, working and travelling but keeping visual journals all the time which allowed me to keep making art, if only for myself.

A year after I returned I decided to go back to NCAD where I did a full time MA in design.




Q: How long have you been a Textile Artist and why choose an arty profession over a more conventional career like being an accountant or working in an office for instance?

A:
I guess I have been a textile artist since I left college although I took two years off straight after college to work and save money so that I could travel for the year. In the beginning I chose to do art because it was something I was good at and it was what I enjoyed the most. I was naïve in that I used to think that being good at art was all it took to make a career out of it. Some days I wish I had chosen a more conventional career just so that I wouldn’t have to worry about whether I am wasting a lot of energy and time on something I may never make a living from. However I know for a fact that I would never be happy in a more conventional job.

Q: Do you have a conventional job to supplement your income as an artist and if yes does it interfere with your creativity and focus?

A:
Yes I do have a conventional job, I work in a bookstore. I have gone part time since I took up the residency at Draíocht. Sometimes I think working is good for me as you need to step back and take a look at your work so maybe being away from it for a few days helps a bit. On the downside I think I would have a lot more energy and my work would be better if I was able to donate more of my time completely to it, and of course I would get a lot more done. In college, we had a lot of different art projects going on at once and I loved this. If I was able to donate all of my time to art I think I would have a few things going on at once in the studio. When you have a conventional job this also forces you to keep conventional hours so no matter how creative you may be feeling you can’t stay up until 2am when you have an early start the next morning!



Q: What other people or artists have influenced or inspired you?

A: The main person who has inspired me would be my tutor from college, Nigel Chesney whose own work and energy is inspirational in itself. After that I am inspired by the people out there who are proving that you can make a successful living as an artist.

Lots of different artists have inspired me, some for only a short amount of time and others forever. I chop and change whom I like. Off the top of my head, of the very well known artists, I like Duchamp, Joseph Cornell, Basquiat and Andy Goldsworthy. Some of the lesser known ones would be Candy Jernigan, Sophie Ryder and Deborah Butterfield, but really I think that there are too many to mention.

Q: How do you keep motivated if you are having a bad day?

A:
If something is not working out and I’m having a bad day, I take this as a sign that I just have to walk away and leave it for a while. I’ll usually do something totally unrelated, try and put it to the back of my mind so that I can come back to it with a fresh and hopefully more positive outlook.



Q: How have you handled the business side of being an artist, promoting yourself and getting exposure? Have you sold any of your work?

A:
I wouldn’t say that I have handled the business side of being an artist very well. I think that it is something that takes a lot of your energy and time, so I’m inclined to ignore it a bit. I guess if I hadn’t got a conventional job I could devote more time to it. I have sold work very sporadically to say the least over the past few years. I certainly haven’t made any money.

Q: Have you had any Exhibitions?

A:
I have never had a solo exhibition or in fact I have never applied anywhere to have a solo exhibition, but I have been in many group exhibitions.

Q: Could you tell us a little more about your time as Artist in Residence in Draíocht's Artists Studio? How valuable is this time for you and are you working towards anything in particular?

A:
Having the studio in Draíocht has been great. It is a really good space. It takes a while to get used to the big glass window, but after a while you start to love the very fact that it feels so open and you forget that people can look in and see you. Having the studio was really good for me as it provided me with the huge amount of space I needed. It was really good to be able to leave the studio in a mess and pick up were I left off the next time I came back. With the work that I have made I have been applying for different exhibitions around the country.

Q: What advice would you give other artists just starting out?

A:
I would advise other artists just starting out to persevere in applying for different things and not to be disheartened by the rejections which are sure to be many. I would also advise them to only apply for things that they really feel that their work is suited to.

 



Take a look at Ciara's website:  http://www.freewebs.com/ciarafoster

Further information please contact: Nicola Murphy, Marketing Press & PR Manager, Draíocht / Tel: 8098021

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By Draíocht. Tags: Artist Interview, Visual Arts,

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Tim Durham

April 30, 2005

"One of the things I like about photography is that it gives me an excuse to go exploring – visually and mentally."
(Tim Durham, April 2005).

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Tim Durham in conversation with Nicola Murphy on Wednesday 20 April 2005.



BRIEF INTRODUCTION:

In this age of computer graphics one could easily mistake Tim Durham’s pictures as computer generated and manipulated, and then be surprised to find they are photographs of a humble soap film. The effect is the same as you may see in diesel floating on wet streets, on the multi-coating of spectacle lenses, or on the protective layer of compact discs. Tim usually says, when asked, that these photographs are of bubbles, but strictly speaking, he says, this is untrue. They are rather of light interference on the minutely thin film that forms a bubble once blown.

Despite the peaceful, delicate and fragile appearance of a soap film, its lifetime is characterised by the most agitated commotion in the form of convective swirls driven by the relentless pull of gravity and molecular forces. Ultimately, this seals the fate of the film which vanishes in a violent explosion.

This exhibition will be supplemented with information on the science of soap films and bubbles by Dr. Stefan Hutzler, Physics Department, Trinity College, Dublin.

The most accurate biography of Tim Durham is perhaps to be found in the pictures he makes and those he chooses to show. Born in 1963, Tim makes his home in Killucan, Co. Westmeath. His roots are in nature, abstract and travel photography, and over time his direction has shifted towards exploring the themes of entropy and physical memories of motion. His other passion is conducting photography and visual awareness workshops.





Q: Tell us a little about yourself, your background, where you’re from?

My name is Tim Durham and I was born in London to German and English parents. For the past 10 years I’ve lived in Killucan, Co. Westmeath. In a serious way I got into photography whilst travelling in Africa. My motivation was to accurately record my three years bicycle journey to Cape Town. Whilst visiting the amazing spring flower displays in Namaqualand I met Canadian photographer, Keith Ledbury, who after three months of travelling together in Southern Africa offered me a role as a photographers assistant in Canada. A chance meeting that allowed me to change the course of my life. Then to Ireland where I work, where I make pictures and teach photography and visual design.

Q: How long have you been a photographer and why choose an arty profession over a more conventional career, like being an accountant, or working in an office for instance?

I’ve been a professional artist for the past 16 years. I’ve stayed in this field because it suits me well. The work gives me a great deal of pleasure and fulfilment, both the making of photographs and the sharing with others. The learning is endless. One of the things I like about photography is that it gives me an excuse to go exploring – visually and mentally.

Apart from a Kodak Instamatic that I borrowed from Dad to take along fishing with me in my early teens, my first camera was a Minolta SLR, which I purchased with my first pay packet as a guard on British Rail at the age of 19. Along with it I bought 3 rolls of film - a black and white, a colour negative and a slide. I tried the black and white first, liked the results. Then the colour negative, liked the results. Then the Kodachrome, and was bowled over. I’ve used slide film ever since. I enjoy that slides are positives, that they can be projected, which is almost an opposite of capturing the image. Slide film encourages a discipline in exposure that I enjoy. But I also know when I’m looking at this transparent image I know it was there with me on the day I made the shot.

I wouldn’t describe what I do with pictures as a passion. It’s more like a conviction – I need to do it. It’s a way of expressing my own personality, and its way of communicating something that I can’t say well or at all with words.




Q: Do you also have a conventional day job to supplement your income as an artist and if yes does this interfere with your creativity and focus?

No I don’t. I do though divide my photography into 2 areas. One is actually creating pictures and the other is teaching. Certainly the teaching was a supplement to the income of being a photographer but a couple of years back, I asked myself the question - If I had to give up either photography or teaching, which would I give up - and I couldn’t answer clearly. It was too difficult a choice.

I’m stimulated by the work that young people produce. Actually I’m continually surprised. Surprised by how much they see, and about how much I’ve missed. They have a fresh eye and they are receptive to ideas. They just need a forum in which to go out and make pictures.

Q: When you first started taking photographs, what was your subject matter then?

The very first pictures were of derelict buildings, canals, rivers, and railways – those sorts of subjects, and cycling - whatever my hobbies were of the time. There were very few pictures of people, and there still are few. The exception was a trip to Morocco in 2000 when I photographed almost nothing but people and how they lived their lives.




Q: The pictures I’ve seen by you so far (Soap Opera series) are really vibrant and beautifully colourful images of Soap films. Is this typical of your work or do you have many different styles of photography?

The Soap Opera images are my most vibrantly coloured work. My direction though is toward muted colours. The Soap Opera images are not typical, but the connection to my other work is that I’m really captivated by the design of pictures, about the juxtaposition of objects in space and about working with the building blocks of design; shape, line colour, etc, and it’s that that connects my pictures more than the subject.

I have a leaning towards photographing natural subjects, but even that I notice changing, becoming more about the place that nature and man meet. I very rarely do a large landscape, and apart from bubbles, I very rarely go into a macro world, so that leaves the middle ground. A favourite design style, well that would definitely be all over compositions, where no single part of a picture dominates. There are examples in the Soap Opera exhibition at Draíocht. They are of soap film that is on the verge of breaking, in the very last stages of its life.


Q: What other artists or people have influenced or inspired you?

Initially photographers such as Freeman Patterson, Ernst Haas and Elliot Porter. More recently the drawings of Jim Dine and the paintings of Gerhard Richter. Last year I saw some wonderful exhibitions that inspired me. The Juan Uslé, Sophia Calle and Louise Bourgeois at the Irish Museum of Modern Art as well as the work of Jane Proctor at the Royal Hibernian Academy.

But also my brothers and fellow artists Chris and Martin Durham have influenced me greatly, perhaps more honestly I’d say they give me a regular critical shove to look deeper, a shove that annoys and motivates me simultaneously. They both practice in Germany, Martin in Köln, and Chris in Düsseldorf. Why we are all in the arts I have no idea.



Q: How do you keep motivated if you’re having a bad day?

I don’t ever worry about ‘why am I doing this’. I’m clear on that. But I do worry financially, about making ends meet, and about surviving to continue the making of pictures.

But to your question. Photographically, for example, if I was out making pictures at some location and yet I wasn’t ‘seeing’ well, I may catch myself, in frustration, saying - This is a crap location, what possessed me to come here. As soon as I hear that, I know it’s nothing to do with the place, it’s all head stuff, attitude stuff, and so my way out of that state of mind is to give myself the task of simply photographing shapes. It’s a way I have of disassociating myself from the subject and only thinking about composition. This is my motivational tool. When I then hear the shutter clicking, I start to relax and then I see more clearly.

A friend of mine, Denis Dennehy, was on a round the world motorbike trip and he said he made his best pictures when he stopped for a cigarette. Because he would sit there on the side of the road, the travelling would wash off him, and in a quiet relaxed moment he would start to see. I knew exactly what he meant.





Q: How have you handled the business side of being an artist, promoting yourself and getting exposure, selling your work?

Probably not very well.

My photography doesn’t feel like a business. The reason isn’t to make a living. The pictures I make for myself. If I can then sell them, all well and good.

I do still want to sell the pictures. I’m not protective of them. I would love them to go! If people want to buy these pictures then I would welcome it. There are always new ones to make.

Q: Could you tell us a little more about your forthcoming exhibition in Draíocht ‘Soap Opera’? How did the exhibition come about, describe the work a little, how many pieces are there, are they mounted or framed?

This will be my first exhibition. It opens on the 26 th of May. I’ll be showing 27 works in Draíocht. The prints are Gicleé or Piezograph prints (an exhibition form of inkjet printing) on Hahnemühle Photorag. Two are mounted onto Dibond with no frame and the remainder are under glass in alder wood frames.

Dr. Stefan Hutzler from the Department of Physics in Trinity College Dublin will be opening Soap Opera and also providing the science information that accompanies the exhibition.

I started photographing soap films 10 years ago. I’d seen a short article and photographs about soap films in a Canadian magazine. I thought it was fantastic. I knew when I had a spare moment I’d sit down and try to work out how this was done. And I did! Christmas 10 years ago at a friend’s house in Donegal I started. And the results were fantastic and disastrous. I could see the potential in the photographs but technically there were all sorts of problems.

It took me 5 or 6 years to work out how to photograph these films. I dissolve sugar or glycerine into the soap detergent which makes the film more viscouse and stable, delaying the point of destruction. Sometimes I work in a cold room, sometimes in a warm room, and sometimes I’d even use boiling detergents. There are many variables that effect the convection and movement of the film. Even the different makes of dish detergent. I asked friends in California to send me their local detergent to try – I quite like ‘Joy’ (which I also use to wash my dishes!).

To make these Soap Opera pictures I work in a darkened room with no natural light. It’s only flashlight that exposes the film. The different colour effects are the result of the different thicknesses of the soap film. The soap film is a vertical sheet, hanging in a black steal frame. Gravity plays its part, pulling it down and creating a wedge shape. Thick at the base, narrowing toward the top. Each individual colour relates to a certain thickness of soap film or a multiple of that thickness.

At times, when I look through my camera, I observe that the surface of the soap film is static. Other times though, the shapes and colour would be rushing across the viewfinder. A great antidote to procrastination. This process forces you to make almost instant decisions on composition. And it’s just about pressing the button at the right time. There’s only ever one chance because these soap film patterns are unique.

What makes Soap Opera different to the other types of photography I do is that I’ve created the actual object. In the other areas of my photography, I’m recording subjects that I’ve had no hand in making.





Q: What advice would you give to an artist or photographer just starting out?

Artistically, JUST DO IT! Don’t worry about whether you are right or wrong. Just do whatever you have to do. Be curious. Expose yourself to other artists, not only ones in your own field. Actually broaden your curiosity beyond the arts. Try constantly to push your limits and not get stuck in a rut. Experiment!

Find a mentor that offers honest feedback. Not brutally honest though, you want to be motivated not damaged.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years time? Do you have plan? Do you think you’ll still be in Ireland?

I’ll probably be in Ireland and probably too in Killucan. I like it there. For years I moved around, always changing. Now my home is a steady thing. Last year was the first year that I didn’t leave the country to photograph – I just decided I wanted to be at home for a while. The urge to travel lessens. I want more to find myself in the place I live.

I hope the way I photograph changes, at least I hope I continue to improve. Maybe I won’t make photographs at all. I’d love to paint if I have the courage to start a new medium. I’ve no idea really! There’s no plan at all.

I enjoy pictures. They are important to me. And I can’t imagine not creating them.



Q: Finally, what other interests or hobbies do you have?


I have an interest in gardening, conversation, watching the world go by and a love for my partner Fiona.


Further information about the science of soap films can be found at:
http://www.tcd.ie/Physics/Foams/art.php



Tim Durham’s exhibition Soap Opera Series opens in Draíocht’s First Floor Gallery on Wednesday 25 May 2005 and will continue until 2 July 2005.


For Further information please contact: Nicola Murphy, Marketing Press & PR Manager, Draíocht Tel: 8098021


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By Draíocht. Tags: Artist Interview, Visual Arts, Tim Durham,

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Desmond Kenny

April 1, 2003

"I think art is a kind of a magic. You wait and wait until you see that magical moment. Sometimes its just ordinary people doing their ordinary chores, but an artist can find the extraordinary in the ordinary and I always try to bring my street scenes alive. ”.
Des Kenny, April 2003.

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Desmond Kenny in conversation with Nicola Murphy in April 2003  as he started his residency in Draíocht's Artists Studio .




Brief Introduction:


Local artist, Desmond Kenny commenced as Artist in Residence at Draíocht in April 2003.

Des, who lives in Hartstown with his wife Lucy and 2 children, Hazel (21) and Jean (18), is a self taught painter who has been painting and exhibiting in Ireland and abroad for over 15 years including a major solo exhibition at Draíocht in June 2001. Desmond is well known in Blanchardstown and further afield for his lively depictions of urban life, particularly Dublin's inner city. Painted in relief in layers of impasto paint, Kenny's paintings take on a sculptural form as they stand sometimes an inch or more thick off the canvas. His work also reveals a quiet compassion in his observation of the homeless, beggars and familiar street characters who, with spiralling rents and increased costs of living, have been left behind in the march of economic progress.

Desmond has exhibited widely in Ireland, most recently in 2002 at the West Cork Arts Centre, Skibbereen and the Tinahely Arts Centre, Wicklow. Previous exhibitions include the Toradh Gallery, Duleek (1999), Tig File, Cork (1998) and Liberty Hall, (1997). His work is in many collections including Bewleys, SIPTU, and Fingal County Council.



Q: So tell us how it all started for you Des?

A: I started painting 17 years ago and I’m self taught. It all started while I was recovering from an operation in hospital. I was feeling bored, so I asked my wife Lucy to bring me in a sketch pad. I began to draw all day long, every day. I was out of work for 6 months and in that period I taught myself to paint. I initially painted from home for 13 years and then joined a group studio called Pallas Studios in Dublin city for 4 years.




Des Kenny, Moore Street




Q: You also work full time for Irish Rail. How do you fit your painting into your busy schedule?

A: Although I’ve been working for Irish Rail driving trains for 24 years (10 yrs driving diesels on the Sligo, Rosslare and Galway lines and now 12 years driving the Dart, Fairview Depot) I consider myself a professional artist. My day job supplements and sustains my love of painting. To keep myself inspired during the day, I often open my locker in work and seek advice from the picture of Rembrant which I keep there! My whole core and existence depends on painting. Without it, there’s no point for me. It’s more like my full time job has to fit around my painting!




Des Kenny, Talbot Street

Q: How would you describe your style of painting?

A: Because my art is so personal to me, I don’t accept commissions, only painting people and scenes I know. My present style of painting, very thickly in oils, came about when I took a trip to Paris 10 years ago to study. In the museums I discovered Rodin’s late sculptures, which had an unfinished lumpy tactile quality. On returning home to Dublin I endeavoured to capture this quality of Rodin’s, on canvas. It took a while to perfect! After destroying many paintings, I painted a picture that was constructed with thick impasto oil paint. Happy with this painting, I wondered how thick I should paint it. The answer came while taking a walk around my estate. I saw a heavily pregnant woman and I was inspired to paint as thickly as the life she carried. I went home and painted another painting 3 inches thick in oil paint. Sometimes these works can take up to 7 years to dry. Another feature of my work is the struggle to produce an image which obeys rigorous drawing, yet through layers of paint tries to free itself from such a straight-jacket. This conflict produces imagery which is both innovative and exciting in figurative art.




Des Kenny, Moore Street



Q:
Every single painting I’ve seen of your work includes people. Why is this?


A: I am a figurative painter, painting the nude figure, portraits and street scenes of Dublin. The subject matter must be personal to me and I’m always trying to make a fresh statement. When I looked at Moore Street for instance, I saw it as ‘ Aladdins Cave’, something special, so I painted it. I think art is a kind of a magic. You wait and wait until you see that magical moment. Sometimes its just ordinary people doing their ordinary chores, but an artist can find the extraordinary in the ordinary and I always try to bring my street scenes alive.

Time will eventually take everybody away and I want to capture the presence of someone I know, to keep them there longer than their allotted time might be in that place.

As an artist my aim is to make an art that is simple and can be understood by all (the busman, taximan and housewife), that is not a reflection of the artist, but is a reflection of the people I paint.




Des Kenny, Cumberland St Market, Saturday morning



Q: So how important is this time for you in Draíocht’s Artists Studio for 3 months?
 

A: It’s vital. At home I’ve converted my shed into a studio for myself. Here I have so much more space. As you can see I can spread out maybe 10 works around me and work on them, or use them for reference. This studio gives me time out in a quiet peaceful environment, but I know that there’s an office full of people next door if I need a bit of company or a break. The staff are very supportive and I have access to Admin and PR backup while I’m here, which you don’t get at home in your garden shed! I also want to use this time if I can to help break down the public’s natural resistance to entering a gallery space to view an artist’s work. I’d be delighted to meet with anyone who’d like to call by and see me at work in the studio, or ask me questions, or just to have a look around.



For further information about Artist Des Kenny or the Visual Arts programme please contact:
Visual Arts Officer, Draíocht / Tel: 01-809 8026

For media information please contact:
Nicola Murphy, Marketing Press & PR Manager, Draíocht / Tel: 01-8098021
 

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By Draíocht. Tags: Desmond Kenny,

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