May 31, 2011
Artist Interview with Garvan Gallagher – 31 May 2011
Draíocht says goodbye today to its longest ever resident artist Garvan Gallagher, who has been working with the Centre since 01 March 2010. We chatted to him as he tidied out the Studio …
Q: So can you remember your first day here, back in March 2010? It seems like a long time ago in one way, and yet it’s flown by in another way!
Yes, it seems like only a few months ago, but actually when I was clearing my things, nuggets from the 15 months resurfaced and it puts it into context. My first day was like the new boy in a big space with open windows. It was exciting, new things always are, and I knew what I was going to be working on, so I got down to some research after a quick blog update with my new empty studio.
Q: So how important has this time been for you in Draíocht’s Artists Studio?
I think it’s fantastic to offer this to an artist. The physical space is one thing, and as a photographer, I probably didn’t need such a huge space, but the emotional space (if you can call it that) is really as important. That space where I could base myself to work in the community, a community where I’m a total blow in. Draíocht having such a prominent place in Dublin 15 allowed me to immediately begin having conversations with people without them wondering if I was an axe murderer or just slightly crazy.
Q: You’ve been working hard on some big projects during your time here, including the Intergenerational Photography Project & Exhibition. Can you tell us a little bit more about this project and the people involved?
The Intergenerational project was a fantastic success in so many ways. Other than the fact that the end exhibition looked fantastic, the entire process was really interesting, exciting and allowed me to do something completely new, something I’d never done before. Facilitating a group of people was daunting to begin with but the participants gave 100% and they were all so amazing to work with. Sarah Beirne with her little box of tricks, fantastic attitude and unending supply of props was vital to the whole thing. The intergenerational element to the project was something all the participants picked up on in the feedback; it was the one element all the participants really enjoyed. Whatever about the project, this little social experiment was the biggest success for me. It was a truly enjoyable, rewarding and incredibly valuable experience.
Q: What would you say is the thing you most enjoyed about your time in Draíocht?
Probably the Intergenerational project and working with the lovely Sarah Bierne. We were a good team. That and eating cake and being able to bring Fred (my dog) to work every day. Fred wasn’t allowed any cake though.
Q: Have you any funny memories of the last year in Draíocht that really stand out in your mind?
Erm, the Christmas party ...
Q: How did you keep motivated if you were having a bad day?
Working on a residency so long allowed me to work on other things too that had to pay the bills. I set up a photography workshop/school in town, which took a lot of my summer last year. If I was really having a bad day, I’d treat myself to some coffee, donuts and head home to watch some West Wing by the fire.
Q: Could you tell us a little more about your forthcoming exhibition in Draíocht’s Ground Floor Gallery later in 2011?
Normally when I work on something I have a pretty good idea what I will exhibit. Right now, and this is a good thing, I’m not 100% sure. I know there will be some recreated fashion photographs using the older body as opposed to the youthful skinny superhuman one; there will be lots of personal stories confined to a publication as well as being told by the people themselves in a video piece; there will be photos of the ‘real’ people in their own fashion and what they have to say about it and also a piece on reflections – that last piece I’ve no idea what it will be yet. So it will be an interesting mixed bag but with a very human element, and all from people around Dublin 15. I think it’ll be really nice.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Ever since I was in my teens, the moving image was something that always drew me in. Photography was what I done in college and it’s something I’m passionate about and maybe I’ll stay with it. I don’t want to confine myself to one thing though but be open to lots of other stuff. So in 10 years time, I really have absolutely no clue. I’ll probably be in London, hopefully able to pay the mortgage!
Q: What are your interests and hobbies outside of photography?
Are box-set marathons a hobby? Cooking is a big thing for me, I have a library of cookbooks and make a great beef bourguignon. I love to travel. Every five years or so, myself and my partner aim to make massive 4-month trips. Last time was South America, next India. Have plans to head across Europe with Fred on a campervan.
Q: You weren’t always a professional artist; can you tell us a little about your journey from full time 9-5’er to where you are today?
I did an OK leaving Cert, actually it was kind of crap. I wanted to do Communications in DCU but never got the points so I got my 7th CAO choice (that’s 3 from the bottom!), which was computer science in UL. I had to double check how far down exactly Limerick was from Donegal. It was good to me though, it allowed me to travel and live in places like Istanbul and Rome. I just didn’t want to wake up when I was 50 behind a desk working for a big company, and I could never see myself starting up my own IT company. So I went and did a full-time photography degree in IADT, working a 3-day week in my old company for the most of it, which was great. The company were really flexible and really good to me. I picked up a lot of really valuable things from working in a professional IT position – work ethics, deadlines, writing documents, communication skills etc.
Q: In general, do you have any advice you could give to an artist following the same path as you?
Being an artist is hard and you definitely don’t get anything handed to you on a plate to you. You have to do all the digging, all the looking, phone calls and selling yourself; something I’m not very keen on or good at myself, but who is? But the best advise would be to follow what’s in your heart, it’s generally telling you the right thing.
Q: Most of your work concentrates on portraits of older people. What draws you to taking photographs of this particular group?
I don’t think it’s something I’ll do forever, it’s something I got interested in while doing my thesis for my final year in college. Doing portraits was the last thing I thought I’d end up doing, and it’s all I do now. I was making portraits with a social element to them, e.g migrant workers, the male body that wasn’t the covers of Men’s Health magazine. Doing research for these, the older body would inevitably come up, and I made a note to do a project around this. I’m interested in how we adapt to what society thinks we should do. There are very few representations of older people used in advertising. Products are sold with young and beautiful bodies. There is a myth that is being sold to us, and something we are lapping up, that we can stay young forever. This has a huge impact on how society views our older population. I was brought up to respect older people, and I had huge respect for my own Grandparents, who have had a huge part to play in who I am today. We are losing that, and by doing projects like these, I hope in some small way it will make people think. If it changes the attitudes of a few, then it has worked. We are all going to grow old, and changing attitudes starts in schools, in homes and in projects like this. There is also a great sense of freedom in working with a lot of older people. They have so much life experience and juicy gossip, and they don’t really give a crap what you think of them. I love that.
Q: Has working with older people made you think a lot about getting older yourself?
It certainly draws attention to it. I’m 37 so I’ve a bit to go, but time does shift on quickly. I think it’s made me less self-conscious about what other people think, and that’s refreshing. In Japan, older people were celebrated (now also unfortunately changing). That’s the way our society should be. The thing to achieve I suppose is to have no regrets by the time I get there.
You can find more information about Garvan’s work on his website:
Would you have a few minutes to answer Garvan's Survey about growing older and Fashion?
click here ...
April 7, 2011
Come along for tea and buns tonight at 7pm as we launch our gorgeous exhibition 'Earliest Memories Through a Pinhole Camera', 7pm, First Floor Gallery ... Read more on Garvan's Blog Here ... http://garvangallagher.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/earliest-memories-through-a-pinhole-camera/
Draíocht’s programming strives to provide opportunities of engagement with a wide variety of high quality, enjoyable, challenging and meaningful arts experiences for the community. Our Visual Arts and Youth Arts Programmes endeavour to support and encourage visual artists through our residency scheme, gallery exhibitions, facilitated projects and lectures. Earliest memories through a Pinhole camera is not only a beautiful exhibition of work, it also represents an effort to fulfil these commitments and demonstrates our dedication to developing innovative and socially relevant projects by building collaborative relationships with excellent visual artists and members of our immediate community.
This exhibition has its roots in the development of a 15 month residency scheme for Draíocht’s artist studio. As part of this residency, the artist would facilitate a community project to culminate in an exhibition shown during Spréacha – Fingal’s International Arts Festival for Children. By ensuring a quality of experience, twinned with a policy of access at its heart, Spréacha has, in its short life become a bench mark for Irish children’s festivals. By combining theatre performances with family days, workshops and specifically programmed exhibitions, the festival is about a whole arts experience. This year’s exhibition takes access quite literally by programming work not only for people in the community, but also by people in the community.
For the success of this project, it was important that the facilitating artist had a willingness to share their expertise and knowledge and an inherent interest and commitment to community involvement that mirrored our own. Garvan Gallagher was such an artist. His engaging photographic work looking at the invisibility of older people mixed with our history and experience of working with younger people made his suggestion of an Intergenerational project an exciting concept. As intergenerational suggests the project was made up of young and not so young participants. They gathered in Draíocht for weekly workshops, dark room sessions, discussions and tea breaks, along with walks and museum visits. The culminating exhibition Earliest memories through a Pinhole camera clearly reflects the great creativity, effort and energy on behalf of Garvan and the thirteen participants. Behind this exhibition lie two of Draíocht’s core values; the on-going support of professional artists and the continued nurturing of our relationships in the community, which allowed schools and parents to entrust their students to us and gave older people the confidence to take part in this project.
In a contemporary world, outside the family, there are not many opportunities for younger and older people to work together. This project created a space for these different groups to come together in a way that may not have been otherwise possible. By promoting such interaction between mixed audiences, we encourage new and shared experiences. These experiences work to promote the acceptance of differences, to overcome prejudice and stereotypes. This element is powerfully seen in the decided subject matter of the participants. Rather then focusing and identifying their differences the project explores a shared experience. One that we all share regardless of age, gender or background - that of an early memory. This project has also allowed members of the community to become cultural producers themselves; part of an artistic process that puts them at the very centre of Draíocht’s programming and projects.
Draíocht would like to thank and congratulate Garvan and all the artists involved. While the outcome is manifested in a wonderful exhibition of art work, we also hope that the process and experience of the project is something that lasts as a positive, new memory that will stay with each participant well into the future.
Children and Youth Arts Co-ordinator
Visual Arts Administrator
July 21, 2010
Hi, my name is Garvan Gallagher and I'm an artist currently working with Draíocht Arts Centre in Blanchardstown until next year, and I'm looking for participants who are retired and up for a bit of adventure.
The project I'm undertaking is a photographic one and has a serious message. It's to do with the idea of invisibility that retired people commonly talk about. I made a previous photographic project with retired people in my hometown in Donegal, and the subject was raised by most of them. City life would probably be no different. Some felt that since they are over 65 and retired, their status in society had been downgraded as such. Some of them commented on younger people not acknowledging them, often looking right past them.
My 15-month residency with Draíocht offers me the chance to extend that research and make a new body of work that looks at this idea of invisibility within the older generation in Ireland. For this project, my research begins at an important source of our collective obsession with youth – the fashion-advertising image. The advertising industry makes money from promoting youth. Historically, it has been in their interest to promote ageing as something ugly and avoidable. That may be something that will soon be confined to history, as our older population is increasing all the time as we live longer and healthier lives. The advertising industry predominately targets a younger audience with younger skinner beautiful models, with fashion also geared to that genre.
The question my project will ask therefore is, ‘do older people abandon fashion, or does fashion abandon older people?’. Are older people invisible also to the fashion industry? I want to use the idea of printed media, the glossy magazine, the Vogue's and various other fashion shoots celebrating youth and promoting glamour, as the inspiration for giving older people a stage to look as beautiful and glamorous as their youthful counterparts. I will attempt to re-create fashion shots with older people as opposed to what society would normally expect to see – that of a younger body.
The process would be a slow one; a person could get photographed many times in the space of a year, allowing them time to get used to the process and to me, and hopefully have a really good time doing it. I would like the result to be a very strong comment on what we as a society perceive to be 'beautiful'. The work will be exhibited in an exhibition at Draíocht in September 2011.
Please get in touch if you feel like getting involved. You can email me: <ggATSIGNgarvangallagher.com>, or just call into Draíocht and say hi, we'll have a cup of coffee and I'll answer any questions you have. Bring your friends and get them all involved. The more the merrier!
In the meantime, I've created a questionnaire for anyone over 50 to help me with my research:
If you are interested in taking part, please call in to Draíocht and we'll arrange a time for you to meet with Garvan, or phone us on 8852622.
March 12, 2010
Draíocht’s New Artist in Residence Garvan Gallagher has started (on 1 March 2010) and will stay with us until the end of June 2011, our first ever 15 month residency.Draíocht’s staff officialy welcomed Garvan with tea and buns this week and he showed us some of his past work.
Image: Garvan Gallagher / ‘Sarah McGill, 1911’, Photography, 2008
Garvan will develop his own personal practice along side engaging in a specific community engagement project in the areas Youth Arts, an 'intergenerational' project involving young people and the elderly in Dublin 15. The residency will result in a solo exhibition of Gallagher’s personal work and a concluding exhibition for the Youth Arts Project to be held during the period of Spréacha, Fingal’s Annual International Arts Festival for Children, in 2011.
Gallagher’s practice is primarily through lens-based mediums, photography and film, frequently centralizing a single figure within a specific environment. His work often references the social body and investigates how society shapes people as human beings, as well as engaging with the fundamental issue of how trust comes to be mutually constituted between artist and subject.
Stay in touch with Garvan on his website and blog and see some of his past work: http://www.garvangallagher.com/