Des Kenny talks to Aisling Conroy, Artist in Residence at Draíocht
18 February 2013
While visiting Aisling Conroy, the new Artist in Residence in Draíocht, I was surprised to find a large body of work nearing completion. Normally an artist will spend time formulating ideas during the initial phase of a studio residency, but Aisling has a solo show in the Talbot Gallery at the end of February and is under pressure to finish this body of work before beginning new work for a show in June at Draíocht. An intense air of restless purpose combined with fraught solicitude permeated the studio space. There was a desire to have all the works replete with artistic intent and anxious that they will hold up to the scrutiny of her peers. I was intruding, taking up precious time, interfering with the definitive decision making process that occurs when an artist determines what works are fit for showing.
On the end wall hung three works constructed from corrugated card board boxes. The central piece in black circular shapes dominates the wall. The black circular forms expand over the wall and penetrate ominously into the studio space. A black hole in the dark heavens contracts and pulls all light inward but this dark sculptural form wants to grow chaotically outwards and devour the light and space around it. Yet we should not view this in dread, science has stated that a great part of the universe is constructed of dark matter and perhaps Aisling is trying to give shape to something we cannot perceive or understand. To the right is a work in a dense yellow presented in layered rectangles and again made with corrugated cardboard. This work seems more contained without the wish to grow incrementally beyond its own fullness. Yellow appears to engender a calming effect and Aisling understanding the natural force of colour allows it dictate the sculptures organic growth.
Aisling's Studio Space in Draíocht
At the base of these sculptures are numbers of paintings leaning against the wall. Each has a singular coloured blob on a white ground. On top of these works, fine lines made with black thread lend a feeling of depth to the picture plain. The flat sections of vivid pulsating colour float above the white ground due to the illusion of the fabricated shapes created by black threads. These threaded forms impart a mystical quality and intimate the elemental coded signs found in ancient religions. Aisling informed me of her interest in religious iconography and how religious art invokes a transcendental experience in the believer. The artist attempts to evoke this transforming religious experience in her paintings by the meditive use of colour and symbols. She is interested in the mystical pursuit of the sublime found in the core beliefs of all religions. Her abstracted forms do not belong to the confined narrow interpretation of one belief system but opens the viewer to diverse rites of passage that allows us experience the sublime in everyday reality. These paintings can function as a portal to spiritual transformation.
We were sitting down having a cup of tea, chatting about various aspects of artistic life and the difficulties we encounter while we gaze at the three sculptures attached to the studio wall. Aisling paused in mid sentence and focusing on the large black wall piece announced "I think I’ll change the colour from a gloss black to a mat black". This change would transform the sculpture from a confrontational object into a whispering shadow found in the mysterious light at dusk. I realised the artist had permitted me to witness creative decision making at its luminous source. Illuminating moments in the creative act are rarely shared, since most artists work in isolation. But moments gather and compress the timescape of a studio space as deadlines approach, so I begged my leave not wishing to intrude any longer. Moments cascade onwards, but they will find no idle corner to rest, during Aisling Conroy’s residency in Draíocht.
Aisling Conroy, 'Void I-IV', corrugated cardboard and enamel paint, 40cm x 40cm, 2011
Desmond Kenny is an artist based in Hartstown, Dublin 15. He is a self taught painter, since he began making art in 1986 he has since exhibited widely in Ireland and abroad, solo shows include Draíocht in 2001, The Lab in 2006 and Pallas Contemporary Projects in 2008. His work is included in many collections including the Office of Public Works, SIPTU, and Fingal County Council. Kenny's practice also incorporates print making and he has been a member of Graphic Studio Dublin since 2004.