Des Kenny talks to Deirdre Byrne, Artist in Residence at Draíocht

May 1, 2012

May 2012

Deirdre Byrne is the current artist in residence at Draíocht Arts Centre.  The studio is a dominion to the creative act,  a world where achievement and failure walk hand in hand with certainty and doubt, imagination is allowed free reign, constrained only by material and monetary limitations. The artist pursues their goal on an emotional tightrope, balanced between art and artifice, without a safety net; in the hope their tempered talent alone will fabricate a work of art. This effusive high wire act can leave an artist emotionally compromised and susceptible to criticism. So with this concern in mind I left outside the studio, the critic’s cold eye and entered this seminal sphere instead to bear witness to the artist’s creative virtuosity.

We initially avoided relating to the art works but instead talked about the studio in Draíocht and laughed about studios in our past with no running water and frozen toilets , electrical outlets that only those with courage and suited in rubber gloves approached. We discussed the disabling costs of framing and trying to source materials for art. All this of course was to disguise my reticence in uttering a wrong word that may destroy a work of art reaching it’s full potential. Most art in a studio are works in progress, cultivated and unfurled petal by petal by the artists flowering imagination, and a withering word can end this journey. But eventually we relaxed in each other’s company and began to look and discuss the works.

Around the studio floor were arranged pen and ink drawings of various sizes. Deirdre looks at landscape not in a traditional descriptive manner but in a conceptual context. Some drawings charter the demise of the Celtic tiger and images of ghost estates float in clouds, harbouring a dark storm which laid waste to this country. In some areas the ink runs like tears through mascara tracing the blemishing effects of the emotional trauma arcing throughout this stunted land. In another drawing a bungalow has a ridiculous number of ornate chimneys protruding through the roof. In the distant past, a tax was charged to residents on the number of hearths found in a house. This tax was partially used to pay for pelts of wolves which roamed our country. Indeed The Blanchardstown Centre now resides on land that was part of a great forest, where wolves roamed. Deirdre takes up this theme in a number of drawings. Wolves walk through a structure which is reminiscent of the town centre. The intersection of past and present are fused together, revealing the connections between the ancient ravaging of our land and the present endowment of calamity we visited upon ourselves. It’s as if Deirdre is professing that the wounds of the past, must find some resolution before we treat today’s desolation.

There were paintings on wood in a germinal state not fully realised but have potential and perhaps we shall see them on the walls of Draíocht in June2012 when Deirdre will have a solo show.

I have a ragged worn belief that art can transform society and on leaving Draíocht, looking across the concourse of the town centre, Deirdre’s art seeded my imagination with ancient forests and roaming wolves and I asked forgiveness for their destructive demise. With my perception of past and present amplified and those ancient shades fading from my mind, that fugitive faith in arts redemptive powers were reinforced.


Deirdre Byrne is Artist in Residence in Draíocht from July 2011 to June 2012.

Deirdre Byrne with Emer McGowan, Director Draiocht


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.

Des Kenny, Rosie Fay and President of Ireland Mary McAleese

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