May 1, 2006

".. When I was 9 years old I wrote a little essay about what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I wrote that I wanted to first become a secretary and live in a big city. Then I would meet my husband, get married, and when I was 40 years old I would become a poet ... Then at age 13 I wanted to be a scientist ...”.
Helena Hugel, May 2006

in conversation with Anne O'Gorman in early May 2006


Brief Introduction:

Puppet Making Project for Schools
To coincide with Spréacha 2006, Draíocht will be running a puppet making project in 5 local primary schools in Dublin 15: St. Mochta’s National School, Scoil an Chroi Ro Naofa Iosa, Tyrellstown Educate Together, Scoil Bride Girls NS and Mary Mother of Hope National School. Helene Hugel, puppet maker, artist and play specialist will be showing the children how to design, create and move their own puppet character over 3 days of workshops to take place in their schools. That way, when the children come to see puppets at Spréacha (12-17 June), they will understand the skill of a puppeteer from the inside-out!

Helene Hugel began her professional career as a puppeteer in 1997 as co-founder and partner of the award winning Púca Puppets where she worked as deviser, maker, performer, and facilitator. She now specialises in the dynamic field of art and health and is engaged as a puppeteer, clown doctor, and arts and health practitioner with certification in hospital play specialism.

Anne: Helene, when you were small, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Helene: When I was 9 years old I wrote a little essay about what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I wrote that I wanted to first become a secretary and live in a big city.  Then I would meet my husband, get married, and when I was 40 years old I would become a poet. This was all written in one essay when I was 9 years. Then at age 13 I wanted to be a scientist. I think even when I went to college, I didn’t really know what I wanted to be. It changes as you grow up, I think.

Anne: And were you interested in theatre and puppets and masks as a child? Are there any clues in your childhood that you would follow this path later?

Helene: Well my mother started and led the youth theatre in my middle school (I grew up in the States). There was no youth theatre there, so mum started that; she was always really interested in youth theatre. So I suppose her interest in drama encouraged me (not that I ever got the leading parts!). And then I was always roping my twin brothers into putting on little plays with the puppets and puppet theatre that my German grandparents sent us. They came all the way from East Germany at a time when there was very little there, and we loved them and we played with them, like kids do, behind the sofa. The puppet theatre even had little curtains, and we’d pull them back, putting on little shows. I would always be saying, ‘let’s perform this, let’s perform that’, and then we would all break into giggles like kids do.

Anne: So there were clues in your childhood …

Helene: Yeah, it’s funny - it’s not something I thought I would go and do. I think it’s a lot to do with your parent’s encouragement too. My Dad was very playful; he would always be speaking to things, like things had a character, like they were alive. Our house is still full of all these strange statues or strange things that my Dad made connections with …

Anne: … And that he animated for you …

Helene: He wouldn’t necessarily make things dance around but there were particular things he’d do. I grew up on a farm and there was this one big piece of farm machinery that my Dad used to call ‘the weather machine’. He used to drive past it going to the grocery store or whatever, and he would sneak out into the field and he would turn it around to face one direction and then the other direction, so that when we passed it, it would be turned the other way and he would say “Look! The weather machine! It’s pointing the other way today kids, you know what that means – it’s going to snow tomorrow or it’s going to be sunny tomorrow”, or whatever and he’d do this regularly - sneak out and make the machine turn, little things like that.

Anne: And is that where your interest in puppets and your interest in theatre came from or is that something that developed maybe later in your childhood, or when you went to college?

Helene: While still living in the States, I applied to Trinity College in Dublin to study English literature and was accepted. Before starting in Trinity I spent a little time with an Irish friend of mine studying in the States for a year and a half. He was studying film, and it was a bit of an arty college, and I’d never really been exposed to art in that way before, as a possibility of something to do with my life, and here I was suddenly surrounded by people who were trying to make a career out of it.

Anne: What college was that?

It was just outside New York City: Suni Purchase, a state university, a particularly arty one. It was very renowned for its film programme, and I met this Irish guy and he introduced me to puppets. He would say “y’know, puppets are great, working with puppets is great” and it was like a light bulb in my head just went ‘bing’! And this whole other world just opened up to me. Unfortunately at that point, I had already made the decision to do literature, so I did go and do that. But all through college I never studied. I was always making puppets and putting on puppet shows! And the Lamberts! My Irish friend from the states said I should make contact with the Lamberts when I came to Ireland. So I did and I spent my Saturdays there and two afternoons a week there so that was like an apprenticeship in puppets!

Anne: Could you tell us about your work in hospitals, how that developed and how you got interested in that?

Helene: My father was a doctor, so I was always aware, growing up, of health and healing and being in that line of work. So when I was working on puppet shows and on the road, there was always a little thing at the back of my mind that was missing, that I couldn’t put my finger on. A couple of years ago I saw an ad where The Ark were looking for people interested in working in the area of arts and health and I thought ‘that’s it’! So I began training as a clown doctor and now spend my time working with children who are staying in hospitals. We make puppets from medical instruments and equipment that the children will see in the course of their stay in hospital and that equipment hopefully becomes much less intimidating when you’ve animated it, made a character from it and put it into a puppet show!

Anne: What is the thing you most enjoy about your work?

Helene: I like the variety and the different people and young people you get to work with and the variety of settings you get to work in – from hospitals to schools to arts centres.

Anne: Helene, thank you for your time and I’m looking forward to us getting out into schools in May, when we work with local schools on the puppetry project!

Helene: Me too!




For further information about this project or the Children & Youth Arts programme please contact: Children & Youth Arts Officer, Draíocht
Tel: 01-809 8029

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

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By Draíocht. Tags: Reviews & Interviews, Youth Arts, Helena Hugel,


April 10, 2006

'My work seeks to explore the power of the images and structures which flow incessantly towards us. The waves of signs, architecture, ads, monuments and art seem to be in limitless supply and have a heavy influence on our thinking and how we experience our world”.
Noel Brennan, April 2006

in conversation with Nicola Murphy on Monday 10 April 2006

Brief Introduction:

Through a specially commissioned installation which directly addresses the architecture of Draíocht’s ground floor gallery, Noel Brennan created his exhibition on site one week before the show opened to the public on 10 March 2006. The central force of this show is the dynamic tension that exists between the artists conceptual choices in the making of an art object and its presence within a purposely designed gallery space.

While making his work in the space Noel Brennan used the architecture of the gallery to impact the sculptural process. The show combines sculpture and photography in addition to other two-dimensional works.

Noel Brennan graduated with a BA in Fine Art from the National College of Art and Design in 2002. Previous exhibitions include, the Goethe Institute 2005, (two person show), Crawford Open 5, 2004, Artomatic/Artomatique and Gallery, 44 Belgium, 2002. He currently works at the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

Draíocht's Ground Floor Gallery, View 1 of Noel Brennan's Exhibition

Q: Can you explain some of the ideas behind your artworks and your practice?

A: My work seeks to explore the power of the images and structures which flow incessantly towards us. The waves of signs, architecture, ads, monuments and art seem to be in limitless supply and have a heavy influence on our thinking and how we experience our world. In Ireland we are living in a time of huge shifts in our environmental and cultural landscape. The cities and towns are expanding at an unprecedented rate, with blocks of buildings going up seemingly overnight. I often wonder how this affects us as citizens. What effect does it have on our senses, our value systems and our discernment? These are just some of the questions which drive my practice.

Q: Tell us about your current exhibition in Draíocht’s Ground Floor Gallery and talk us through some of the works?

A: The most notable features of my practice, which are particularly relevant to this current exhibition, can be broken up into three main areas of development:
1) site-specific sculptures
2) photography based works, and
3) free-standing sculptures

Noel Brennan, 'Leak'

In the construction of the large scale, site-specific sculptures ‘Shine Block’ and ‘Leak’, it is mostly 2”x 1” white deal wood which I’ve predominately used. This wood for me has a regular ‘work-a-day’ aesthetic and a common appearance. It is found in canvas stretchers and building-site carpentry. The 2”x 1” appeals to me because of the natural root contrasted with its machined shape. These sculptural constructions deal directly with the architecture of Draíocht’s Gallery space and surrounds. In working with the form, function and significance of the space the sculptures began to emerge. I painted the surfaces of the wooden lengths in a variety of colours which reference the space and surrounding environment. I’ve used paint to add a synthetic quality to the wood without obliterating its’ natural origin. The colours I’ve chosen compliment and contrast with the local ambience.

Equally, the physical construction is based on a set of relationships which balance, counterbalance and unbalance the space. The creation of dynamic tension is a central aim in the construction of the work.

Noel Brennan, 'Shine Block'

It is the production of similar tensions within the frame that constitute the main concerns in the creation of the photographic works and photo-installations.
The ongoing series Aesthetic Stick (2004-continuing) is a case in point.

The work is enacted through the use of the Aesthetic Stick which is designed as a ruler ‘to measure the degrees of beauty in everything’. The Aesthetic Stick is a hybrid of the primary colours of pigment and the primary colours of light. This ruler is held up against items or scenes of interest and then photographed. The Stick cuts through the composition of each of these photographed measurements. This initiates a set of relationships within the frame and the concept, which are humorous on one level but aggressive and autocratic just behind the surface.

And then in contrast, the free-standing sculptures do not rely upon or react directly to the architecture of the space. These sculptures offer a strong family resemblance to the architectural works yet differ in their scale and their inclusion of non-art objects, like the basin in ‘Nude reclining with tears’, and the wine glass in ‘Aerial’.

These contributing factors lead to a more human quality in these free-standing works. There is a physical dynamism strived for in these pieces. The scale and introduction of familiar objects gives the sculptures an abstracted figurative energy. This component gives me the opportunity to describe the experience of living in the fray, which is being examined in both the environmental and photographic artworks.

Noel Brennan’s exhibition They are doing something on us behind the fog
will be on view in Draíocht’s Ground Floor Gallery until 29 April 2006.

Draíocht’s Galleries are open from Monday to Saturday 10am-6pm and admission is free.

For further information about this exhibition 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: Reviews & Interviews, Visual Arts, Noel Brennan,


September 5, 2005

"I never paint places in my landscapes. They are all in my head and I work them out onto the canvas.” Seán Cotter, Sept 2005.

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Seán Cotter in conversation with Nicola Murphy on Monday 5 September 2005

Brief Introduction:

“Paintings and their imagery can be generated out of the act of drawing. Drawing is useful as a quick method of capturing an idea or format, for a more involved and detailed work later. This is not to dismiss drawings as simply throw away notes, for the essence of a work can sometimes be caught more dramatically within the moments it takes to create a sketch. It can be frustrating and tedious work trying to recreate that snap of drama on canvas. Sometimes there is no point in going any further than a charcoal or mixed media drawing. This is not to say that a canvas can’t send you back to paper. Both feed off each other creating a symbiotic relationship wherein the artist can work and develop ideas.” Seán Cotter July 2005.

After a very successful exhibition of paintings at Eigse Carlow in June of this year, this solo show by Seán at Draíocht is a new body of work comprising mainly of charcoal drawings with one painting and is primarily concerned with the act of drawing, exploring the abstract notions of mood, tonality and sensitivity of line and movement.

Seán’s work has featured in many exhibitions, including both solo and group exhibitions. Before his exhibition in Eigse Carlow in June, Seán’s exhibition Corvidophilia was shown at the Hallward Gallery in Dublin. He has also mounted solo shows at the Galway Arts Centre, the Linenhall Arts Centre (Castlebar), and St John’s Arts Centre (Listowel). His paintings have been included in many group exhibitions in France and Germany, as well as throughout Ireland. Seán’s work is also in private collections in Ireland, England, Scotland, France and the United States.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself, your background, where you’re from and how you got started on the road to becoming an artist?

I was born and raised in Monasterevin, Co Kildare. I grew up on stables, my father trained racehorses, so I grew up riding out the horses. At the age of 13 or 14 I thought that was the way my career was going to go. I never entertained the thought of becoming an artist; I didn’t even know there was such as thing as being an artist as a career. I always loved art in school and it was an aunt of mine who first said to me ‘you’re always painting and you love it, why don’t you become an artist?’ So I latched on to that and there was nothing else on my wish list when leaving school.

I still loved the horses mind and still rode out all through secondary school, and even since then. Unfortunately, De la Salle Brother’s Secondary School didn’t have an art room or an art teacher, so in third year, I was let go to the girl’s school for some art classes. But I got sick of that fairly quickly; say after about 6 months or a year. All we ever did was still life, posters & imaginative composition, and I thought “I can’t do this day in day out”. So I left that go.

So it came to 5 th year and I still hadn’t had any formal art education in school. Then, the school burnt down a month before the summer holidays that year! Luckily they had to build a whole new school and with that came an art room and an art teacher and it was fully kitted out with everything from a kiln to a printing press, the whole works.

So I returned to school in September for my final year. All applications had to be into Art College by January. The new art teacher was fresh out of the National College of Art and Design and we had to work flat out to get my portfolio together. We had a whole CV of 2 years of work to try to get ready in just 4 months. We just blasted into it. We didn’t do any history of art during school, we just worked on painting. And any time I had a free class, I’d come into him in the art room, whether there were other students there or not, and worked in there. We’d stay late in school on Thursdays until 7pm, and on Tuesday nights he drove over to my house on his moped to Monasterevin (about 6 miles away) to do Art History with me. So we became friends out of it. He was only 4 or 5 years older than me. We lost touch after Art College unfortunately. I went to Galway and he went to Carlow. So that’s how I got into NCAD , and I graduated in 1991 with an honours degree in fine art painting.

Q: Was there a real career pull between horses and art?

I loved horses. I loved riding out. They’re lovely animals - the power and speed of them - they get in under your skin and you get so wrapped up in it. Every horse has a completely different character. One could be a real messer, or a pure brat, another could be quiet, or lazy, or you’d think one had the devil inside him – they’re like people. I knew my older brother was definitely going that way career wise, so I decided to give the art a shot. My parents worried initially about me going to Art College – would there be any money in it, would I make a career from it.

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?

I supplement my income working as a stonemason. In art college, I was never quite sure after the first year whether I wanted to do painting or sculpture. So I could see myself going back to sculpture again, especially with the stonework skills I’ve now developed. I’m good with my hands and have projects ticking over in my head the whole time that I can never get around to doing and things that I’d like to do with regard to sculpture – I’d like to think that I wouldn’t limit myself.

I feel if I did teaching or taught art in a college, to be involved in art the whole time, would be quite draining. It would be very hard to go into your studio at night and work on your own work. It works for some people but not for me. So I prefer to be out doing a bit of stonework, making as much money in a short period of time, so then I can take time out to go back to painting.

Painting for me at the moment is just so full on. There’s so much I want to say and do in painting, which very rarely leaves any room for anything else. Before you finish one show you’re thinking about your next show, and you swear for the next show you’ll be more organised, but you just have to run with it. Things are going well with the painting now, so I’m hoping I won’t have to go back to the stonework for a while.

Q: When you started out in Art College what was your subject matter?

In college I worked on notions of history and Irish mythology, the bog and things buried in the bog. I grew up in Monasterevin, which is in the Bog of Allen. So landscape and place became important. So my pallet was very full of burnt sienna, ochre’s and naples yellow. I never really included people in those paintings. I might have included something that could have been interpreted as a person in the distance, or there might even be a hint of wings or something, to link in with the mythology and crows.

I never paint places in my landscapes. They are all in my head and I work them out onto the canvas.

Q: So take us through your life after Art College to now?

I went to Galway for 8 or 9 years, got married and had my 3 children there. I tried to give the art career a go. I did posters and window designs for shops. It was quite hard.

From 1994 to 1998 I was a member of Artspace Studios in Galway, a collective of Artists that included Ger Sweeney, Marja Van Kampen, Ruth McHugh and Kathleen Furey. During that time we moved from temporary studios in Dominic Street, beside the Arts Centre, by raising finance to get a long-term lease site in industrial estate premises, with the help of Michael D Higgins, who was the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht at the time. So we got a permanent home for Artspace Studios, which also included about 4 to 6 studios in the Black Box Theatre in Galway. So we went from having 6 temporary spaces to having 14-15 long-term studios that we could use for artists, or for when we travelled shows.

We went as part of L’Imaginaire Irlandais to Lyon for a major show and part of what came out of that was a show that included five artists from Artspace Studios, five from Germany (Ludwigshafen) and five from France (Laurient). There was a workshop and exhibition in Laurient of the 15 artists, and another the next year in Germany for 10 days, and then the next year it all came to Ireland to the Galway Arts Centre for a big exhibition.

Also in 1994 I got a solo show as the Emerging Artist in the Galway Arts Festival. I did that show about Irish Mythology, and one particular character Tuan, who describes the history of Ireland – Tuan was a man left over from a mythological race and he was the last one to survive. And when Tuan died he became an eagle. And when he died as an eagle he became a stag. Then when he died as a stag he became a salmon. And he saw the mythological history of Ireland unfolding in those eyes, with the Fir Bolg, the Tuatha De Dannan etc. I sold most of the pieces in that show, so I was delighted.

I went to Donegal in 1999 and did a stonemason course and it was in the middle of that that my personal life went a bit haywire and my marriage split up. I finished the stonemason course in 2000 and I had taken a break from painting between 1998 and 2000, I still kept my hand in with some charcoals and a few drawings, but not really painting.

After that I came back and did the show Corvidophilia , which is all about the love of blackbirds and crows. I just used to see them all over the place, on the landscape. I started to read about them, finding out interesting facts about them, how smart and clever they are, how family oriented they are. And also I suppose there was a bit of the dark side to them - I saw them as positive, but some people saw the black crows as heavy and dark and a bit gothic. Corvidophilia was in the Arts Centre in Galway upstairs, and Ruth McHugh had a show at the same time downstairs.

Following on from that, I brought Corvidophilia to the Hallward Gallery in Merrion Square in Dublin. Since then I’ve been with the Hallward, who have shown two solo shows of mine and are getting ready for the third.

In 2001, after the Corvidophilia show, I wanted to get back into the painting full time and go at it hell for leather and see if I could make a real go at it and do what I wanted.

So it’s been a real balancing act, between the children, the stonework and the painting for the last couple of years, so now I’m trying to get rid of the stonework and make the painting pay! I now share my time between Monasterevin in Kildare and Ardee in Louth.

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

I’ve always admired other painters – not necessarily with regard to the subject matter, but with the method of the painting – the real blood and guts of painting, getting stuck in there, messing about with the paint, discovering the paint and seeing what you can do with it. So I love artists that revel in the joy of painting – you can tell who they are.

Irish wise, I do love Ger Sweeney’s work. I’d be an admirer of Paddy Graham, Sean Scully, Hughie O’Donoghue, Francis Tansey and I love Debi O’Hehir’s sculptures. In England, I like Christopher LeBrun, Therese Oulton and Frank Auerbach.

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

If I’m having a bad day I normally don’t work on any pieces that are close to being resolved. You’re playing with fire and could completely mess up the image and loose everything. So you might start on a new canvas, or make up some stretchers, or clean up the studio. Or get out of the studio and so something else – do the shopping or something. If it’s not going to happen, it’s not going to happen.

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

Well I have a great relationship with the Hallward, people are used to seeing my work there.

I do promote myself through my website too. My website came about from just sitting in a pub in Monasterevin. I got talking to a fellow beside me who was in the industry and had just moved down from Dublin. I was saying I was thinking of getting a website, and he was thinking of doing websites himself. So he did my website for nothing and used it as promo for himself. So we’ve been friends since.

I try to put a painting or two aside for myself every year. I do sell well, so I’d have very little work left if I didn’t put some pieces aside.

Q: Do you have any advice you could give to an artist just starting out?

You need to take advantage of whatever situations come along. If certain people have expressed interest in your work and say that it’s good, then contact them and see if they can help you out. That’s what I’d say to younger artists. Especially if it’s another artist – I’ve had tremendous help from other artists, who’ve put my name forward, like Francis Tansey and Ger Sweeney. Good artists who respect each other champion each other and offer mutual support.

Q: Could you tell us a little more about your current exhibition in Draíocht? How did the exhibition come about and can you describe the work a little?

Initially I was going to do a show of paintings, but when Carissa (Draíocht’s Visual Arts Officer) saw some of my charcoals in my studio that were heading over to England to a gallery there, she suggested I do a show of charcoals instead. So last year I started thinking about what I was going to do. I wanted to keep things quite stark – black and white - making for stronger images.

The concept was brewing for a long time. The inspiration came from my ongoing relationship with the imagery of the crow; I like using the crow, because it is the symbol for family from ancient Egypt. Crows and ravens are very family orientated and mate for life. A family of crows will live together, and if the fledglings mature and don’t find a partner, they stay and help the parents raise the next brood. It’s an iconic bird really and it works well in an Irish context as well as internationally.

I also try to have an emotional connection with the charcoals and combine my interest in crows with my own personal experiences at the same time. For example, I might put three birds together on a line and that’s my way of personalising the work. Each bird represents one of my children.

I would like to think that I put titles on the paintings that give a slight key to where I’m coming at. But I’ve never really sat down and written a paragraph about where the paintings have their origin.

In this exhibition in Draíocht, the charcoals of seedheads for instance reminded me of seedheads initially, but it started more with the circle and the black hole. You kind of get sucked down into it. I like the idea behind that, because when you look at it first you see yourself reflected in it because it’s so black. But its not de-lineated, so you never know when you’ll slip in or out of it, so I have it breaking up, dispersing, so it works as just purely landscape as well as on another more subconscious level.

Skyband is a painting from 2003 and when I started to think about the charcoals I thought that Skyband would work quite well because of the amount of dark and light in it. On a purely aesthetic level I knew it would work, but also on a theoretical level, with the crows (family) and the dramatic play that takes place within the piece.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I don’t know exactly where I’ll be in 10 years but I would like to think that things will have settled down a bit more. My children will be raised and in college hopefully and I’ll be in my comfortable quarter with a little more freedom.

I want to be exhibiting more internationally. I have ambitions that I would like to fulfil as an artist. I’ll still only be in my mid to late forties at that stage, still young enough.

Q: Do you have other interests and hobbies outside of painting and drawing?

I do have, but I don’t have time to do them at the moment. I think life takes over in your 30s – you’re always in such a rush!

I like going to the races the odd time. If I had a few more pounds I’d buy ‘a leg of a horse’ for the interest. I definitely love the sea and want to live by the sea. I’d love to take up scuba diving, because I love the feeling of weightlessness and the freedom that you get when snorkelling and being under water. I’d also like to take up drag hunting, riding horses through the countryside following a predestined scent – it’s a great way to socialise too ending up in the pub after a day out riding. That’s if I ever get time for it.

Q: So what’s coming up for you after Draíocht?

There’s a solo show of large-scale new paintings in Droichead Arts Centre, Drogheda in October. After that I’ve a solo show of more new work in November opening in the Hallward Gallery, Dublin. And there’s a couple of Galleries in London I’ve to sort out a few things for next year.

Seán Cotter’s exhibition Drawings and Other Work will be on view in Draíocht’s First Floor Gallery from 1 September to 15 October 2005

For further information see:

For media information please contact:
Nicola Murphy, Marketing Press & PR Manager, Draíocht / Tel: 01-809 8021
Visual Arts Administrator, Draíocht / Tel: 01-809826

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By Draíocht. Tags: Reviews & Interviews, Visual Arts, Sean Cotter,


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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

‘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?

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: Reviews & Interviews, Visual Arts, Stephanie Joy,


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:


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!



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!" 


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.


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 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!



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: Reviews & Interviews,

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