A Fond Farewell to Garvan Gallagher

May 31, 2011

A Fond Farewell to Garvan Gallagher

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 ... 

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By Draíocht. Tags: Artist Interview, Visual Arts, Garvan Gallagher,

Artist Interview – Michael Wann

April 14, 2011

Website interview with Michael Wann – 14 April 2011

Brief Intro:

Wann’s work is specifically drawing-based, and juxtaposes arbitrary or transient images of cleared landscape, with more thought provoking depictions of the dereliction of habitation. The work is as much about a process of mark-making as it is about representing a seemingly neglected landscape.

Born in Dublin in 1969, Wann lives and works in Co. Sligo. He has held solo exhibitions at the Linenhall Arts Centre, Castlebar (2005), the Ashford Gallery at the RHA (2009), and Sligo Art Gallery (1999, 2002, 2005, 2009), where he won an Iontas Drawing Award in 2000. He has been awarded residencies at the Cill Riallaig Project, Co. Kerry (2001, 2004, 2008, 2010), and fellowships at the Ballinglen Arts Foundation in North Mayo (2007, 2008). He has been selected for the RHA’s Annual Exhibition since 2004, where in 2006 he was awarded the AXA Insurance Drawing Prize. In 2010 Hughie O’Donoghue selected Michael’s work for both the Tom Caldwell Drawing Prize and the Rowel Friers Perpetual Trophy at the Royal Ulster Academy’s 129th Annual show.

“Michael Wann’s fragile ephemeral images of derelict buildings depict a rare transient quality which is both harrowing and beautiful, evoking themes of memory, neglect and loss. Despite, or because of his expert skill as a draughtsman, it is within the versatility of the medium (charcoal and water on fine grain canvas) that there exists a delicate balance, between an imperfection of process and an exacting act of observation, adding a poignant vulnerability to this new body of work.”

Clea van der Grijn


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

I’m from Dublin originally. I came to Sligo in 1987 to do a one-year cert. in art and design, and pretty much never left. Sligo’s dramatic landscape caught hold of me straight away, and thoughts of returning to city life dwindled. I completed a Diploma in Fine Art at the then Sligo RTC’s art department. Sean McSweeney was our painting lecturer, and in retrospect I realise it was he who introduced me to the notion of the importance of a ‘sense of place’. He spoke of the landscape in a way I hadn’t heard before. I live in north Sligo, on the edge of Lissadell estate. It’s a place I miss when I’m away from it, and coming home is almost always a relief.

Q: When you were small, what did you want to be when you grew up? Were there any clues in your childhood that you would follow an artistic path later?

I’m told I always scribbled and drew as a child, though I have little recollection of it. As a teenager at school art was an automatic choice and I don’t remember ever wanting to do anything else.

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

When I left college in 1992 I had no notion of what to do and knew little about being a professional working artist. The diploma I did was great for making you love the smell of oil paint or teaching you how to make a stretcher, but in terms of information or support in how to be an artist it was pretty crap. I didn’t want to study further as that would have meant city life somewhere. I worked on a shellfish farm for ten years and made drawings on the kitchen table by night. I’ve always felt that ‘drawing’ chose me, rather than me it.

Q: When did you create your first work and what was your subject matter?

My first work?!? Jeepers…I made a series of paintings for my diploma which were loosely concerned with the relatively murky issues surrounding my being adopted. I suppose I’d consider that as my first venture into making ‘real’ work, though needless to say it was studenty and indulgent…

Q: Has your style changed over the years and what might have influenced this change if yes?

I’ve been working in black and white for twenty years now, with occasional forays into colour. But I’m always drawn back to monochrome. As an artist you cant help but be influenced by other work that you see, and these influences can be subtle or direct, but also can be very slow to emerge in your own work. I remember seeing Leonardo’s Virgin and Child in the National Gallery in London as a teenager and being blown away by it. And strangely enough it remains a must see on occasional trips there. Some days in the studio I’m working on very detailed things, spending hours or days getting detail right, then the next day I might be hopelessly pushing charcoal around a massive piece of paper, and generally making a big grey mess. It depends

Michael Wann, No Ghosts 1, charcoal & wash on canvas, 70 x 70cm

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

I take an awful lot of photos for my work, but always regard this as a backup to the main event of drawing. I sometimes think I’d like to do some sculpture, and certainly printmaking holds a fascination.

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

There’s too many to mention really. Let’s see…when you see work in the flesh it makes a huge difference, so seeing Picasso’s ‘Gurnica’ in Madrid was an unforgettable experience. I never really ‘got’ Matisse while in college, but seeing some of them in New York changed that. I love the work of Jean Baptiste Corot, but really, there are too many artists both long dead and contemporary that I admire... In terms of contemporary Irish work, I remember being blown away by Diarmuid Delargy’s prints, so influenced by Rembrandt’s etching, Picasso’s too, but so very much their own. I’m also as influenced by poetry and fiction, Cormac McCarthy being a major influence on my thinking about landscape and the representation of it.

Michael Wann, No Ghosts 3, charcoal & wash on canvas, 70 x 70cm

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

Very occasionally a piece of work will breath or sing all on its own, either during the making of it, or rarer again, long after completion. Often when you’re right in the middle of it it’s the most rewarding time, lost to all the flotsam of daily life and absorbed fully in the mark-making process. That place where everything tastes of charcoal and your arm and brain buzz from the repeated discovery of all the types of marks you can make, rational and intentional, or spontaneous, accidental and random. Stopping, knowing when a thing is done is as important as anything; I’m guilty continually of over-working a drawing and watching it die right there before me.

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

Just keep working generally. Work through the frustration or failure. Or just go home, focus on life’s other surprises; there’s nothing like daily life to make you realise your work isn’t half as special as you sometimes think, and going back into the studio next day I often feel this; which of course just makes you push harder towards making it better…

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

It’s gotten easier as my work has become a little better known. And I’ve become more confident about talking about my work, which is an essential part of being an artist but also an understandably difficult thing for many artists. The recession has impacted on the arts across the board and in terrible ways. I made a living from my work for many years. That’s gone now; I’ve seen my entire salary wiped out almost overnight. It’s a hard hard time for all. Somehow though, being in the studio and working hard has never really been about money. It’s always rewarding to sell work of course, but in the making of it, the notion of sale mustn’t be a feature. If it does, in my experience, there’s more chance that the work is failing, or isn’t as true as it might be.

Q: Could you tell us a little more about your exhibition in Draíocht’s Ground Floor Gallery ‘Derelict’? Do you go looking for specific derelict buildings, and if yes, how do you choose which ones to draw?

Most of my work is about the notion of neglect or abandonment, within a landscape-based context. There are personal themes underlying the work of course. ‘Derelict’ as a body of work, evolved from time spent on residency at the Ballinglen Foundation in Ballycastle Co. Mayo and at the Cill Rialig artists’ retreat in Ballinskelligs Co. Kerry a number of years ago. I had been aware for a number of years that my birth father had died in Kerry, and having never met him, felt an odd kind of draw to the county. And so choosing abandoned dwellings as a reference point seemed like a way of somehow striving to make a vague connection, or to articulate a sense of loss or regret for things past…

Michael Wann, The Past is Stone, charcoal on canvas, 70 x 70cm

Q: When I look at your work, I’m immediately drawn towards the houses that remind me of my grandparent’s house. Do people often tell you about their memories of certain buildings, jolted perhaps by looking at your work?

People react differently to some of my work. There is a natural nostalgia in many of us I think. I’m not necessarily that interested in nostalgia per se, not where the derelict buildings are concerned; as I said before, its more to do with articulating or understanding a sense of loss, whether it be deeply personal, or just about changing times and the natural cycle of the crumble and decay of habitation.

Q: You have two more exhibitions coming up this year, can you tell us a little bit about them?

I’m showing at the Cross Gallery in Dublin in July of this year, with an exhibition called ‘we seek another place to rest’. It’s a show of small and large-scale drawings of piles of sticks and other features of neglect. In some ways it’s a much more personal show than ‘Derelict’, at least that’s how it feels, as it charts in an indirect way more profound issues of trauma and loss. But of course folk can just see it as drawings of sticks if they want… Then I’ve a show with Droichead Arts Centre in August entitled ‘Sticks and Stones’. Can you guess what that one’s about?!?

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

Study law………only joking. Dunno really, what ever you’re making that it be the best it can be, in terms of technique or facility of medium. I was never any good when I started out at promoting myself, and it’s a vital part of the art world, to either be able to do it yourself or better again have a gallery do it for you.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Making work.

Q: What are your interests and hobbies outside of drawing?

Music, books, walking, the inexplicable ‘looking’ at landscape, boating on the Shannon, my family, all that stuff…

You can find more information about Michael’s work on his website:


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By Draíocht. Tags: Artist Interview, Michael Wann,

Interview with Actor Myles Breen - 29 October 2010

October 29, 2010

Interview with Actor Myles Breen - 29 October 2010

Draiocht's Nicola Murphy caught up with actor, writer and director Myles Breen, ahead of his performance in Draiocht on 5 November 2010 in his play 'Language Unbecoming a Lady':

Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself, where you’re from?

I am from Limerick. Born and reared. Went to college in U.C.C, and graduated with a B. Comm. Much to my parents surprise after college I told them I didn’t want to be an accountant but an actor.

Q: How old were you when you got your start in acting?

As a child I did speech and drama and also was in a number of productions “as gaeilge” with Buion Phadraig an amateur Irish language theatre company in Limerick. My first big break was being cast in Clash of the Ash in 1986.

Myles Breen in Language Unbecoming a Lady

Q: Did you always know you wanted to act? Or What inspired you to become an actor?

My mother says I always wanted to act, and it is really her fault. She loves theatre and music so when me and my younger brother John (who also went into the business as a director and writer. He wrote Alone it Stands) were kids she dragged us to everything from musicals to plays.

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

One of the performances that really inspired me was Donal McCann in the original production of The Faith Healer by Brian Friel. Even now nearly 20 years later I remember that performance vividly.

Myles Breen in Language Unbecoming a Lady

Q: What has been your favourite acting part to date?

Writing and performing my own one man show has been the biggest challenge I’ve had up to date, and I have been overwhelmed by the reaction of audiences gay, straight, young and old. A show which I am still all these years later proud to have been involved in is Island Theatre Co.’s production of Pig Town by Mike Finn.

Q: Do you have a favourite play?

Of course I would like to say my own play, but any time I have had the opportunity to see or perform in a Shakespeare play, I am amazed at his talent both for drama and poetry. A Midsummer Night’s dream is a particular favourite

Myles Breen in Language Unbecoming a Lady

Q: Are you a full time actor or do you have another job as well?

Like any actor you do a little bit of everything. I have worked as a director, choreographer, workshop leader, and performed on murder mysteries.

Q: What’s the hardest thing about being an actor?

In some ways the uncertainty about what’s going to come up next, though this is a downside it also means that surprises can happen.

Myles Breen in Language Unbecoming a Lady
Q: If you weren’t an actor, what would like your job to be?

Euro Lotto Multi Millionaire

Q: What inspired you to write ‘Language Unbecoming a Lady’?

The story started off with this image of a drag queen removing the costume, make up etc and revealing the man underneath the character. As I started writing it the drag queen persona and the real life of the man who created her developed. It covers one gay mans life from growing up in the 70’s to the present day, and so reflects the changes in society of how gay people are perceived and treated.

Q: How long did it take you to write?

The idea had been mulling around in my head for a year, but the whole play was written in about 2 months.

Myles Breen in Language Unbecoming a Lady

Q: What can audiences expect to experience at this show? Can you tell us a bit about the story?

The show covers many events and emotions in this one gay man’s life. Some funny, some sad, some ridiculous. Of course a big part of the story is his alter ego the Divine Diana. I hope audiences will like her take on life and love and also her taste in music, all the classics from Barbara Judy and Doris.

Q: What’s it like acting in a play that you’ve also written? Do you ever disagree with the Director because it’s so personal to you as a writer and actor?

As both the writer and the performer there really is no place to hide. Liam O’ Brien my director is also a good friend so his response to the material and his ability to push me without me knowing it has been brilliant. Though some of the piece is semi autobiographical other elements are taken from friends experiences as well as just imagined.

Myles Breen in Language Unbecoming a Lady

Q: What's the best bit of advice anyone has ever given you?

It’s a quote from the movie the Dresser. “Struggle and Survive”

Q: What advice would you in turn give to someone thinking of acting as a career or who is just starting out?

When I started it was possible to train on the job. However today it is important to go for professional training. It’s a very competitive world and the more skills you have the better.

Q: So what’s coming up next for you after this show?

After the tour I start rehearsals for panto. I have been playing the Dame in panto in Limerick since 1997. It is one of my favourite roles as an actor. It is hard work because it uses every skill you have. There is singing, dancing, comedy and pratfalls. Also panto is most people’s first experience of the theatre and I know that as a child I was blown away by it.


Thanks to Myles Breen for taking some time out of rehearsals to chat to Nicola Murphy.

You can find more information about Myles and Bottom Dog Theatre Company at: 

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By Draíocht. Tags: Artist Interview, Theatre, Myles Breen,

Artist Interview Holly Dungan

May 7, 2010

Artist Interview Holly Dungan, 7 April 2010, in conversation with Nicola Murphy:

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

I grew up in New Ross, Co. Wexford and from there, I moved up to Dublin after my Leaving Cert in 2003 to study Fine Art in DIT. I was based in Galway for about a year where I did my Masters in Arts Policy and Practice but for the moment, I’m splitting my time between Wexford and Dublin, about to begin my dissertation and then I will hopefully move on to somewhere new and exciting.

Q: When you were small, what did you want to be when you grew up? Were there any clues in your childhood that you would follow an artistic path later?

Only two dream occupations stick out in my memory when I was little: to be a famous artist and travel the globe or else, become a professional tennis player! I can barely hit a tennis ball, nor do I own a racket so at this stage; the latter is starting to look the most likely. I suppose in terms of looking for clues, there were loads. I was always involved in lots of school activities and youth organisations that put a huge emphasis on arts and crafts and I was encouraged to enter a lot of art competitions. In fact, a whole portfolio of childhood drawings still exists somewhere and the odd plastic plaque!

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

I wouldn’t call myself a full time artist in that I don’t have a studio but it’s what I have been pursuing on a part-time basis since I left college in 2008. I always knew I was going to enter the arts in some way, there was never a question I would go down another route. I feel it is just the way I’m programmed, I simply wouldn’t be happy otherwise. So I may as well make it doing something I love. 

Q: Perhaps 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 have every intention to pursue a career in arts administration which will still allow me to be at the forefront in driving the arts as opposed to being a small part; mind you being the visual artist is still an extremely important part. Previous jobs I’ve had have usually allowed me time in the evenings when I did decide to sit down and work. God bless the 9 to 5.

Q: What materials do you like to work with and when did you create your first drawing?

Without a doubt its Caran d’ache crayons especially in Greyish Black, which at this stage, sticks of it just live at the bottom of my handbag and my favourite Uni Pin black pens. I first started drawing as soon as I could grab a pencil, cheesy I know but it’s actually true.

Q: Has your style changed over the years and what might have influenced this change if yes?

I wouldn’t say my style has changed over the years, more so it has developed. I suppose in college, we were set different projects and briefs which meant I couldn’t always do what I wanted but come 4th year, I was determined to work in the style you see today, that of small, ink drawings. In relation to other artists, I’m still finding my feet.

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

When I did Fine Art, I was lucky to be in a course that gave you the opportunity to try your hands at many different art forms so in DIT, I did everything: print, sculpture, painting, digital media and photography. It became clear soon after, these art forms were not for me; I’m not one for hassle, Ha!

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

Elizabeth Magill is a major influence for me, her work is simply stunning, and I could look at it happily for hours. Other artists I admire include the likes of Peter Doig, Lars Nyberg, Louis le Brocqui, and Kara Walker. I could keep going with this list. You can tell I adore contre-jour.

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

Once I start, it’s a joy to simply switch off from the real world and loose yourself for a bit. If I’m working on one piece for any long period of time, I may put on some music or a film and totally relax.

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

I generally find if I’m having a bad day drawing, I’ll keep trying to find new ways to look at the piece, for example standing back, turning the work upside down or looking at it through a mirror, until a new idea comes and I’ll start re-working it. If that doesn’t work, I stand back and leave it for another time but then it’s always at the back of my mind.

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

It was a lot easier then I thought especially when I left college and found that many galleries were willing to exhibit my work but this was several years ago and not the current economic climate we’re enduring right now. My grad show gave me fantastic exposure and I exhibited in some great spaces, however several of these spaces don’t exist anymore which is terribly sad. Naturally, it isn’t the best time to be an artist.

Q: Could you tell us a little more about your exhibition ‘Woodstock’, currently in Draíocht’s First Floor Gallery? Did you go on location somewhere to draw the trees? Why do some have colour and some not?

This exhibition is basically the biggest exploration regarding this theme of tress that I have undertaken, before it was always done on a smaller scale, two or three here and there for small exhibits but since the space called for plenty, I decided to really go for it, it was my chance to experiment and see how far I could go with them as images. That’s where the idea of the cluster came from, the diptych and the overall arrangement. I took the majority of images for this show at a place called Woodstock in Co. Kilkenny which is where the title comes from, though not all came from there. It’s truly a fantastic place to go, extraordinary scenes and trees of the exotic nature. It used to be an abandoned paradise so to speak but Kilkenny County Council is doing great work to restore it to its former glory. Regarding why some have colour and some don’t, is simply an issue of variety, all the images are different fundamentally so that goes for the general composition and colour as well, its easy to allow them to become simply uniform shape which is something I’m opposed to. 

Q: Have you any other exhibitions coming up?

No, not at the moment, currently I’m just going to focus on my MA dissertation but you never know!

Q: Where can people find out more about your work? Have you a website?

Ooh, I don’t have a website, I don’t consider myself there yet, I don’t even put my work up on facebook but maybe I should. I’m shy about promoting myself that way.  

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

Simply get your work out there, bring it to the attention of galleries and spaces, it doesn’t matter where they stand in relation to commercial or not-for-profit, just so long as people get to see them and that you’re constantly working towards something.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Returning to Ireland post-recession with an impressive CV managing major international arts centres and festivals and still producing and selling art with my own specially built studio space! Lovely!! I’ll definitely be coming back and looking for this part of the interview in 10 years time!  

Q: What are your interests and hobbies outside of art?

Music would be a major interest; I play the classical violin, enjoy singing and also make it a priority to get to different music festivals when I get the chance. Film is also a big interest as well as general merriment and all things ridiculous and funny!  


Enjoy a snippet of Holly's Artists Talk given on Saturday 17 April 2010 in Draiocht's First Floor Gallery ...

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By Draíocht. Tags: Artist Interview, Visual Arts, Holly Dungan,

Artist Interview - Joe Hogan

April 27, 2010

Website interview with Joe Hogan, one of the Curators of Draíocht’s current Exhibition,
'European Baskets', In association with The Crafts Council of Ireland
Fri 9 Apr - Sat 29 May 2010 // DRAÍOCHT, GROUND FLOOR GALLERY // Free Admission // Open Mon-Sat 10am-6pm

Joe Hogan

Brief Introduction:
This exhibition features work by almost 80 of Europe’s leading basket-makers in materials ranging from wire to willow and includes both contemporary, sculptural work and traditional techniques. Visitors to the gallery will see how the work varies hugely from country to country, as do the materials. Curators Joe Hogan (Ire) and Mary Butcher (UK) are passionate about exposing people to these wonderful, age-old techniques.

Sadly, when the old basket makers die, so too will their traditional baskets,” says Hogan. “But as well as looking back, we are focusing on cutting edge contemporary work and that space in between, which most basket makers inhabit, creating professional, functional baskets.”

This exhibition was produced by the National Craft Gallery in 2007 and is touring to a number of venues in Ireland, the UK and Europe.
Joe Hogan is a traditional basketmaker and teacher who lives and works in Clonbur, Co. Galway. Joe has written a book ‘Basketmaking in Ireland’ and has a website http://www.joehoganbaskets.com/

Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself, your background, where you’re from and where you live?
A: I live at loch na Fooey between the villages of Clonbur and Leenane, on the the borders of Connemara and west Mayo but I am originally from Caltra in east Galway.

Q: When you were small, what did you want to be when you grew up? Were there any clues in your childhood that you would follow an artistic path later?
A: I am not sure I have followed an artistic path but no, there were no clues that I would become a crafts person. In fact I was not very skilled with my hands when I was young, at least in relation to my brothers but there was a general atmosphere of fixing things in the household.

Q: How long have you been basket making and why choose an arty profession over a more conventional career?
A: I have been making baskets since 1977 and working full time at it since 1978. I originally went to university in Galway to study for an arts degree in history and philosophy and met my wife there. We wanted to live in the countryside and I thought basketmaking would provide a reasonable stable income and turn a rural location into an advantage. I feel it is very important to like the work you do .

Q: Can you tell us more about the skill involved in basket making and what inspired you to write your book ‘Basketmaking in Ireland’?
A: The basic techniques in basketmaking are reasonably quick to learn. Absolute beginners can make baskets but the shape may not be very uniform. When I give workshops for instance most participants will make 2 to 3 baskets over a 4 day period but it takes much longer to perfect the techniques so that each basket comes out the shape you want it to be. I think one could be improving in this area always and it is the constant repetition of techniques that brings one closer to perfection. 'Basketmaking in Ireland' came about a result of my interest in the traditional baskets of Ireland and as many of the designs are unique to Ireland I realized I should record these techniques for the future.

Q: When did you create your first basket and what was your inspiration?
A: 1976 or 1977, I was drawn to basketmaking because I was also interested in growing willow which is the basic raw material for the baskets I make.

Q: Do you grow your own materials or do you source some materials from abroad? Is there a lot of other equipment needed for basket making?
A: Yes I grow my own willow but I also buy in some willow for teaching as the willow I grow myself is harder and therefore not ideal for people beginning basketmaking. You need very little equipment for basketmaking, at a pinch a knife will do.

Q: Has your style changed over the years and what might have influenced this change if yes?
A: Yes my style has change a lot in the last 10 years as I have become more interested in making non functional  work. This change is perhaps a result of a desire to express a sense of belonging to the earth through the work.

Q: What other artists or people have influenced or inspired you, and in what ways?
A: I read a good bit of nature poetry by poets such as Mary Oliver, Rilke, Wendell Berry and Seamus Heaney for example.

Q: How do you keep motivated if you’re having a bad day?
A: I enjoy the work I do so its easy to stay interested but I also like gardening and walking so can have variety if I need it.

Q: How have you handled the business side of being an artist, promoting yourself and getting exposure, selling your work etc?
A: I find the business side a bit difficult at times but have been fortunate to have had a good bit of exposure so can usually sell my work fairly easily.

Q: Could you tell us a little more about the exhibition ‘European Baskets’ currently on exhibition in Draiocht?
A: This exhibition aims to give a snapshot of basketmaking in Europe so it combines very traditional work - like the Scottish Kishies made by Ewen Balfour for example - with very artistic work and we have also included a wide range of functional work with various uses.

Q: Do you have any advice you could give to an artist just starting out or to someone interested in taking up basket making?
A: It is not a particularly easy field to get into so one would need to enjoy the work itself to compensate for the difficulty of learning the skills.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?
I try to live in the present moment!

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By Draíocht. Tags: Artist Interview, Visual Arts,

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