Amharc Fhine Gall VII

July 8, 2010

Draíocht and Fingal County Council are currently seeking submissions from Fingal visual art graduates for an exciting exhibition opportunity in 2010. This opportunity is being developed to recognise, nurture and showcase the range of talent of an emerging artist(s) from Fingal, working in any medium, seeking an exhibition in a recognised Irish gallery. This opportunity may take the form of a solo exhibition or participation in a group exhibition as part of Fingal County Council’s annual Amharc Fhine Gall (View of Fingal) exhibition to be held in Draíocht from November 2010 – January 2011. This year we will appoint an emerging, independent curator to select and present your work, a full colour catalogue will accompany the show.

Applicants must:

  • Be born, resident or be working from in the Fingal County area.
  • Have graduated between 2002 and 2010 from a recognised third level art college with a Diploma, BA or MFA. PhD applicants will also be considered as long as they fill the emerging artist criteria.
  • Be able to exhibit work from November – January 2011.
  • Be able to supply an up-to-date CV, artist’s statement and images before the closing date.

How to Apply:

Applicants should provide a typed covering letter along with an artist’s statement, and up-to-date CV. Artists should also supply at least 10 good quality images in the form of hard copy, slides or CD/ DVD which should be all clearly marked with the name, description, date, dimensions etc. Any other relevant supporting material can also be included.

Applications should be sent to:
Caroline Cowley, Public Arts Co-ordinator, The Arts Office, Fingal County Council, Swords, Co Dublin

T: 01 8708449


Deadline: 5 pm, 5 August 2010



Michelle Hall Boat Paper, wood, plasticine and string 146 x 125 x 25.5cm 2009. Part of The Happy Valley Project. From Amharc Fhine Gall 2009

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By Draíocht. Tags: Visual Arts, Visual Arts Opportunities,

Drawing Day 2010 @ Draíocht

July 6, 2010

Draíocht took part in the National Gallery of Ireland’s Drawing Day once again this year on Saturday May 22nd, and in a new departure we held our first adult workshop as part of the day.

Using Holly Dungan’s exhibition Woodstock as a starting point artists Michelle Hall and Emily Good assisted participants in drawing branches, bark, squirrels, lanterns, leaves and all manor of things you could find in or around trees.

Participants hard at work



Everyone’s work was then put together to form a large tree on Draíocht’s studio wall.



Michelle piecing the tree together


There was some amazing work done on the day, congratulations to all involved!


Our Final Tree



A BIG thank you to Michelle and Emily who made the day possible

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By Draíocht. Tags: Visual Arts, Holly Dungan,

`The Great Auk and other stories` ...

May 31, 2010

`The Great Auk and other stories`
An Exhibition of paintings by Michael Mc Swiney at Draiocht, Dublin, June 4th to August 28th 2010

Michael McSwiney

In this exhibition of works by Michael Mc Swiney, at Draiocht, the strong influence of growing up in Cork harbour permeates the surfaces, structures, and meanings in the paintings. Michael has travelled some distance from Cork in the last 23 years, sourcing form and content from far-off places, yet the colour, atmosphere and memory of the Atlantic Ocean is in the layers of paint, tar, pigment and earth. Out of these surfaces, he excavates from the memory and imagery of living in 70’s Ireland, in a working harbour by the sea, where beauty, soul and adventure merge easily with decaying or destructive materiality and man-made structures. The elemental possibilities of the coast are explored through a wealth of medium & materials applied to the canvas and of imagery he draws out; sea journeys, boats, dry docks, harbours, tides, oil rigs, pollution, abandoned buildings and factories and a forgotten bird, the Great Auk.

Michael McSwiney `Rounding the Drydock` 50x40cm Oil, pigment and metal dust on canvas,2009
Michael McSwiney `Rounding the Drydock` 50x40cm Oil, pigment and metal dust on canvas,2009

In this exhibition every painting is a story. The freedom felt as a child travelling out in the boat to where only the horizon and the surface remain as a space to cultivate imagination is recreated. Explorations of run-down or abandoned structures and buildings encountered as a child continues in the paintings of architectural structures like ‘Abandoned factory’ which won Michael a Norwegian Art’s Council Grant in 2003. Considering the sea paintings along with the structures of decay and dilapidation, a liminal threshold is suggested, where things come from and go to, a line between man, the man-made and nature, presence & history, darkness and light, beauty and destruction, comfort & discomfort, material and meaning, narrative and abstraction.

Michael McSwiney - Slag Heap
Michael McSwiney `Slag Heap`

Michael Mc Swiney left Cork harbour to study art in Crawford College of Art and then to the National College of Art and Design in Dublin, later travelling to places like Denmark, India, Egypt and throughout Europe. Returning to Ireland in the late 1990’s, he had several solo exhibitions, exhibited at An t’Oireachtas and won the painting prize at Iontas in 2000. From 2000 Michael was based in Oslo, Norway where he regularly exhibited his paintings, lectured at the prestigious Einar Granum Art School and was awarded grants from the Arts Council of Norway and the Norwegian Culture Department.

Michael returned to live in Ireland two years ago and has presented solo exhibitions of works at Garter Lane Arts Centre Waterford, Linenhall Art Centre Mayo, Sirius Art Centre Cork and Droichead Art Centre Drogheda. He is represented in collections in Ireland, Europe and internationally.

Michael McSwiney - The Spit
Michael McSwiney `The Spit`

The Great Auk is symbolic of this return and of Michael’s process. This amazing bird first caught his attention when he was looking for inspiration in Oslo’s National Museum of History. Attracted initially by the beauty of the bird, and learning it was extinct, research led him to empathise with its tragic demise. These beautiful, penguin-like birds were so curious. They swam out to boats and were easily clubbed to death for the value of their beautiful feathers. Knowing no better and being trusting, the birds kept coming. The story of the Great Auk is indicative of one side of the destructive relationship between man and nature that is explored in Michael McSwineys’ paintings, the other side in this relationship adventures towards soul, imagination and expansive possibility. The last Great Auk was washed up on Long Strand in West Cork in the 1800’s, only down the road from where Michael now lives with his family. These paintings and stories mark a cycle of return in the work and life of Michael McSwiney.

Michael McSwiney, Abandoned Factory
Michael McSwiney `Abandoned Factory`

Further info about Michael:


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By Draíocht. Tags: Visual Arts, Michael McSwiney,

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

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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