Ailve McCormack talks to artist Lisa Shaughnessy

November 16, 2011

In the lead up to the opening of Amharc Fhine Gall VIII - Unknown Knowns, curator Ailve McCormack talks to artist Lisa Shaughnessy about the work she is exhibiting.

Lisa Shaughnessy


Lisa Shaughnessy


Q: Can you tell me a bit about the work you’re making for this exhibition and can you talk through how you made some of the work?

The work I am exhibiting for ‘Unknown Knowns’ concerns itself with the physicality and materiality of the artists materials, primarily paint and materials concerned with the painting process. Within my practice, the work explores the historical and conceptual meanings of painting within a contemporary context.

For this exhibition I have honed in on the ideas of manipulating such materials in a way which is somewhat unintended or ‘unknown’. This is done by removing the materials from their traditional backdrop and manipulating them by means such as pouring, spilling, containing, layering, pushing and pulling. In doing this, new forms and structures are created, which examine and blur the boundaries between painting and sculpture.

As well as adapting new methods for this body of work, I have introduced some other materials such as polyurethane foam and polythene sheets. The polyurethane foam is sprayed on various surfaces to mimic tensions, shapes or textures. It is then manipulated and coated as the volume increases and the material expands.
In this exhibition I will be showing some of these foam and polythene sheet pieces as well as some polyvinyl and pigment pieces.


Q: You have recently moved towards a layering of the paint and building up form with this new body of work, what instigated this move?

I think it was more of a natural progression within my practice really. Previously, I had rolled, cast and smoothed out flat plains of paint, however as my work develops so too do my ideas. It had become my intention to introduce new dimensions and elements to the work, building up and developing innovative forms and structures.

As an example, paint is mixed, thickened or thinned, poured and is left to dry. The paint forms a thin film of skin which is then used as a base to layer fresh paint, this process is repeated numerous times to build up form. As this is being done the different strengths of material are forced to interact with each other, constructing and deconstructing the painting in the process, creating new forms, textures, layers and shades.

Q: You used to work with a florescent colour pallet, what made you move towards the more muted tones you’re now using?

The decision to move into more muted tones, (blacks, whites and varying shades of grey), was one that I have been contemplating for a while now. Florescent colours had been present within my practice for a long time and I felt as though it had come to a point where deeper, more muted colours would allow the work to progress, shifting the focus and tone somewhat.

The darker, more muted colours simplify the aesthetic of the work, allowing the viewer to see more clearly the workings of the material itself. Occasional flashes of florescent colour are still present within some of the new work.


Q: Your work is quite ambiguous yet stages of artistic processes can be seen, are you interested in representing the artists process through your work or is this something that happens naturally because of the nature of your work? Do you feel that your work is prescriptive or does it mostly allow the viewer to bring their own meanings to it?

When people view work, they will make of it what they will. Whether they read the information that goes along with it or not, everyone will have their own perceptions and ideas about what the work is, what it does or what it means. This is something that I have to recognise and be aware of as an artist.

As my work is centred upon the materiality and physicality of the artist’s materials, there is an underpinning element present that deals with the artists processes. This came about originally as I became interested in investigating the artists relationship with their practice, the materials they use, their concepts and their processes of creating art.

Within my practice I explore different methods of creating work and manipulating materials. The processes that occur are essential to the outcome of the work. I find that the aesthetic nature of my work lends itself to ambiguity and I rather enjoy that element.


Q: You’ve said that your work deals with “historical and conceptual meanings of painting and sculpture within a contemporary context.” Can you expand on this with reference to a specific work?

Generally when people think about painting, they think about traditional methods such as representational, religious or classic motifs, oil on canvas etc. As too with sculpture, it can be more concerned with traditional materials such as wood, marble, bronze etc. and not really associated with painting. By freeing the paint from the traditional constraints of the canvas and placing it on the floor, I am allowing it to interact with its surroundings, thus the work takes on a three dimensional persona.

As the paint is being used in a three dimensional way, it takes on a sculptural form. As mentioned in the curatorial statement for the exhibition, with this blurring between the boundaries of painting and sculpture, “what the viewer felt they knew about these materials becomes a little less certain but the fundamental qualities of the materials are still apparent. These known and familiar materials have been manipulated in such a way as to render them initially unknown.”

I am interested in allowing the audience to see the workings of paint, not just as a flat material used to paint pictures, but as a material and artwork in itself. My practice plays with ideas of presenting these materials and unconventional artistic processes as the focal point of the work in a contemporary context.


To see more of Lisa's work visit her website:


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