Meet the Artist - Susan Buttner

March 22, 2021

Susan Buttner is Draíocht's Artist in Residence
June 2020-May 2021

"... being an artist is personal, there is no right way or wrong way, there is just your way ..."

Tell us about yourself

I am a Visual artist living in Dublin 15, I work in sculptural form, painting, performance and film. A recent recipient of the Arts Council of Ireland Visual Artist Bursary Award 2020, currently artist-in-residence at the Draíocht and previously awarded RHA residency on graduation from MFA Fine Art Sculpture NCAD 2018.

My work questions culturally sensitive and difficult topics, human suffering, alienation and difference, bodily experiences of knowledge and power. Through juxtaposing an art/life binary, within a minimal aesthetic, my conceptual interests involve intensive periods of research and collaboration with individuals and groups, who inform and influence the production of the work.

I am recipient of numerous awards, with works exhibited and held in public and private collections nationally and internationally.

What did you want to do as a job when you were younger?

I often wonder where my drive to be creative comes from, perhaps it was my mum, she studied music, singing in choral societies, this gave her a different perspective and an existence for herself (outside of being a busy mother). My dad’s brother Tony was graphic artist, maybe creativity is in our blood, it’s hard to know, but there was always encouragement growing up, to try things out, have fun, be curious, ask questions and explore stuff! In short, we were your typical Irish family, lots of noise and always outdoors exploring. Living by the beach on the Skerries Road in Balbriggan (as a youngster), provided ample opportunity to hear sounds, look around, find objects, hold them, and make sense of world. I’ve no doubt those early informative years, influenced my need to express myself as a visual artist. I applied to art college when I was seventeen, somehow, I always knew I would thrive in a creative space. As a mature student, I returned to college, completed a BA Fine Art Sculpture and later a Masters. I am a busy mother, dog owner and keen gardener with an eagle eye for skips full of detritus, I am always on the hunt for more stuff to use in my sculptural practice!

Studio routine

I am an early riser, most of my thinking happens between 6.30am and 8.30am, I feed the dog, tidy the house, I do emails, social media and make notes and attend to administration side of my art practice, which helps to ease my way into the making of the art practice.

My morning studio routine is full of rituals and habits, I walk in say ‘Hi gals’ to my materials and then walk straight back out, this may seem an odd thing to do, but the need for coffee masquerades my need to procrastinate, it eases the tension, and creates distance, providing head space. I am at my happiest in my studio but I also recognise my initial need to avoid the making, if only for half an hour while I go grab a coffee!

The studio can be a lonely space for some artists but in truth whilst I enjoy working collaboratively, (and often seek participation in group projects), I also strive to be self-reliant and consistent, it’s this consistent approach in my routine which helps propel my art practice.

How do you supplement your income?

Bursary funding awards from Fingal County Council and Arts Council of Ireland help supplement my income, I am also fortunate to be able to sell my paintings and work as an art educator whenever I can.

What other artists influence your work

There are too many artists to list here that influence my work, I consider myself fortunite to know many Irish and International artists and educators, who’s practices I greatly admire and respect.

What triggers you to start your work

Research, I love researching, reading, writing.

What is the thing you enjoy most about your work

Process, process process!

I enjoy the making, getting lost in materials and digging deep into research. I explore the narrative from multiply angles, engaging in sculpture, painting, performance, film, photography, often working with people, listening to their experiences. All these elements combine and expand the possibility of freeing the work up, allowing for accidental and unplanned outcomes.

How have you handled the business side of being an artist

As an artist, there is always paper work and returns to do. A large part of my time is focused on planning for the next project, keeping up to date with funding applications and open calls is part of my weekly routine, and acts as a driving force to help propel the research and development within my practice.

Tell us more about your residency in Draíocht's Studio and how valuable is this time for you

Working locally, availing of the resources of Draíocht and forging new connections has been an absolute pleasure. The studio space is big and bright, the Draíocht team are just fab, everyone is friendly and helpful, it’s a great creative meeting place in the heart of the community in Dublin 15 and despite the COIVD19 interruptions, and the subsequent closures (following health and safety guidelines) it has been and continues to be a really positive and enjoyable working space.

Are you working towards anything in particular

While on residency my focus has been to extend my practice, providing time to research, to make, to influence and unpack complex social and political issues on the human condition. I have been working with groups of people, artists and non-artists, performers and dancers, employing an explorative methodology, examining the female body as a contested site through a collapsing narrative holding the tension between historical and current.

Do you have any advice you would give to an artist just starting out

Developing your art practice takes times, you need to have a plan, start locally, make contacts, join emailing lists, go see exhibitions, bring a friend along. It is so important to go to exhibitions, experience the work in person and support those working in the arts.

Get to know the team at Fingal Arts Office/Fingal County Council, find out about their professional development courses, (they are terrific and a great way to meet other artists working within Fingal).

Put yourself out there, stand behind your work, claim a space for it and remember being an artist is personal, there is no right way or wrong way, there is just your way, find out what works best for you.

Consider joining Visual Arts Ireland, again it’s a great way of connecting and finding what’s current and happening on the Irish and International arts scene.

The best advice I would give to an artist starting out is; ‘Look after yourself, have fun, enjoy your practice, watch your mental health and stay in touch with your pals'.

Where do you see yourself in ten years

I consider myself very fortunate, to be an artist, it is hard, yes of course, but it fits, it works for me, I have built and made my life work around my practice and I am doing what I have always needed to do, to make and to be creative within the visual arts. I am lucky to have numerous friends, tutors and colleagues within the industry, whom I greatly respect, that I can call on for support and advice. I see myself in ten years’ time, doing what I do best, research and making, surrounding myself with stuff in my studio, enjoying the process!


Read more about Susan's work on her website:


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