Who are you?
I am an Irish printmaker and graphic artist. I work full time as an artist. I make limited edition hand pulled linocuts since 1990. I paint in egg tempera on paper and panels since 2012 and I live in the West of Ireland.
About my printmaking which has been a part of my life for 25 years: I make black and white prints since 1990 and color prints since 1995. All of my prints are hand-produced and therefore I do not use a printing press. Each print is produced individually. Editions are therefore low. I try to combine the centuries old manual art of printmaking with a cautious application of modern motifs, themes and color either in Black and White, or strong colours.
What’s your back ground?
I was born and educated in Dublin; Primary and Secondary education. I never finished third level studies in Dublin (at UCD and NCAD (College of Art) or in Canada. I worked for about 4 years on a book restoration Project in the Old Library at Trinity College, Dublin. There, I learned many practical skills and invaluable information about paper that has served me well over time.
How did you start making art?
When I was 12 years old I sketched a tree in the garden and I liked sketching thereafter. I read old black and white art books and I read art in encyclopaedias throughout my teens. Reading these books set the seed of interest in art and I explored graphic arts through drawing with pencil, pen, ink and with brushes. In secondary school we had lovely art teachers. I painted in oils but abandoned it for printmaking. In 1988, I made my first linocuts and I adopted it as my only medium to make art. Printing by hand creates an appealing, chunky, impasto texture. With lino printmaking I decided against modelling of Motifs or objects (no hatchings), and perspective became linear or suggestive by use of recession. Strong graphic lines whether in white or black became a natural feature of my fine art print making. My work is best viewed from a distance. Although some of my prints, for example Maize Maze and Glacier, have been reduced to essential forms, they do not lose contact with reality. Also, where appropriate I juxtapose realism with abstract features.
What inspires you?
Nature, Environment, Country Life, Art History:
Nature: The impulse behind my art began with Nature and at this point in time I am making nature studies. In Printmaking my first prints were black and white landscapes. My first paintings in egg tempera are also landscapes, also birds and animals.
Environment: My native city Dublin and the Irish Countryside inspired many prints. Indeed any environment I lived in or visited inspired a theme: for example, after a New York trip I made cityscapes and walking in the Austrian alps inspired me to make prints with trees and cliffs.
Art History: the careful use of composition in prints and drawings in art of past and modern Far Eastern printmakers; I find attractive in printmaking. I visit as many art museums wherever possible.
Country Life: walking the roads around Mayo Abbey excites my imagination, in particular the poesy of nature. A red poppy glowing and blowing in the wind.
The poetic stillness of a moment that changes with the light from second to second. Light on a leaf or a little bit of sheep wool on barbed wire moves me to paint or draw. Or light reflections on the floor in the kitchen. I like animals and birds and even flies as Memento Vitae and as Memento Mori reminding us of our shared vibrant life. Shadows on a wall of a shed is a new theme.
What is your most important artist tool?
Carving tools of all shapes and sizes for cutting into a lino block. All of my prints are hand produced, from the initial drawing through to the block cutting and printing stages. No mechanisation is involved in printing images onto paper and on cloth. I transfer drawings in reverse onto a lino block and I carve the image with V and U tools. Since 2012 Kolinsky Red Sable brushes compete with a pencil for egg tempera paintings and drawings.
Is there something you can't live without in your studio?
I could not live without windows. Without windows, I would not see the garden or trees or the birds or the seasons. How could I live without the birds pecking at my windows for food in winter? It would be difficult to live without an Internet radio. I live remote and I listen to the BBC World Service, MPR, and sometimes Deutschland Funk and I hear about the world. Focus on Africa on the BBC is a favourite programme of the moment.
How has your practice changed over time?
It remained constant for years but at this point in time I am consciously changing my medium and I am seriously reviewing my art making. Simultaneously I moved to the West of Ireland (Mayo) in 2011 and this change from the city (Dublin) to the country confronted me with nature. This move to the West assisted in the review of my art making. Here in Mayo I find myself surrounded by a natural, raw and unpretentious beauty in a rural environment and it has inspired me to try and capture the vibrant spirit of “The Country” in prints, pencil and egg tempera. In pursuance of this goal I started sketching and painting in egg tempera. I was excited by the beauty to be found on an Irish country roads. Simplicity, Peace and Stillness. A new medium was found: I chose egg tempera because it is so gentle and strong and almost aristocratic. This medium is a contrast to my printmaking. I now have a choice of media and the possibility to mix the media. The collapse in the Irish economy made me look for something real and solid in life and art. Country life and egg tempera seemed to come together.
What art do you most identify with?
Strong graphics of the German expressionist printmakers. Durer’s expressive portraits of his parents. Expressive romantic landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich.
German Expressionist Art: i.e. Their use of Colour: Likewise the strong colour palette of the German Expressionists, the black and white Graphic art of Die Brücke, Woodcuts of Lyonel Feininger and the Playfulness of Paul Klee were all strong connections for my graphic art and printmaking. Velázquez I admire but I am alas no Velázquez.
What is your dream project?
To study and depict the life of a single bird from birth until death. We have real storms in Mayo and real cold winds and it would be worthwhile to try and capture the seasons here: cold wind, pouring rain running down the windows and hopping out of the gutters, to express heat, paint humidity, evening light, etc. To embrace the new century in art.
What wouldn't you do without?
Books, windows, walking, radio and music.
Where do you exhibit your Artworks?
Solo shows in darc space Gallery, 26 North Great George’s Street, Dublin 1
The Dublin Graphic Gallery, SO Fine Art Editions, Dublin
The Printmakers Gallery. Claremorris Gallery, Mayo. Cong Gallery, Mayo. Kennys of Galway
International Print Biennials in the US, UK, Bulgaria, Egypt.