I am an Irish abstract painter based outside of my home country, why?
I’m originally from Co. Clare off the west coast of Ireland. Between Covid & life stuff it’s almost two years since I was last at home but finally, I’m back again!
Every time I’m home I want to spend more time here and unexpectedly the landscape of where I’m from has become an integral part of my work (learn more about my work here). My art student 25-year-old self would be horrified to know the Irish landscape has become part of my painting practice- how typical to make work from the landscape you grow up in?! However, I’ve realised over time that Ireland has a vast and wide array of landscapes that you just can’t ignore.
I am now based in London in the UK. The reason is that when I finished my undergrad in the Art school in Galway I was determined to do a masters in fine art. At the time there was no practice-based fine art masters degree available in Ireland so I applied to Central Saint Martins in London.
Once accepted I moved myself and my paintbrushes over to London and once I graduated I decided to give my paintings a chance in London to see if I could make something of being an abstract artist in the UK. Gratefully after a lot of grafting, I have made things come together and feel content with my set-up as an Irish abstract painter in London.
Notable Irish artists who have lived abroad
Irish creatives historically have spent time outside of their country to grow and nourish their chosen discipline. Here’s a list of Irish artists who felt placing themselves outside of Ireland would broaden their work- James Joyce spent time in Paris, Louis Le Boquay undertook a study tour in Europe and contemporary Irish artists such as Dorothy Cross who spent time in America and Deirdre O’ Mahony (who was a tutor of mine during my undergrad) spent time in London.
A lot of collectors of my work are Irish which I’m proud of plus I‘ve been supported by some notable Irish institutions such as the arts council of Irland, the Women’s Irish Network and have seen selected for exhibitions at the Royal Ulster Academy, NI and London Irish art in Westminster hall.
Will I return to Ireland?
I have a lot of Grå (love) for Ireland and as someone who has left I often get asked the inevitable question to those who have become the diaspora ‘When are you coming back?’. I’m never really sure how to answer that questions because geographically in London I’m very close to Ireland making it easy to get home but never say never, who knows what the future holds (Covid has definitely taught us that!)
Maintaining my connection with Ireland on a personal level as well as a professional level is continually important to me. We live in a transient world particularly the more you move your work into the online space and I think placing an identity on your work can be a benefit as it gives people insight into what has influenced your work if your cultural identity has influenced your artwork.
Under normal circumstances, I make work in Ireland via my mom’s studio (thanks mom!) a couple of months a year. As we move back into the usual run of things I’m hoping to get home more regularly and infuse some more of the Irish landscape back into my paintings through preparatory sketches and studies.
I recently did a podcast on Creative Souls of Clare where I chatted live about my work as an artist and moving from Ireland to the UK to make it as an artist! Check it out here
Thanks for reading, Aisling x