The Kilkenny County Council Arts Office is preparing to launch ‘Open Studio,’ the culmination of its current artists-in-residence programme.
Deirdre Gallagher of Limerick and Kilkenny-based artists Caroline Schofield, Vicky Cody and Maeve Coulter have been sharing the studio space at 76 John Street since October 2011. Over the weeks all four artists have been developing work in printmaking, drawing and textiles.
As arts officer Mary Butler explains: “The aim and focus of this Arts Office residency programme is to enable artists to research and develop their practice, but also to give insights to the public into how and why artists create their work, to build relationships and further promote the arts. Up until last autumn I have always focused on full-time solo artists residencies and overall this inaugural shared residency programme has been hugely successful. The Open Studio event will give the public and visitors at large the opportunity to experience the progress and processes of the artists over their time here.”
Caroline Schofield reflected that, as the Arts Office in John Street sits watching a bustling urban landscape of human activity, her initial focus was to use her time to watch, draw, stitch and maybe even interact with some of the human activity on the street, just as she had done as a child, looking out of the windows watching children play.
Then, she wondered what they were thinking and whether maybe they were just part of her imagination, made to make her world real. Now as an adult she knows differently but the questions she asks haven’t changed so much. Now her curiosity involves wanting to know what people are thinking, where are they going and just why?
In her studio in Callan, Caroline doesn’t have any interaction with people so she felt this idea would be a great opportunity. What she hadn’t considered was that she could also be watched.
Despite any concerns she initially had, she says this has resulted in wonderful two-way relationships between herself and various members of the public who have visited her, some on a regular basis.
The residency has essentially come full circle back to her initial questioning of looking out the window and wondering “just why?”
Deirdre Gallagher’s initial and main aim was to explore of trees and how people relate to them.
As she has journeyed to and from Kilkenny each week through the winter months, she became more observant of the trees along the way. The trees in their winter hibernation appeared strong yet naked; they were the dusk and dawn skyline and marked the beginning and end of each day. Her journeys also encouraged her to focus on the power lines, how they were equally dominant and reminiscent of crosses in the skyline.
These became the ideas she has explored throughout the residency. Her time in Kilkenny has motivated Deirdre to return to the discipline and routine of regular studio practice. The sharing of the public city-centre studio space with three other artists has promoted for her the exchange of ideas, knowledge and skills. It has given her the opportunity to create work without distraction in a creative environment. The residency has also provided her with new contacts, friends, confidence and a new direction for her work.
Vicky Cody has used this opportunity to start on a new body of work. The residency has afforded her the time and space to create new work. Having just come back from travelling, she was eager to get back into making art but she wanted to leave her collage work to one side and return to printmaking. This was a timely opportunity as Vicky had also become a member of the recently opened Blackstack Fine Art Print Studio off Parliament Street.
The themes she is concerned with are essentially transformation and the natural world. Her work is strongly influenced by Victorian art and is concerned with Victorian ethos. She feels that working on paper conveys the frailty that underlies her tragic and romantic themes.
All of this has influenced her decision to create screen-printed wallpaper, thus enabling her to continue with wall-based installations. She is interested in the fragility of wallpaper while also acknowledging its ability to make a grand statement.
Maeve Coulter has approached the residency with the intention of utilising this time to experiment and diverge from the rest of her working week teaching and in college. She has continued with a theme that she has been working on recently and has continued to combine printmaking with textiles.
She has explored many possibilities and deviated from her original ideas and themes along the way, and what is important for her is that she has allowed herself to do so.
Maeve says she has found working alongside the other three artists in the studio to be a rare privilege and it has developed into a very supportive environment.
She was, as many resident artists before her have been, apprehensive about engaging with the public and exposing unfinished work in the public domain but, again as with many who have gone before her, she has found it surprisingly helpful to talk about her work in progress on a regular basis to both artists and members of the public.
Open Studio at 76 John Street will be open to the public from March 12-22, with opening hours from 9.30am to 1pm and 2-5pm weekdays. The official launch will take place on March 14 at 5pm.