Des Kenny talks to Aisling Conroy, Artist in Residence at Draíocht

February 21, 2013
Des Kenny talks to Aisling Conroy, Artist in Residence at Draíocht

18 February 2013

While visiting Aisling Conroy, the new Artist in Residence in Draíocht, I was surprised to find a large body of work nearing completion. Normally an artist will spend time formulating ideas during the initial phase of a studio residency, but Aisling has a solo show in the Talbot Gallery at the end of February and is under pressure to finish this body of work before beginning new work for a show in June at Draíocht.  An intense air of restless purpose combined with fraught solicitude permeated the studio space. There was a desire to have all the works replete with artistic intent and anxious that they will hold up to the scrutiny of her peers. I was intruding, taking up precious time, interfering with the definitive decision making process that occurs when an artist determines what works are fit for showing.

On the end wall hung three works constructed from corrugated card board boxes. The central piece in black circular shapes dominates the wall. The black circular forms expand over the wall and penetrate ominously into the studio space. A black hole in the dark heavens contracts and pulls all light inward but this dark sculptural form wants to grow chaotically outwards and devour the light and space around it. Yet we should not view this in dread, science has stated that a great part of the universe is constructed of dark matter and perhaps Aisling is trying to give shape to something we cannot perceive or understand. To the right is a work in a dense yellow presented in layered rectangles and again made with corrugated cardboard. This work seems more contained without the wish to grow incrementally beyond its own fullness. Yellow appears to engender a calming effect and Aisling understanding the natural force of colour allows it dictate the sculptures organic growth.

Aisling’s Studio Space in Draíocht

At the base of these sculptures are numbers of paintings leaning against the wall. Each has a singular coloured blob on a white ground. On top of these works, fine lines made with black thread lend a feeling of depth to the picture plain. The flat sections of vivid pulsating colour float above the white ground due to the illusion of the fabricated shapes created by black threads. These threaded forms impart a mystical quality and intimate the elemental coded signs found in ancient religions. Aisling informed me of her interest in religious iconography and how religious art invokes a transcendental experience in the believer. The artist attempts to evoke this transforming religious experience in her paintings by the meditive use of colour and symbols. She is interested in the mystical pursuit of the sublime found in the core beliefs of all religions. Her abstracted forms do not belong to the confined narrow interpretation of one belief system but opens the viewer to diverse rites of passage that allows us experience the sublime in everyday reality. These paintings can function as a portal to spiritual transformation.

We were sitting down having a cup of tea, chatting about various aspects of artistic life and the difficulties we encounter while we gaze at the three sculptures attached to the studio wall. Aisling paused in mid sentence and focusing on the large black wall piece announced “I think I’ll change the colour from a gloss black to a mat black”.  This change would transform the sculpture from a confrontational object into a whispering shadow found in the mysterious light at dusk. I realised the artist had permitted me to witness creative decision making at its luminous source. Illuminating moments in the creative act are rarely shared, since most artists work in isolation. But moments gather and compress the timescape of a studio space as deadlines approach, so I begged my leave not wishing to intrude any longer. Moments cascade onwards, but they will find no idle corner to rest, during Aisling Conroy’s residency in Draíocht.

Aisling Conroy, ‘Void I-IV’, corrugated cardboard and enamel paint, 40cm x 40cm, 2011

Desmond Kenny is an artist based in Hartstown, Dublin 15. He is a self taught painter, since he began making art in 1986 he has since exhibited widely in Ireland and abroad, solo shows include Draíocht in 2001, The Lab in 2006 and Pallas Contemporary Projects in 2008. His work is included in many collections including the Office of Public Works, SIPTU, and Fingal County Council. Kenny’s practice also incorporates print making and he has been a member of Graphic Studio Dublin since 2004.

By Draíocht. Tags: Artist Interview, Visual Arts, Aisling Conroy, Desmond Kenny



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Aisling Conroy

Icon I- IV 2013 acrylic and nylon thread on wood

Opening Reception: 6-8pm Thursday 7th March, 2013

As part of First Thursdays Dublin

Artist Talk and Gallery Walkthrough
Saturday 16th March, 2013 – 12pm

Exhibition accompanied essay by Marie Soffe

Exhibition continues Fri 8th – Sat 30th March

Talbot Gallery & Studios
51 Talbot Street
Dublin 1
Tel: 01 8556599

Tue – Fri: 10.30am – 5pm
Saturdays: 11am – 4pm


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‘Icons‘ 2012, 53cm x 33cm x 2cm, acrylic and nylon thread on plywood.

verve31 VERVE25

Spectrum  paintings. 33cm x 33cm, Acrylic and nylon thread on board.


‘Portal’ 2012, 145cm x 45cm x 45cm, corrugated cardboard, acrylic and digital media (outdoor sound installation)

verve39 VERVE21




Studio Verve is an Artist residency in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India; where I had the privilege of taking part in three weeks of undisturbed creativity. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to be. I had a solo show of the work that I made there at the end of my residency titled, ‘From the Dawning.’ In my short stay, I met many inspirational artists and made some great friends there too, which was a huge bonus. My stay here at Studio Verve was an experience of a lifetime that will stay with me forever.

‘From the Dawning,’ opened on 23rd December 2012. The exhibition night was a success and ran very smoothly thanks to Deviba Wala, Arpit Biloria and Makund Patel. With much heartfelt gratitude to you all:)




A work in progress…

On the opening night.



Curated by Elaine Grainger and Claire Halpin

Opening Reception: 6 – 8pm Thursday 6th December 2012
Exhibition Dates: 6th – 22nd December 2012

For its Christmas exhibition, Talbot Gallery has invited almost 40 artists to create a new artwork using the stock of the discount shops as a rich seam of inspiration. There are no restrictions on the form the artwork can take other than it must be predominantly constructed or made from items purchased from a discount shop. We asked artists to be as innovative as possible, to push the boundaries of their usual practice and push the potential of the materials and media for their artwork. As this show is a reflection of the current climate, the pricing of the work will reflect this concept accordingly.

Invited artists include: Angela McDonagh, Emmet Kierans, Felicity Clear, Aisling Conroy, Emma Hogan, Joby Hickey, Blath Ni Mhurchu, Bennie Reilly, Nicky Hooper, Deirdre Hayden, Anne Hendrick, Claire McCluskey, Daria Privalko, Joe Stanley, Margaret O’Brien, Lucinda Jacobs, Julie Merriman, Michelle Considine, Claire Halpin, Jennette Donnelly, Beth O’Halloran, Louise Butler, Mary Noonan, Paul MacCormaic, Maree Hensey, Jane Fogarty, Andrew Carson, Cecilia Danell, Eoin MacLochlainn, Cecillia Bullo, Jennifer Cunningham, Kate Murphy, Mary Fitzgerald, Ian-John Coughlan, Madeleine Hellier, Myra Jago & Kate Stitt.


Talbot Gallery & Studios
51 Talbot Street,
Dublin 1
Tel: 01 8556599

Tue – Fri 10.30 – 5pm
Saturdays: 11 – 4pm



Dunamaise Arts Centre presents


The Dunamaise Arts Centre will open level, its fourth Open Submission exhibition on Friday 20th July at 7pm featuring work by selected artists.  An exciting development in the Dunamaise visual arts programme, both in its approach and its curation, the exhibition will feature pieces by 18 artists which have been selected by guest curator and artist Jock Nichol.

The artists exhibiting include Pat Fitzpatrick, Aidan Flanagan, Maeve Coulter, John Cullen, Mary Cullen, Angela Fewer, Lorraine Walsh, Bernadette Madden, Aisling Conroy, Judy Carroll Deeley, Tony Gunning, Martina O’Brien, Anna Marie Savage, Sheelagh McShane, Aoife Hand, John Busher, Kevin McCann, Dave West.

An overwhelming and impressive number of applications were received earlier this year, both from established artists all over Ireland, as well as local and emerging artists.  The 18 pieces exhibited are of mixed media and sizes by artists from the length and breadth of the country.

The exhibition will run until 5th September 2012.  Entry to the exhibition is free and all members of the public are invited to the gallery to take a look at the work.