Aisling Conroy- PRISM @ The Talbot Gallery 7th-30th March 2013
Essay by Marie Soffe (BA, MA)

As a fellow student of fine art in NCAD, I was always amazed at the single-minded focus of Aisling Conroy’s practice. She was, and still is, a prodigious worker with a prolific output, her vivid imagination finding expression in an abundance of mediums which she mastered easily – drawing, screen-printing, etching, animation, sound, and sculpture – many combined in fascinating dioramas constructed with skill and attention to detail. Her impressive portfolio of practical and artistic skills has ensured that every piece is crafted with her unique combination of quality and conceptual depth, something that has not been lost on her many discerning collectors.
The exact and intricate drawing that was a feature of Conroy’s student prints, together with the psychologically intense three-dimensional scenarios, all point to her previous training in Animation Production. Whilst not immediately apparent in her more recent work, this training actually underpins it in a vital way, as evidenced by the well-considered and meticulous combination of sound, sculpture, image and process that comes together in this visually and conceptually rigorous exhibition, Prism.
Colour has always been present in Conroy’s work, subtly in her etchings and screenprints, more dramatically in her dioramas, animations and digital prints. However, two expeditions in recent years have had a profound influence on how she now gives form to her artistic concerns: firstly a trip to South America and then an extended exploration of India. These periods of travel exposed her to the vibrant and vivid use of colour in both cultures and awakened a sensitivity to the powerful potential of colour, light and sound to affect the human psyche in unexpected ways. This has led to a dramatic paring down of expression. From the terrifying birds and other imaginary creatures that populated her earlier prints, Conroy has moved to a distillation of her artistic vocabulary into a simple, well-defined set of parameters: pure colour, pure light, and layers of gentle, mesmerizing sound.
In this exhibition, these elements have emerged in a unified series of small, icon-like paintings on wood, some cardboard assemblages of rectangles and circles, their vivid primary colours immediately evoking the works of Mondrian, and a rainbow of light refracted through a triangular prism, coupled with one of Conroy’s signature void sculptures incorporating a layered sound installation.
The word ‘icon’ is important as it encapsulates the full breadth of what Conroy is attempting to achieve in this work. Derived from the Greek eikon, meaning ‘image’, the icon is traditionally a religious work of art, usually a small flat panel painting used in Eastern Christian traditions, which uses strict symbolic codes to show complex ideas in a very simple way and to draw the viewer into contemplation of the divine. The icon is a signifier of someone or something sacred – a saint or the cross, for example – and thus it alludes to the signified rather than being a representation of them. This concept of signification is inherent in Conroy’s use of colour and the icon’s physical format to allude to a particular psychological state rather than illustrate it. She attempts to draw the viewer into a calm and meditative condition such as is induced by exposure to the sublime, her idea of the sublime being that unexpected experience of surrender brought on by the diffusion of light through a stained glass window, the deep silence of an ancient temple, or the repetitive sound of chanted prayer.
Conroy’s cumulative process in producing these works echoes her intention for them. A slow, deliberate pouring of paint results in amorphous concentrations of colour on either white or black grounds. Careful ‘drawings’ with thread, inspired by John Cage’s scores, form tangible motifs such as triangles, squares, circles, or spirals, recalling the ‘Renaissance triangle’ and other mathematical forms utilised by the Renaissance masters in their religious paintings. The triangle was also used to sublime effect in Andrei Rublev’s icon of the Trinity in the 15th century, probably the world’s most famous icon and a work which is rich in the symbolism of colour and form.
As artists who seek to evoke the sublime, Conroy is inspired also by Anish Kapoor, who has used the rich pigments of his native India in many of his seductive and monumental works, and by Olafur Eliasson, a creator of fully immersive light and atmospheric installations. In contrast, Conroy’s work is quiet, requiring a generosity of attention from the viewer, both visually and aurally. It yields its rewards, like the icon, after contemplation of its symbolic language and a subtle reading of its vocabulary of shapes. Through the prism of their personal experience, each viewer will arrive at their own translation.

Marie Soffe

-Fresh faced from a residency in India which culminated in a solo show, multi-disciplinary artist Aisling Conroy presents her new solo exhibition Prism. Through the media of sculpture, painting and sound, Conroy uses illusionary methods to immerse the viewer in a sensory experience. Conroy’s diverse artistic background (Animation, Printmaking and Fine Art) and her conviction in a variety of media lend strength to the immersive experience being created. Using the contrast of darkness and bold colours, shape and form, Conroy abstracts models of sacred art and iconism, topically addressing the re-emergence of faith in contemporary society. An essay featured in an accompanying catalogue by arts writer Marie Soffe creates insightful personal connections between some of Conroy’s earlier prints and the works on display here. / Enya Moore


Tabernacle 2 2013


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.