RHA Learning Event

Meet our Studio Artists: Brendan Earley and Ellen Duffy
27 Jul 2020 - 26 Jul 2021
Time:

Brendan Earley

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

I am a professional artist living and working in Wicklow (where I am also from). To move back to where one is from can bring all sorts of complications especially as I was a confirmed urbanite. With the city of New York, where I completed my MA, being the first of these.

Can you give a brief synopsis of your art practice?

For the last number of years my output has been mainly drawing and sculpture however I do not feel obliged to stick rigidly to a medium and often stray into others. Since moving to Wicklow much has changed in terms of my oeuvre. A fascination with the built space and its histories both official and speculative gave way to a more open wondering about construction in all its varied forms – objects, images, narratives, even the self. But the core questions and preoccupations still remain the same.

 Why do you make art?

I can’t seem to do anything else.

What is a typical day in the studio for you?

I like to start as early as possible so when there is no school it’s 8 am. I have over the years developed a series of ‘exercises’ to start my working day too mundane to mention but I will try anything to get back to ‘the zone’. The zone being a creative state of infinite possibilities where everything is rare and remarkable. I used to live in the zone but now commute although some days that train doesn’t run. By 11 I have coffee and then jump right back in till lunch. The afternoon is usually an uphill battle with little done but there is a curious time just before I finish at 5. Its rare these days but sometimes after working on something for god knows how long something will catch my eye whether it’s in front of me or somewhere to the side and it will reveal itself as it wants to be and becomes complete. I call these sculptures my 10 to 5 works as they appear just as I am going out the door to go home.

What does it mean for you to have a studio in RHA?

I wanted to be part of something again and this is what the RHA gives me. Plus it’s nice to have a wide selection of coffees in the morning.

What is the most used or important tool or material in your studio?

At the moment – Spotify.

What inspires you?

Just about everything.

What is the most challenging thing for you about being an artist?

Earning a living from making art in Ireland.

How have you been managing or maintaining your art practice during the Covid pandemic?

We manage quite well here on our own because, as part of our move to Glencree, we wanted to become as self-contained as possible. So in the beginning it was more about that strange quiet tension and the uneasiness it brought -the consent bulletins of numbers on the radio, the lack of cyclists and aeroplanes in the sky. But it did not disrupt my routine until my children took over my studio. However, as always, it’s about finding ways. So walks with my old twin lens Mamiya became a revelation as well as outdoor drawing, just like first year art college. Rediscovering poets like Coleridge, Shelly and Blake gave me fresh insights. Somebody sent me a book on Dorethea Lang’s late work which was fascinating with a particular photograph of a haircut under trees bringing great joy and bringing a renewed sense of purpose. And in the end it was about the small things – making banners with my family and marching around the garden with them.

Image titles:

  1. Brendan Earley, Gin Glass, 2020, Marker and pencil on card, 34 x 26 cm, Image courtesy of the artist.
  2. Brendan Earley, Spring Banner (made by Lily May Earley), 2020, Cotton, 150 x 150 cm, Image courtesy of the artist.
  3. Brendan Earley, A photograph from a book on Dorothea Lange – Day Sleeperby Sam Contis, 2020, Image courtesy of the artist.

 

Ellen Duffy

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

I’m an artist from Dublin working primarily in the sculptural field. I graduated from TUD last year. After my Graduate show I was one of the artists shortlisted for the RDS Visual Artist Awards and through that show I was lucky enough to be awarded a space here at the RHA.

Can you give a brief synopsis of your art practice?

I am interested in the network of the assemblage and how objects or things might give power/agency to one another byway of their connection to one another. I have a multi-disciplinary practice that involves site responsive installations and recently I have been working on a series of works on paper directly influenced by my sculptural practice – a few of which were shown at The Sarah Walker Gallery, Cork for the month of July.

Why do you make art?

I suppose it’s a way to make sense of the world around me. I spend a lot of time in my head and I think that formulating a visual language and building something out of that helps to navigate and understand it/myself a bit more. It has – over the past months – been vital in this aspect.

What is a typical day in the studio for you?

I tend to begin my day with working freely on some drawings or collages. I like to use it as one exercise to get out of my head and into my hands. I let everything out and work succinctly and freely. I like working in quick bursts and bouncing from task to task throughout the day. It keeps my mind engaged.

What does it mean for you to have a studio in RHA?

Having this studio has afforded me so many things – one of the most obvious is the space. There is so much competition for studio spaces in Dublin and how affordable they are. I have also gotten to connect with so many people who have supported me and been crucial to my career at such an early stage. It has provided me with a platform that I would not otherwise have access to so soon out of college. And, it’s pretty great to say that I have a studio in the RHA, no? It’s exciting!

What is the most used or important tool or material in your studio?

I don’t see anything being more or less important than another. I collect so many things – from all over the place. And, everything I find I see a potential in. It’s a figuring-out process with all the ‘stuff’ I have in here. I learn what their functions might be through a string of relationships with the other things in my studio.

What inspires you?

It comes from everywhere! Reading something that articulates perfectly what you’ve never been able to put into words, looking out windows, collaborating with people, traveling, making playlists, pints with friends – day-to-day life is exceedingly inspiring.

What is the most challenging thing for you about being an artist?

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the things you could be doing. So, I think learning how to tune into the right frequency and focusing can be challenging.

How have you been managing or maintaining your art practice during the Covid pandemic?

Much like everyone, all of the shows I was due to be in have been postponed until a later date. What I was worried most about was how I was going to continue making work with no shows and no space to work in. As in many creative roles – we are directly influenced by our daily encounters with the world so I felt as if this regression might hinder my creative process. That being said, I have actually found the limited parameters to have been quite a fruitful space. I have been forced to reconfigure my way of producing work and fit that into my bedroom/makeshift studio space. I began creating a series of works on paper that are motivated by my sculptural practice.

Not too long into lock-down I was commissioned by The Dock Arts Centre in Leitrim to support my practice over the pandemic period. I knew that maintaining connection through this isolating time would be imperative to my work. I began collaborating with artist Kate Murphy on a series of works on paper that were being sent via the post and completed by the other artist. Both of our practices are rooted in the physical engagement of a material and this process allowed us to have that while being apart. It was a way of building on this collaborative language and figuring one another out. This commission will end in a week of making and installing a series of sculptural works in my studio once we can safely do so.

Do you have any upcoming projects or exhibitions that you would like to share?

My upcoming week of making with Kate Murphy is due to take place in August, I have shows that have been postponed until 2021 in The Dock Arts Centre and The Draiocht.

Images:

  1. Ellen Duffy, Untitled VI, 2020, Gouache, wax pastels and tissue paper, Image courtesy of the artist.
  2. Ellen Duffy, Untitled, 2020, Rubber garden wire, Image courtesy of the artist.
  3. Ellen Duffy, Tracing a Past Life, 2020, Foam block, rope, Image courtesy of the artist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This entry was posted in . Bookmark the permalink.