Arts Interview: Celeen Mahe

John Rainsford


John Rainsford

Arts interview: Caleen Mahe
Born in Galway I decided to move here only a few years ago after I accepted a place in Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD).

Born in Galway I decided to move here only a few years ago after I accepted a place in Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD).

I had heard lots of positive things about the college and was delighted to make a fresh start. LSAD is a fantastic college and studying there was a very enriching experience for me. Students are given the opportunity and freedom necessary to develop their own creativity, while also receiving support and very constructive critical judgment from their tutors. Originally, I went to secondary school in the Jesuits in Galway.

We always had a lot of music and art books around our house and my parents always encouraged us children to cultivate that side of ourselves.

Every child is an artist; it is just a question of whether you are stubborn enough to continue with it as you mature. I don’t think that I ever made a conscious decision to become an artist though.

It is just something that happened quite naturally for me. That said, I have always leaned towards the arts. I was never a science or maths kind of person. My brain just will not process that sort of information at all. Instead, I prefer the escape of making art. It is very 

Although, I specialize in sculpture, I am interested in other mediums of expression too.

I don’t like the idea of being tied to one particular artistic medium, as it is really important for me to explore other areas in order to keep the creative juices flowing. In saying that, I have worked mostly with sculpture as I have always enjoyed the physical involvement of making it.

My work is very much a physical part of the world. It is not so much sculpture in the traditional sense, where one carves away at a surface to create a form. Instead, what I do is more like assemblage (adding different materials to each other). When I was in college I could have worked in any medium but I always chose sculpture. I spend a lot of time going through second hand shops in search of all sorts of strange contraptions. Skips and dump yards are also very good places for finding pieces of metal, wood, glass, and all sorts of interesting materials.

Moments of inspiration can come very suddenly, while out walking, cooking or doing the most ordinary of things.

It may be a simple observation of a certain colour, a conversation that you had with somebody, or something that you read. What is important, though, when one does get inspired, is to explore those ideas further and to do it as soon as possible. It is through experimentation and play that things start to happen. During the process of making many questions arise, and you really start to understand your practice better. You have to make a lot of work and not be afraid to fail at it. There is great pleasure to be found in these creative moments.

Studying Sculpture in LSAD taught me a lot about what it means to be an artist.

However, it is still all very new to me and I have so much to learn. I hope to travel in the years to come, and perhaps do some residencies abroad. Eventually, I might do a Master’s Degree. My latest exhibition for Occupy Space was called Scratching the Surface. It was a three person show with artists Carla Burns and Gemma Gore. I was really happy to work with Carla and Gemma, as I admire their work a lot. Your first show, after graduating from college, can be a daunting experience but Orlaith Treacy, Director of Occupy Space, was great to work with too. Every artist has different motivations, but wanting to be an artist comes mostly from an urge to express your self, and to connect with the world, in a meaningful way.

Modern society consumes material like never before. All these objects and materials can tell us so much about our culture.

I have always been drawn, therefore, to using materials and objects that have been discarded and are considered useless. However, what is most important to me, when sourcing these materials is their pure substance, colour, and formal qualities. My work, does not point outside of itself, it is about physically and visually experiencing an installation or the objects for what they are. Sculpture functions very differently to that of a painting, you can walk around it, feel the desire to touch it, and engage with it in a very immediate way. That is why I have such an abiding interest in materials. Learning from other artists is also important. The work of Eva Hesse, Richard Tuttle, and Isa Genzken inspire me a lot, as their work is deeply rooted in the language of material.

If you feel that you are an artist then pursue it.

However, it can be a tough job. Indeed, to be successful you have to work very hard, and of course, some talent helps. Luckily, I spend very little on materials, but the best work is often made in this way. That is, sometimes, when the best ideas come to you. Art and money don’t always mix very well. In saying that, there is support and funding out there for artists, but it can, sometimes, be hard to get due to the level of competition. Places like Ormston House and Occupy Space, therefore, provide a wonderful platform for artists, both inside and outside of the city.

Limerick is a great place to work and I have really grown to love it.

It does not seem to be as hectic as other cities so you have more space and time to focus on being an artist. When you are in Galway it is very easy to be lured into the pub every day of the week because there always seems to be something on there. With its vibrant and active artistic community, Limerick is really becoming a very happening space!

For more information about events at Occupy Space please see the website: