John Rainsford


John Rainsford

Arts interview: Gemma Gore
Born and raised in the midlands of England, I lived in London and Brighton for many years, before moving to Limerick a few years ago.

Born and raised in the midlands of England, I lived in London and Brighton for many years, before moving to Limerick a few years ago.

Moving to Limerick was a surprise for me, as I hadn’t visited, here, before. Then, my husband, Woodrow Kernohan, became Director of the Contemporary Visual Art Exhibition, called ev+a, at Limerick City Gallery of Art (LCGA). It was a great change of direction for us both. Indeed, we are now parents to a new baby, named Allston. Limerick is a great city to be an artist with a good support network of fellow practitioners. Wickham Street Studios (where I was a member for a time), Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD), Limerick City Gallery of Art (LCGA), Occupy Space, Ormston House as well as EVA International, are all terrific examples.

Both my parents are nurses so they are not particularly artistic in their professional lives yet both are very creative individuals.

My Mother studied art briefly, and would often take me to visit local galleries at weekends or during school holidays. I, also, attended some arts and crafts workshops, at the local gallery, in my home city, as a child. My Dad has an interesting relationship with colour, painting our house in discordant colours which is largely due to his colour blindness. When I was at school all the students were encouraged to go to University and I originally accepted a place in Psychology. With my Mother’s support, however, I decided to study art instead.

In Brighton I worked with a wonderfully supportive gallery for young artists called Permanent Gallery, project-managing exhibitions, art handling and becoming a board member.

Whilst studying art I also worked part-time an artist’s assistant and volunteered with small arts organizations. Immersing myself in the field I hoped to gain some understanding of how an artistic practice could be sustained. Today, my own artistic practice is largely object based, so I might be defined a sculptor. However, in reality my practice is a combination of different disciplines with its foundation being firmly located in materials, architecture and design. The underlying focus of my work seeks to explore the hidden or invisible structures present in architecture and in nature. The choice and process of working with materials is something I spend a lot of time considering before making a work. I, particularly, enjoy the physicality of working with materials which is very rewarding.

After graduating from a materials and design BA I decided to study Landscape Architecture.

Simultaneously, I worked with an Architectural practice in London which had a big impact on the development of my practice. It was here that I first started to make use of computerized drawing software, which architects utilize for designing buildings, in my own artwork. Previously, I had made physical models and moulds with wood, cardboard or plastic. However, computers allowed me to model in virtual space. Indeed, concepts of time and space continue to dominate my work. For example, while doing a residency in Belfast, I researched underground spaces like tunnels, caves and mines across the globe as part of a project called Subterranean Typologies. This project highlighted how altered sensory experiences due to underground conditions. An absence of natural light and strange acoustics can alter a person’s experience of time and rhythm, as well as their ability to conceptualize spaces in the mind’s eye.

So far, this year, my work has been shown as part of group exhibitions with Pallas Projects, in Dublin and Occupy Space, in Limerick.

At Occupy Space, the exhibition entitled Scratching the Surface was curated by Orlaith Treacy with myself, Carla Burns and Celeen Mahe also being Limerick based artists. Here, I showed Object Lessons (Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Universe) which is an installation of five light boxes displaying nets for geometric origami shapes. These shapes are made up of fruit and vegetables which were cut into geometric shapes and photographed. In Pallas Projects my work was included in the survey exhibition of current visual art in Ireland Periodical Review #3. My work Stretcher/Runner (Cube) was selected by Director Gavin Murphy and consists of a floor-based artwork with digitally rendered brickwork, industrially printed onto carpet. As a carpet the artwork can be rolled-up, transported and unrolled, creating a transient surface. Fundamental to this project is the notion of giving a platform to other creative possibilities. For example, it has been activated within performances at an art event (((O))) which was curated by Lee Welch and Teresa Gillespie, or as a ground for other sculptures, for example, by artist Alan Phelan at Periodical Review #3.

Being an artist is never economically straightforward.

Usually, not big earners in the scheme of things, artists, often, have to have diversified careers. Typically, you will find us taking up jobs in coffee shops and restaurants in order to make a living but, also, to support the production of further projects. In the current economic situation it is even more difficult as there are fewer jobs to supplement artistic practice. Art sales are also down and public funding increasingly competitive due to cut-backs. At times like these, schemes like the Artist Bursary Scheme and John Square Artists’ Apartments are extremely important. It would be great to see more philanthropy in Arts sector as there are big gaps in the provisions needed for artists and our practices. For example, currently I need to access professional software for editing videos but have to pay the same commercial rates as a production company in order to use it which is 

In Limerick, I have been supported by artist run spaces, such as Occupy Space and Ormston House.

Occupy Space is particularly well established in the city and is widely respected within the wider arts network in Ireland, generally. Therefore, exhibiting at Occupy Space is a great opportunity for me and my practice. It is always a valuable experience to show your work to an audience, and as an artist, it is fundamental to get your artwork seen by the wider public and to have conversations 
around it.

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