The Arts Interview: Grace O’Sullivan

John Rainsford


John Rainsford

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Born in Wexford town my family moved to Limerick (where my mum was from) when I was very young.

Born in Wexford town my family moved to Limerick (where my mum was from) when I was very young.

Indeed, I lived just outside Kilmallock myself for a few years as a child, and at that time, the building that now houses Friars’ Gate Theatre was a cinema which I would have been very familiar with. I, now, live in a lovely spot in Clare, near to Cratloe Woods, which is a wonderful place to get some exercise, fresh air and clear some space in my head.

Most of my primary and post-primary education was completed in Hospital.

I graduated from the Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD) in 2006 with a BA in Graphic Design. From there, I went on to complete an MA at Mary Immaculate College (MIC) in Media and Communication, in 2008. My MA thesis was an analysis of how people are represented visually in Irish newspapers and was presented at the International Communication Association Conference, in Chicago in May 2009. This study continuously informs and inspires my work.

Inspiration for my art can come from anywhere.

I take a lot of photographs, and these often form a starting point for a painting, along with photographs in magazines, or a passage in a book or film. I, also, like watching and listening to people’s daily interactions and some of my ideas come from such observations. I usually develop ideas in my sketch book before scanning them into Adobe Photoshop for editing. I am very interested in the power of visual representation and am fascinated with signs and symbols, myths and illusions. These are important elements in my work creating layers of meaning. Sometimes, I have ideas for paintings but they are somewhat disturbing and I don’t want to add to the world’s woes, so I wait until that idea mutates into something more positive. The idea is the same but the end result is more aesthetic, to me anyway. I have always been happiest whilst creating something, whether that be with pencils, paints or a camera. Of course, I love visiting art exhibitions and frequently travel long distances to do so.

My work is an attempt to interject the everyday, causing the viewer to consider, question and reflect.

The upcoming Content in the Hum exhibition developed from a previous event (A Sense of Self) in December 2014. The latter event reflected on how we dress and present ourselves to the world and how this says so much about how we perceive ourselves and want to be perceived by others. Content in the Hum, by contrast, is a development on this idea. In the middle of the ‘hum’, refers to media noise around the ideal body image. We all need to find a place where we are comfortable and can live in harmony with ourselves and others. I have used mannequins, as they traditionally mimic an idealised body type but they display distinct signs of construction, and represent the constructed gender and the deconstructed person. Along with the idea of body image and how we dress, I have drawn on the honey bee, in some of the paintings, to symbolise structure, harmony and a sense of place. Flowing lines similar to those found in maps, weather charts and even finger prints represent a sense of place and identity.

Art is an important part of our culture, and for artists, the process of producing art can be a joy, as well as a (sometimes painful), struggle.

It is the sort of struggle that strengthens you as a person. For me, each of the pieces in this exhibition represents the visual expression of a nagging thought. I have always tried to produce art that is thought provoking and perhaps subverts perceptions. I am, also, quite methodical in my approach to painting and go through an enormous amount of preparation for each piece. It is extremely difficult to make a living from art alone, particularly, in the current economic climate, so most artists combine their creative work with jobs in related areas. Dedication to creativity and self-belief are both very important as well as an ability to cope with criticism. Even when a piece of work has been somewhat laborious and painful to produce, it results in a renewed me, purged of whatever feelings or thoughts that had previously invaded my brain. It breathes new life and light into me while re-balancing my soul. There is, also, a great sense of achievement when I have worked through an idea, and I finally decide to sign my name to the 
completed work.

Limerick, certainly, has a lot going for it in terms of it being a centre for arts and culture.

We have such a strong Art College based here, as well as the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance, at the University of Limerick. The latter, has also, housed the Irish Chamber Orchestra for the past decade. In addition, Limerick has several strings to its artistic bow.We have a great many writers and poets in the city and there is no doubt that, when we finally got our act together, Limerick rose to the challenge of the National City of Culture 2014. This provided a wonderful opportunity to put Limerick City firmly on the national arts trail but only time will tell if this can be built upon and developed!

‘Content in the Hum’, an exhibition of oil paintings by artist Grace O’Sullivan, will open on Thursday, April 2 at 7.30pm and run until Thursday 30 April, at Friars’ Gate Theatre, in Kilmallock, Co. Limerick. For more information please see: or log on to