The Arts Interview: Glen McGuigan

John Rainsford


John Rainsford

The Arts Interview: Glen McGuigan
Although, born in the suburbs of Dublin, I grew up in the small village of Craanford, in Co Wexford.

Although, born in the suburbs of Dublin, I grew up in the small village of Craanford, in Co Wexford.

In many ways it was a really romantic childhood, with images coming to mind of cycling my bike through the fields. The youngest child of a single mother with six children, if I had to sum it up in one word, I would have to say: stress. It was, and in a lot of ways, still is, an extremely self-contained experience. I find it difficult to remember many aspects of it today. These memories are, of course, inter-mingled with painful ones, and it all seems, a little hazy looking back.

I went to St. Patricks National School in Craanford.

It was a small Catholic school run by an extremely important figure in my life: The Master. I went on to attend Ireland’s largest secondary school: Gorey Community School. I was scared that I would be forgotten there. Indeed, I found myself in a large sea of students where I found it difficult to hold on to my own identity. It took me a long time to finally attain my planned studies at Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD) in Limerick. I had just become an adult and was living alone and struggling to create a portfolio while working full-time. It was a long journey that brought me to this point, where I am now, namely in my second year, specializing in lens-based media.

It took a lot of soul searching, to bring me to the point where I felt that either I would do this work to communicate my inner world, or it would die, and probably take me with it.

In many ways it was actually quite a painful and difficult journey, which meant I had to give-up many things to gain my opportunity to make art, even when it included giving-up people. I came from a working class family. My older siblings were always a huge source of fascination for me, and in the end, they created an image for me that art was something that I could do and be.

My biggest inspiration for making art was the video games that I experienced growing up.

It was a generous world that I could enter into to escape the situation I was in. The emotions and possibilities I felt in those games are now expressed in my work. I try and take the freedom of the computer screen and project its image back into real life. My work occupies the medium of photography, video, performance and digital Installations. As a young Irishman, loneliness seems to always play a role, either as a visible backdrop to my artistic work, or in its conception. One video piece that I completed in early 2015 follows a car journey into the night. Within the piece, I have altered the signage of the road signs and markers, into computer sourced texts, from online chat and website forums. The trip then becomes a back road car ride into the space of internet language and communication. It is a meandering landscape of endlessly disparate internet comments that becomes lost amidst the myriad of information and website exploration that takes place online. It is the synthesis of something very public and physical with something very private and digital. Today, things are less shocking than ever before. We crave more and more to be shocked, but always from behind the safety of the computer screen. I am drawing on whatever experience I have and when you put something like this out there; it is scary because it is your soul that is going into it.

We spend more hours per day on the internet than we do with our closest friends.

Indeed, as I write this sentence I have several tabs open, music is streaming and emoji’s are expressing. I wanted to reflect this world back into the ‘other-reality’ of my life. People have a growing desire to develop some type of new language because we can’t fully articulate those feelings using only the basic means of communication. I want to write more. I have a very talented friend, Eoin Lyons, and I want to invest more time writing scripts with him. Indeed, there are some incredibly talented students who are emerging from the Limerick School of Art and Design, so I feel lucky to get to share my work with them.

It is easier than ever to be labelled as an ‘artist’, but it is far more difficult to make a meaningful impression when there is so much accessible content out there.

In Ireland, the greatest difficulty is acquiring practical spaces from which to work/exhibit. Time is another issue - you’re always rushing against the clock. I can’t say exactly where my inspiration comes from, however, the video games that I played when I was younger still remain crucial to the foundations of my emotional development growing up. Games liberated me in a very creative way, indeed, they were my great escape. The best artists I know are starving, so I don’t know if I would encourage people to be artists. Instead, I would encourage people to honestly communicate with one another.

I spent some time in Boston and Maine, in the USA, recently.

It was the first time that I had stepped onto American concrete. It was frighteningly easy to assimilate into that world. I am also travelling to the Philippines soon. Limerick, meanwhile, has a very diverse and interesting population, but sadly, I don’t think that it is empowering enough young Artists and Designers to be engaged in artistic work within the city and within its population. Ireland encourages people to play GAA, before encouraging people to read a poem, which is a great shame!

For more information about Glen McGuigan please see the website: