FROM the Glen of Aherlow, in Co Tipperary, initially I qualified as a civil engineer, at Cork Institute of Technology, and worked in the field for a number of years.
Always having an interest in Art I enrolled in St John’s College, in Cork, to undergo a portfolio preparation course. For the last seven years Limerick City has been my home, after entering Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD) in 2009. There, I studied Sculpture and Combined Media, while later completing an MA in Social Practice and the Creative Environment (2014).
A member of Occupy Space since the summer of 2012, I joined soon after it lost its tenancy in the six-storey Thomas St Center.
Thereafter, we commenced a nomadic journey that relied on the goodwill of building owners to put on shows around the city. While it was active, the Creative Limerick initiative, acted as a mediator between the owners of vacant buildings and artists. However, with Creative Limerick now defunct, and an upturn in the property market eagerly awaited, opportunities have been lessened for artists to facilitate shows in slack spaces and rent affordable studios.
I work out of Contact Studios, located on the grounds of St. Joseph’s Hospital, Mulgrave St, which I joined in September (2015). I really enjoy working with Le Chéile Mental Health Clinic, on Sexton St., where studio members lead recreational art classes in exchange for some studio space. Through this interaction I am learning a great deal about mental health and generally find that these classes are as beneficial to me as they are for any attendees.
For the exhibition, ‘This Forever [Together We Raised Some Hell]’, we invited former Occupy Space Director, and current EVA Curatorial Scholar and Assistant, Noelle Collins, to curate a group show.
Here we celebrated the diverse practices of artists and designers, who have worked behind the scenes to deliver Occupy Space projects, over the years. Following that exhibition, we decided to adapt our form once more, and become an artist’s collective. We hope to maintain the flexibility and openness to change, that was experienced throughout our time working together in the gallery.
All of these ventures have a natural lifespan but there is still a need and a desire for emerging artists, in Limerick, to come together and exhibit outside of the larger institutional spaces. In order to keep the sector vibrant, and in light of the European Capital of Culture 2020 bid, a wide range of possible solutions should be investigated by both Limerick City and County Council, and Limerick’s art practitioners.
My artistic interests are varied so I often choose a medium that fits the project at hand.
This lends itself, naturally, to collaboration with others, which I often do. For instance, by working with artist Michael Cleary to design a public sculpture that commemorates Limerick’s past and present sporting heroes. Commissioned by Limerick Civic Trust, and championed by the then Director, Dr. James Ring, our sculpture will eventually be incorporated into plans for a park, (The Garden of Sporting Greats), designed by Limerick- based landscape architect, Dave Ryan.
The site of the park will be opposite Limerick Civic Trust offices, located beside King John’s Castle. We very much hope that ground will be broken on this project in 2016. ‘We Occupy Space’, will run a group show in MART Gallery, Rathmines, Dublin, in November 2016.
In modern society notions of value have become highly iterative.
Recently, for example, I collaborated with a fellow LSAD student to devise an interactive game playing project designed to investigate this topic. ‘Casino Voltaire’, has since featured at the Guesthouse Art Space in Cork, at the Galway Fringe Festival, The Hospital Arts Festival, on Culture Night (2014), and in Limerick, additionally, we ran an event for Askeaton Contemporary Arts. In 2015, ‘Casino Voltaire’ travelled to Aabenraa Artweek in Denmark, and to Flensburg in Germany.
Here, locals played at our mobile gaming table to win art donated by the Aabenraa Artweek artists themselves. To play for the art the participant had to stake a non-monetary forfeit. This challenge raised interesting cultural questions and insights, which will be collated online for comparison.
More recently ‘Casino Voltaire’ participated in the South Tipperary ConneX Youth Arts Programme (2015) where Comhairle na n’Óg members created a ‘zine’ to highlight mental health awareness. In December, the game was invited, by the Helsinki based, These Animals Collective, to participate in their Game Night and Catalogue Launch in The Red Hen Bar, in Limerick. The Finnish collective includes several LSAD alumni such as; Anastasia Artemeva, Alan Bulfin, and Steve Maher and Pii Anttila. ‘Gaming the System’ is an annual arts happening in Helsinki’s urban spaces which ‘These Animals’ inaugurated, in September, 2015.
Limerick has all the ingredients to become one of Europe’s most vibrant cultural centres.
Projects, such as; Limerick Arts and Culture Exchange, a new independent cultural representative body, which works to develop, support and advocate for the cultural sector in Limerick, are well placed to bring the creative industries together. My hope for Limerick, over the next decade, is that we will see cross pollination and cooperation between the city and its cultural producers.
Finally, I would encourage others to pursue their artistic passions.
Some people may not fully understand what you do with your days, (since you don’t have a proper job description). However, if you want to do this work, none of that, nor anything else, will ever matter!
For more information about the artist Ciaran Nash please see: www.ciarannash.net and @gnasher7 on Twitter. For Occupy Space see www.occupyspace.com.