Emily Robards

Limerick-based visual artist and surreal poet

John Rainsford


John Rainsford

Emily Robards

Emily Robards

Born and bred in Co Limerick, I lived here until I was nine and then emigrated to America with my parents.

My mother and I moved back again in 2007 (just as the recession hit!). Originally, I started primary school in Our Lady’s Abbey Girls School in Adare. When we moved to the USA, however, I attended Holy Trinity School, and then went on to Ligonier Valley High School, for my secondary education.

My parents have always been extremely supportive of my artistic endeavours and have never questioned my choices.

Indeed, if it wasn’t for my mother, I probably wouldn’t have gotten this far. She is a great critic and I trust her advice and judgement when looking at my work. My father also gives me great encouragement and support. Indeed, each day he checks my blogs for updates on any new work, and encourages me to do even more.

One of my strongest memories from childhood is of my father teaching me to colour and to draw trees.

I am lucky enough to be able to visit him in the USA, once a year, where I stay for a period of time. I always appreciate these trips as they help get me out of a creative rut and I feel refreshed when I return home. Both my grandmothers are artistic. Granny Tarry is an extremely talented photographer and has built-up a vast body of work over the years and my Granny Robards used to make me clothes, cards and small paintings. My elder brother, Jason Robards is a natural at anything he turns his hand to, creating beautiful handmade chairs from found wood, under the name ‘Hedgerow Crafts’.

On returning to Ireland, I felt a bit in limbo.

I made an attempt to do a portfolio course in Newcastle West, but it wasn’t for me. In the end, I undertook set design for a theatre group and various odd jobs until I was introduced to Friars’ Gate Theatre and Gallery. They were happy with my portfolio and agreed to give me a solo exhibition the following year. I spent a year shut away in my room where I created a large selection of paintings, using watercolours, acrylic, ink, and dried flowers. The exhibition was a success, and the majority of my paintings were sold. This experience gave me the confidence to go forward with my artistic career. Currently, I am trying to coax my brother into creating a joint body of work for an exhibition. I, also, hope to have a solo exhibition of my own in the near future.

With the support of my mother, and the encouragement of a friend, I applied to Limerick College of Further Education and entered their portfolio course.

With the help of some fabulous tutors there, I was able to create a portfolio and get the points necessary to apply for Art College. I was accepted into Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD), where I went on to study for a BA in Fine Art Printmaking and Contemporary Practice, graduating in 2014. Although, I studied printmaking and started out as a painter, I also work in a variety of other media. For example, Analogue Photography would be one of my main focuses, with the themes of home, nature, love, religion, and the self, being dominant themes.

At LSAD I worked with ceramic and image transfers, but now, on my own.

I do not have access to all these wonderful resources, so I have had to work things out as I go along. For example, I have dug a pit in my garden where I fire my ceramic pieces. While the resulting work is very primitive, I am enjoying this lack of perfection. Indeed, I am trying to relax more, embracing these imperfections, whilst seeing beauty in the broken. I am also fascinated by wood, combining it with vintage photographs and gold leaf. The sacred feminine, particularly the connecting female presence in various religions and stories, is an ever present influence. Although, I am not particularly religious, (more superstitious), and not Catholic, my Catholic upbringing in school, and my experience with diverse religions in the USA, has exerted a strong pull on what I make.

I have always wanted to be an artist, (I am not quite sure why!), I am just naturally drawn to the trade.

It is a way for me to work things out, to get ideas, thoughts, and perhaps emotions out of my head, and out of my way. Once I have created something, I move on, rarely lingering. Invariably, I always carry a sketchbook with me as this is a very important habit for any artist. The way I work can be sporadic. Little moments, can trigger an idea, an image, or a sentence to work with. I, then, have to get them down quickly in case I forget.

My work is increasingly shaped by ‘Outsider Art’, and by artists and photographers, such as Louise Bourgeois and Dorothy Cross.

Seeing Cross’s exhibition, ‘View,’ at The Kerlin Gallery in 2014, for me, was a turning point in my work, an epiphany if you like. I can’t quit explain the effect that show had on me but I will be forever grateful to Cross for creating it. I continue to be fascinated by decaying landscapes, buildings, and found (vintage) objects. These tend to be natural or man-made objects, or fragments of an object, that are found (or sometimes bought) and kept, because of some intrinsic interest in it. For example, bits of wood, snail shells, ceramic shards, and old photos. So, I am, also, a bit of a magpie and a recycler of sorts!

For more information about the artist please see: www.emilyrobards.com and www.robardsemily.blogspot.com Emily can also be found on Facebook: www.facebook.com/emilyrobardsartist and emilyrobardspoetry.tumblr.com