Now living in Shannon, I was born in Limerick, with that city always having played a central role in my life.
I attended both Primary and Secondary School in Shannon, but in 2008, I began the daily commute into Limerick, to attend a portfolio preparation course at Limerick College of Further Education. After completing the course, I relocated to Limerick City to commence studies at Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD), where I subsequently graduated with a BA Degree (Hons) in Fine Art Printmaking.
Not coming from an artistic family; I was, nonetheless, supported in my artistic ambitions.
My sister was particularly active in nurturing the development of these embryonic interests. During my teens and early twenties I also played live gigs with local bands. Although, at the time, I simply enjoyed trashing about the place with friends, and screaming into microphones, I now see that these high energy performances provided my first truly creative outlet. Being in a band also introduced me to the benefits of co-operating, as part of a creative group, and to the importance of compromise in reaching mutual goals.
When I first began at college I had no expectations as to what discipline I would specialise in, although at some level, I knew that I would never be a designer.
In fact, it took a chance encounter with the visiting artist, Morgan Doyle, to finally help me to choose between painting, sculpture and printmaking. He was giving a workshop one day to more senior students on the latter subject, but invited me to participate, nonetheless. I was the only student from my year there and didn’t really know anybody else at the workshop. However, I discovered a friendly, laid-back atmosphere, mixed with Morgan’s passionate intensity and skill, which had a huge impact on me. This watershed also marked the beginning of a thought process toward art making, with an emerging ethos being further developed within the department.
Today, I work mainly in drawing, printmaking and installation.
Indeed, my prints and drawings feed directly into, and influence one another, resulting in an ever developing aesthetic. I particularly enjoy creating site-specific installations when exhibiting work. In this way, I create something new from existing pieces while responding to the environment that they are shown in. However, the development of the characters in my work is a longer more gradual process. I begin with no expectations at all, simply sketching and allowing whatever is leaping from the stream of my subconscious to emerge. After this, it could be anywhere between an hour and a year before I revisit the work, casually selecting what subject matter, or character groups, I might enjoy interacting with. Sometimes, I will use the initial sketch, but when it is appropriate, I will develop a character to a more refined state. It is during this process that I first begin to understand what they (and I) are really all about.
I enjoy being an artist because it is mostly (though not always!) a lot of fun, and it has always been my way of interpreting the world and my place in it.
Furthermore, being an artist isn't something that you can choose per say, but the artistic lifestyle going with it may be. There is an artistic system of support in place in Ireland which benefits me greatly. That said, it is not always easy, and opportunities can be few and far between. In my experience new art graduates often lack an adequate understanding of the realities behind the art world, or indeed how to run their practice as a business. They might be very talented artists, but in many cases, simply don’t know how to be self-employed. It was a real learning curve for me, also. Sustaining your practice can be a lot of work. Artists are frequently the managers, directors, designers, producers, promoters, and distributers of their own output, often at a financial loss. For this reason, many of the artists I know have second jobs. I would, therefore, strongly advise anybody to consider these factors carefully, before trying to make a living from art.
Being an artist has taught me a great deal about myself.
For example, it is a good way to avoid becoming complacent in your views and habits, being constantly the subject of criticism from both yourself and others. I am currently working out of Limerick Printmakers. This gives me access to professional printmaking equipment and materials, whilst fostering a creative and technical overlap with other members. Visiting foreign cultures, with completely different mind-sets and outlooks on life to my own has also been a real eye opener.
Recently, I have participated in several group exhibitions throughout Ireland, the UK and mainland Europe.
I will exhibit at The Tribune Print Works Gallery in Galway, in August and take part in a touring exhibition in Japan, showing at the B-gallery, Tokyo, from 26 July to 14 August, Art Zone Kaguraoka, Kyoto, from 26 August to 4 September, and Gallery Irohani from the 9- 21 September, this year. Although, the works exhibited have, and will, show a varied theme, sustainability and modern masculinity remain central to them.
Spending most of July and August in Taiwan, I have travelled extensively throughout Asia, in the past, and am eager to do so again.
While in Taiwan, I will further develop a series of works which have been inspired by previous travels throughout Asia. Creating stencils for screen-prints, I hope to print them off, when I return to Limerick, with the goal of creating a solo exhibition to be held next year!
To read more about Gary Dempsey please see: www.garydempseyjr.weebly.com or Facebook: facebook.com/garydempseyvisualartistprintmaker