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Fiona Quill

LSAD lecturer and artist who also works on international projects

Fiona Quill

Fiona Quill LSAD lecturer and artist who also works on international projects

BORN in the UK to parents from Cork, we moved back to Ireland after my father was transferred to Limerick.

It was a great city to grow up in, and, today, it is an even better city for an artist to work in. Limerick doesn’t have the pretentiousness of some of our bigger cities. Open and honest, it is for emerging artists, a really fertile ground to develop from. I come from a creative family myself. My sister, for example, is a printmaker and my cousin too. We, also, have a filmmaker and some writers and my grandfather was the owner of an impressive art collection.

After completing my leaving certificate, at St Nessan’s Community College, I took a couple of years off to work in Empire Music before applying to Limerick College of Further Education.

From there, I embarked on a degree in Fine Art Printmaking at Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD). I was blown away by both the facilities for printmaking and by the quality of the teaching there. Our lecturers included Jim Sheehy, Dietrich Bladou, Coilin Murray and Des MacMahon who inspired us greatly along the way. I went on to do a Master’s Degree in the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Limerick (UL).

From a very early age my mother encouraged her children to make art.

She was the real driving force behind me becoming an artist without her fully realising this at the time. Despite having a very rich creative childhood I really disliked school. Perhaps, because I was a visual learner I found subjects like maths to be difficult. I went on to lecture in Mary Immaculate College (MIC) in their visual art department for six years, where I taught student teachers about the importance of creativity in education. The generation of children in schools today is very different from those of 10 to 15 years ago. We need to constantly recognise that and to embrace new ways of teaching and supporting the many different kinds of learners in our educational system.

Sometimes when I meet people, who are not involved in the arts, they tend to think that being an artist is easy, or very ‘nice’, sitting around ‘painting’ all day.

However, being an artist is in fact a very difficult career. LSAD students attend college five days a week, starting at 9.30am most do not finish until 5pm, unlike students on other courses. Their skill-base covers not only studio work, but critical contextual studies, computer labs and seminars. To be a working artist you need to acquire discipline, work twice as hard as anyone else and constantly learn and evolve. Being an artist, you must always be curious and find new ways to express your ideas to the audience.

With my family history a transient life appears to suit me. For example, I lecture full-time in the printmaking department of LSAD.

As a practicing artist, educator and business owner, I, also, spend most of my time between Limerick and Lahinch in West Clare. So, in all this I am very lucky to have a supportive husband, in Pearse Ryan. He accepts all the artists that land on our doorstep, understands they could be staying for indefinite periods of time, cooks a tasty roast chicken and is always there for a chat and words of encouragement. In this way he has helped out so many people. Together, we also run a business, called ‘Quills’, producing and selling artisan food, which is located in Lahinch.

Limerick City of Culture (2014) provided a great platform for the kind of ‘Pop-Up Printmaking’ led by Mayo-based artist Stephanie Reilly.

I have learnt so much working with Limerick Printmakers (LP) over the years. Today, I am proud to say that I am the Chair of their Board of Directors, a role I take very seriously. LP is a gem which shines very brightly among the arts organisations in Ireland. Indeed, it has become a beacon of excellence in art production in Limerick with over 50 members working inside its walls at any one time. It is a fantastic facility to support not only established artists but emerging art graduates as well. I remember how very fortunate I was to have received a bursary to work for a year in their printmaking studio, (without fees), when I first left LSAD.

This year I have obtained the use of a private printmaking studio in Spanish Point, thanks to the generosity of Jack O’Malley.

Through it, I can immerse myself in my own artistic practice and create material for the winter exhibition season. My current work focuses on the conflict of domesticity, examining female and matriarchal roles, as well as exploring my own personal history and mapping my trajectory to date. I work mainly with techniques such as monoprint, silkscreen and lithography and I use strong, bold colours and textures. For example, I am now examining the theme of displacement through the life of weeds and fungi. This is a multi-layered project, looking at human migration trends, my own family history of migration, and the dominant role of the female in developing the field of botanical illustration studies since the seventeenth century. Bursaries, residencies, and international European projects have allowed me to travel and to exhibit in places, such as Reykjavik, Berlin, Aviles, Barcelona, Villena, Genoa and Bucharest. As an artistic director on international projects, I have been able to offer other artists similar opportunities to work and to travel. Indeed, I recognise how critical these are for an artist’s career.

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