Ali Kirby

Artist who likens her chosen career to 'living on the edge of a cliff'

John Rainsford


John Rainsford

Ali Kirby

Ali Kirby who likens her chosen career to 'living on the edge of a cliff'

Originally from Dublin I lived in Limerick from 2010 to 2014 while attending Limerick School of Art and Design.

I have a family connection to Limerick though, my father was born and reared in Bruff, and I still have family members there. I went to school in Dublin but left Ireland soon afterwards to travel and work abroad for a number of years. I completed a Diploma in Fashion Design when I returned home and decided to continue my studies in fashion so I applied to LSAD because of its strong reputation in that sector. However, as my first year in college unfolded it quickly became apparent that I was actually moving towards doing fine art.

Always an artist by nature, I come from a creative family, with my aunt being an artist and my mother and grandfather both talented actors.

I was always drawing and performing as a child but somehow I got a bit lost in my teenage years and ended-up leaving school (feeling very uncreative). However, after much travelling, I finally found my way back into art. Upon reflection, I like to look at my twenties as an extended research period. Today, my work is predominantly sculptural, mainly taking the form of installations that respond to the built environment. They are, also, often site-specific works that directly reference the architectural space in which they are presented. Indeed, through a mixture of object making, assemblage, and subtle architectural interventions, the space around us can be altered. This requires a physical response from the audience, as the completed work draws our attention to its colour, form and materiality.

There was always something missing inside when I wasn’t making art so maybe that is why I kept moving around.

In a way, I was trying to fill some kind of void by having a series of new experiences, but once I stayed still for long enough, the void caught-up with me again. It was only when I returned to Art College that I started to encounter a sense of fulfillment, and a new purpose. A college education is important for an artist. It gives you that cultural and historical framework which allows you to better understand the context in which you position your practice. That might sound a little dry but I still think that it is important to know what concepts came before yours and to realize that no ideas are isolated. Instead, everything is connected and shaped by history, language, politics, the economy, and so on. I loved the time that I spent at LSAD where the tutors, technicians, staff and librarians, were so generous with their knowledge and insight. They also played a vital role in encouraging me along a creative path, which ultimately made art my obsession.

Most of my inspiration comes from architecture and often directly responds to the gallery space.

I usually visit the gallery first, take notes of its dimensions, and other important variables such as light, windows, and the general atmosphere, allowing the work to develop from there. For instance, I am currently doing a ‘Process Residency’ in ArtBox, Dublin. The space there has some exposed pipes on the ceiling, with the sound of water coursing through them on a regular basis. This inspired me to hang lengths of semi-transparent dust sheets over the same pipes in order to create a slightly dreamy, ephemeral atmosphere, which resounds with those watery sound effects. Currently, I am developing work for the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) Futures Show in March. This will be a large site-specific installation that will interrupt the physical space of the gallery and require the audience to navigate their way through it. I am quite excited about this project as it will be the largest work that I will have presented thus far and I am really curious to see how the audience responds to it.

Limerick has been an artistic centre for quite some time now.

Indeed, ambitious projects such as EVA International have successfully put the City on a global contemporary art platform since the 1970s. LSAD, meanwhile, with its consistent creative output and large artistic community, has helped to keep Limerick vibrant. The economic downturn hit the City very hard, but as a result, new artist run spaces started to take root in the city centre. Ormston House, for example, has provided a rich, and culturally diverse space for the local community, and through their ambitious undertaking of shows, such as Richard Mosse’s ‘The Enclave’ (2013) from the 55th Venice Biennial, they have firmly placed Limerick at the centre of contemporary art making in Ireland.

It is very difficult to survive as an artist in the current economic climate, but I imagine that it has always been so.

During a recession money disappears, however, buildings become available for studios and collectives, making artists’ lives a little easier. Suddenly, a new boom comes along and with it the money needed to spend on art, but the buildings disappear just as quickly. In this way, we are faced with a new set of challenges every time. Despite all this, I would encourage anyone who wants to live a creative, purposeful, and interesting life, to become an artist. There is huge freedom and satisfaction in choosing how you spend your days, but it is challenging and often very insecure, so it is not a career path to be chosen lightly. To use a metaphor, if you like the idea of living on the edge of a cliff, with wide open, breath taking views all around you, full of possibility, yet with the constant fear of falling over the edge, then go for it!

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