Although born in Drogheda, I actually grew-up in Dundalk, where I undertook my primary education at St Peter’s National School and for secondary school, the Marist.
I first came to Limerick in 1995 to study painting at Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD) graduating in 1998, with a BA in Fine Art Painting. Even at an early age I loved drawing and I used to enter lots of art competitions although, truth be known, I probably wasn’t as good as I thought. I received a lot of encouragement from my family though, as I was seen as the 'arty' one, and nobody else in the family had any interest in art. While my two brothers would go out to the back garden to play football I would sit with my sketchbook drawing the view. So, from an early age I knew that art would become a major part of my life.
What makes a person want to become an artist resides in a deep passion for their practice.
I would caution using the word ‘love’ in relation to art practice, because at times, I can find painting deeply frustrating. However, ironically, it is working through these problems that I find ultimately rewarding. Personally, I found my college education to be very beneficial to developing this approach. I suppose, I was lucky enough to have had the chance to be tutored by local artist, Gavin Hogg. Indeed, I learnt a lot from him over that particular year. Techniques can be taught but real learning comes from the experience of doing, and my time at Contact Studios, working with fellow contemporary artists, was crucial for my artistic development.
Initially, like a lot of young artists, I strove for realism in my work.
I like paint and use it regularly. As I got older, however, my application of it loosened up, and I gradually got to the point, where I am now, where entire tubes of paint get applied to the canvas at one sitting. My inspiration is born from a long held desire to combine the (attempted) realism of early artistic endeavours with the expressive mark-making and textural effects of my current techniques. This is something that I tried in college with limited success, and in a way, I have been striving to achieve it ever since. My most recent pieces are composed of very expressive textural marks when viewed up-close. When viewed from a distance, however, I hope that they will merge optically to reveal a realistic depiction of the sitter. The artistic methods involve building-up complex layers of various consistencies of oil paint. More recently, however, I began isolating areas of canvas to build-up the layers whilst leaving other areas almost entirely blank.
Anyone can be an artist but only if they are fully informed as to the challenges that lie ahead and they are already fully committed to their practice or craft.
Unfortunately, I have seen the art world chew-up and spit-out too many would-be artists. As I said earlier, sometimes I am frustrated with my process of painting, and there are far more knock-backs than successes, when applying for exhibitions or trying to get your work displayed. But when you overcome such obstacles, whether it is some technical element within the process of painting, or managing to organize an exhibition, it can be incredibly rewarding. Being an artist in this economic climate is incredibly difficult, however. People are working hard to earn and to keep a decent standard of living. Art is, after all, a luxury item, so buying a painting is obviously down most people’s list of priorities. But in saying that, buyers do realize that an artwork is a purchase for life, to be enjoyed for generations to come. Long after the expensive shoes or widescreen TVs are in the bin, artwork will endure.
The Red Door Gallery, in Newcastle West, back-in 2014, was my last exhibition in Limerick.
I will, therefore, have a lot of new, unseen work to display at Friars’ Gate Theatre in Kilmallock opening this month. I have always been interested in the human form, and in particular, the genre of portraiture, examples of which will be on display to view and to purchase. Limerick is certainly becoming an up and coming artistic centre. There are vibrant hubs of artistic activity throughout the City. This was not always the case though; in fact just before I left college in 1998, there was a veritable hemorrhage of talent from LSAD out of the City. But the ‘Real Art Project’, and later the establishment of Contact Studios, stemmed that flow. Since then, organisations like Limerick Printmakers, and Wickham St Studios, have become well established and respected work spaces. These are now bringing Limerick art to the fore. On any given day, one can stroll through our city and have a number of opportunities and choices to view art.
My work has been exhibited in Italy twice and three times in the USA.
As a kid, I often entered art competitions, and even now I still seek out open submission exhibition opportunities. In 2015, I had two pieces selected for the ‘RomArt’, Biennial of Art and Culture in Rome. These pieces were seen by a local gallery owner and she approached me to show some of my work in her gallery. I entered similar open submission opportunities in the USA, and I currently have a piece on show in the 3rd on 3rd Gallery, in New York!
Friars’ Gate Theatre in Kilmallock will host an exhibition of Ciaran O'Sullivan’s work from Thursday, March 30 until Friday, April 28. For booking information please phone: 063 98727 or visit the website: www.friarsgate.ie