Aoife Ward Dundalk artist who draws parallels between psychotherapy and artistic endeavour
Born in Dundalk, I attended St Mary’s College, secondary school, where my very first art teacher was the Limerick painter, Ciaran O’Sullivan.
He fostered in me a love for art that hasn’t wavered. Indeed, I got an intuitive sense that he really loved his subject, and I realised that art could be a profession, not just a hobby. Last summer, therefore, I completed my BA in Fine Art in Belfast School of Art, graduating with a first class honours.
My parents, and most of my siblings, specialised in education as a career, making for five generations of teachers in our family.
However, I had no interest in following their example. Instead, creating images, getting to know myself, and working with people on a deeper level drew me in. In fact, I am in the process of training to be a counsellor. That sort of deepened awareness of others attracts me in the same way that art does. The human impulse to express oneself and to want to be heard is strong, everyone wants to feel recognized. In counselling, the client is truly accepted for who they are, not who the therapist wants them to be. By accepting ourselves, we are truly free to do what we want with our lives. Artists must also accept their limitations, so as to play to their strengths, resulting in honest work that speaks to others. Making art can help people to develop a deeper understanding of themselves, creating acceptance and self-compassion. In fact, Art Therapy is an increasingly popular topic, with counselling itself allowing for all modes of creativity to be brought to the surface.
College was very useful for meeting like-minded people, and for learning certain technical skills.
That said, I feel that being graded can be detrimental when trying to be creative. In fact, art that is trying to be ‘successful’ might be compromising on honesty. During college I did an extra Erasmus year in Den Haag. It was a wonderful experience to be immersed in a Netherlands’ art scene which is at the forefront of contemporary artistic practice. Den Haag had shows opening weekly, featuring artists like Laure Prouvost, so it was a truly exciting place to be around. One of my favourite shows of the year was by Ed Aktins at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, but I was also lucky enough to go to the Venice Biennale. The artworks there, by Céleste Boursier-Mougenot (France) and Pamela Rosenkranz (Swtizerland) still inspire me to this day. My college tutors in The Hague’s Royal Academy of Art (KABK) were really open-minded, and pushed me to investigate the most out-there ideas. There was no sense of right and wrong in the studio and as a result my view of art broadened considerably.
Everyone who is making art is an artist, I believe.
By way of example, adult colouring books are very popular right now. I would, also, encourage people to try sketching their own images as a mode of expression as well as meditation. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. However, there are many types of visual creatives in this day and age. For example, some people have a great eye for Instagram photos, some are gifted at interior design, while others really know how to put an outfit together. We all have unique creative strengths. Personally, I make art that refers to the mind and heart. My degree show installation entitled; ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’, was about the stigma surrounding mental illness in Ireland. This was important for me as I was going through a period of deep depression back then. All in all, art is a wonderful way to express that which is hard to say in words. When we make art personal, it becomes universally applicable. That’s why it is so worthwhile.
Every piece of art that I have made has been inspired by an idea, (the form, is purely secondary).
I use a variety of mediums, from sound to animation, video to painting. Generally, my pieces are shown as installations and frequently reference my own inner dialogue. In this, I like to create a mini-environment within a gallery space. In fact, currently, I am working on a series of paintings, sound clips, and a video, to present as an installation. These pieces will reference Ireland’s changing society in terms of the ‘Repeal’ debate, and the potential effects of ‘Brexit’ on our country. These type of issues are also affected by the environment so it is important that art have a societal context.
It can be very difficult to find gallery spaces that will show your work in the way that you envisioned it, so lately, I have begun to host shows under the title, ‘Off the Grid’, with my partner, Joey Edwards.
Joey is a musician, and we work together to create 24-hour events. So far, we have held the very first show in our flat in Dundalk, and it was a huge success. We showed a video piece that we collaborated on, as well as drawings that I had worked on over the preceding months. People often mention how they, sometimes, feel intimidated by going into art galleries. So, this was a lovely way to bring art directly to them in a homely environment. It was one of the most enjoyable exhibitions I have ever been part of. We are working towards another show in a similarly non-commercial space this summer. We don’t promote these shows online, rather by word of mouth and flyers, so watch this space.
Aoife Ward will be working on a series of shows with the German curator, Anne Mager, this September. For more information please see: www.aoife-ward.format.com and Instagram: @aoifewardvisual