16 Aug 2022

Carmel Bergin

Artist who draws hope and inspiration from transcending the 'dark night of the soul'

Carmel Bergin

FROM Offaly, I planned to do Social Care after secondary school but my passion was for art so I undertook a portfolio course in Thurles and later enrolled at Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD).

I was always creative by nature, having a flair for English from a young age, and I always loved to draw but I didn’t get very good at the latter until secondary school and I had to graft at it. By contrast, my mother is a talented dressmaker and my younger cousins show real talent at same but I remain the only artist in the family.

Eventually, I settled on printmaking as a discipline because it was the most practical and I wanted to learn a concrete skill.

Because I loved to draw, printmaking was a natural fit for me, as drawing is the basis for most printmaking techniques. After studying printmaking I now have the skills for a variety of different techniques which allows me to be more versatile. My favorite of these techniques is probably etching and screen printing. Etching is a technique very like drawing and I enjoy the process of etching the plate with acid. Screen printing is more immediate and allows for drawing, photographic and painterly styles. The majority of my prints are hybrid prints and a mixture of various techniques.

Artists like Amy Cutler, Ray Pettibon, Louise Bourgeois and Kiki Smith, inspire my work.

The natural world and flowers, in particular, figure in my work and the thistle is a recurring motif because it’s a symbol of pain, protection and pride. A lot of my work stems from my experience with depression, anxiety and psychosis, so the subject matter is quite dark. However, I try to present it innocently in order to draw the viewer in. Making work about my experiences has been a therapeutic process and does help me get through difficult periods.

At the moment I am working on a new series of film photographs which I hope to exhibit at some point in the near future.

These have emerged from the large scale drawing piece that appeared in my final year show at LSAD (be.cause) and combine darkroom techniques and drawing. They are made-up of self-portraits where I draw on acetate and place them on top of the images during the printing process creating white light-like drawings on the images. From this experimental photography I plan to take these images, scan them, and make digital pieces that I can then turn into hybrid prints from a combination of etching, mono-print and screen printing.

Some of my concepts are drawn from mythology, symbolism, and religious iconography, but the majority of my work is created subconsciously.

For example, I often use the surrealist method of automatic drawing by spilling out images onto a page (only afterwards attaching meaning to them). As a result, these pieces are probably the most personal I make as they come straight from my psyche and my own personal experience. However, the only one who can truly understand them is me, so in that way, they remain universal because I want viewers to take their own meaning from my work. We were taught in LSAD that a piece stops being yours when you put it on display for the public. This certainly stops you becoming overly precious about your work.

Art is addictive-the challenge being to get an idea in your head to materialize while the satisfaction of seeing it realized becomes the driving force for the next piece and so on.

There is also a chance element that comes from creating a piece, which can be made more exciting, by turning an image in a certain way, or simply through a happy accident that improves your work. Making art is also a different experience every time you do it and this constant change is very alluring. Some people are naturally talented and some people have to work at it but for most people it is a mixture of both.

Getting to do what you love every day is a real joy. It is just great being a maker and getting to create something that never existed before.

Even though it is a lot of fun to be an artist it isn’t the easiest job in the world either. Sometimes ideas don’t flow as freely as they should and pieces don’t seem to work which can be frustrating and then there is the financial side of things of course. It has been difficult economically these past few years for artists as well as for most professions. That said, I do think that things are definitely turning around and the public are buying art again, especially handmade bespoke pieces. There are also online sites now like ‘Etsy’ and ‘Big Cartel’ which are great platforms for artists and designers to sell their work. Most artists have to get a ‘real job’ to supplement their practice, though. Eventually, I hope to go on and study Art Therapy and obtain work in a very rewarding field. I would then continue to make pieces on the side.

Please see the website: and Instagram: @carmelbergers

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