Irish artist Casey Walshe’s new paintings explore the complexities around the act of flower giving and receiving, and are love letters to lovers and friends …
What first sparked your interest in art?
I’ve been very fortunate to grow up with quite a few creative people around me, including visual artists and musicians in my family, as well as family friends. I was taken to a lot of art exhibitions as a child and quickly realised that it was a “job” that maybe I could do in the future. I was always drawing, painting and making as a child and that was encouraged. As a teenager, I made a portfolio and applied to The National College of Art and Design in Dublin. Luckily, I was accepted and I started first year in 2006. There wasn’t any formal training in particular that I undertook, it was enough to be facilitated by some wonderful tutors, and from there develop a studio practice. Over time I ended up discovering what works for me in terms of how I use materials and space, and how I develop my research.
Where and how do you work?
I work in an artist’s studio building in Dublin city centre. When I arrive at my studio I tend to sit quietly for an hour just looking at the work; this is my problem-solving time. I’ll evaluate what’s working and what is not, how is the paint from yesterday drying? What should I do next? Once I have my decisions made on today’s work – then I get to work.
For research and development of my ideas, I take photos of flowers, usually ones that have been given to me, or that are at special places – parks that I enjoy, gardens, etc. I usually use an old 35mm analogue camera, I’ve been using this camera for 20 years now. I stick photos up around the studio and make sketches, figuring out shape and composition. Sometimes I have the scans on my phone and I crop sections that I like and simply hold my phone in my left hand and sketch out the shapes on the canvas. It’s a bit of guesswork but I enjoy the unpredictability of it.
The process of painting is incredibly long as I’m building the work up in layers, using oil paint. For large canvases, the background colour is generally four to five layers, sometimes a lighter shade over a darker shade. I like colours to bleed through a small bit. Mixing and applying one layer on a large canvas could take about two to three hours. And in general, working on motifs and composition and a full body of works – maybe ten to twelve pieces would take about nine months to complete from the research stages through to the finished work.
Tell us about the inspiration for your new exhibition at RHA?
My new show at The RHA Gallery is called TENDER. I feel like this word described everything in my life at the time, from my colour palette, to how I approach my job as an artist, to how the world around me in general seemed to be. Tender both implies something soft, gentle, and warm, and equally can indicate pain or discomfort. This exhibition features a series of small paintings on board in sizes 30x30cm and 30x40cm as well as some larger canvases in 5ftx5ft and 5ftx10ft.
I also worked with Curator Paints and chose Shavehook grey for the gallery walls. I think having the gallery painted with a warmer colour creates a more intimate setting. My hope is that viewers will forget they are in a dedicated gallery space. Because the paintings are so colourful, I feel that the Shavehook grey makes all the colours pop a little more.
Need to Know: Casey Walshe’s exhibition “Tender” runs from November 17 to December 17 in the RHA Ashford Gallery, 15 Ely Place, Dublin 2; www.rhagallery.ie.