The artistic duo’s new joint exhibition highlights their interest in the unknown, liminal spaces and the mysticism of ancient Ireland…
What was the inspiration behind your new exhibition “Thin Places” at SO Fine Art Editons?
James Kirwan: “Through our conversations over the years, we found that we were both fascinated with the Irish landscape and its mysticism. So we decided this was an obvious thread that we could both work with. I, personally, feel that over time there has been a continuity and underlying repetitive theme of paganism, whether intentional or not. I am drawn to an ancient energy that exists within the landscape, and with that comes visions of an imaginary world or ‘Thin Place’.”
Clare Henderson: “One residency in particular that we attended together at Cill Rialaig in Co Kerry stands out. We had the chance to really get talking about our ideas and interests and had such an amazing time exploring the landscape. I’ve always loved horror, science fiction, ancient tales and folklore but when I’m in the countryside those stories of misty places, of ghosts and spirits really come alive. We definitely found that we both often seem to have some kind of liminal story or mythology in our minds when making work.”
James Kirwan, ‘Alone Wolf’
How did you go about executing the double exhibition?
J.K: “We both went to college together at NCAD, so we have known each other a long time. Having worked together before we found it natural to come up with an idea for a show together. Through meetings, emails, phone calls and our kindred sense of humour we mapped out a plan together for our exhibition.”
Clare Henderson, ‘Connemara 6’
C.H: “Catherine O’Riordan from SO Fine Arts and I were speaking one day about an exhibition and she happened to mention James was going to exhibit with her around the same time. I love working with James, and so, even though our work is visually quite different, we suggested a duo show because there is definitely a shared sensitivity. It’s such a privilege to get to work with your friends, especially ones that were in your class in college!”
James Kirwan, ‘Cottage Cheese’
How and where do you work ?
J.K: “Like many other artists, I was suddenly evicted from Richmond Road Studios over a year ago. Since then I have moved between a couple of temporary studios and am currently based in a space in Smithfield. I usually work on many paintings at the same time, adding and removing abstract layers in an intuitive manner. I work with acrylic and spray paint to find textures and effects that I like. Usually, representational images will be added last, and chosen to tie the rest of the body of work into the same thread.”
Clare Henderson, ‘Connemara 9’
C.H: “That eviction was a massive blow to so many of us. For me, it precipitated a move out of the city, to a house in Clifden where I have a spare room that I can work in. The move has also allowed me to be much closer to remote areas, such as mountains, islands and the sea, so I can now work outside with relative ease, which is a big part of my practice. I also make a lot of prints, so that part of my work mainly takes place in Graphic Studio Dublin, as printmakers often need loads of specialist equipment.”
James Kirwan, ‘Wood’
Can you expand on how the artworks relate to each other and their common duality?
J.K: “We both have lived and created artwork in different parts of the island and have an appreciation for the ever-changing light, mood and energy of certain regions. Even though our work is visually very different, we both have similar ideas on veiled worlds that exist parallel to this physical one. My work uses very unnatural, often overly saturated colours that are not often found in the natural world but are more than likely influenced by the bombardment of digital media that feels unavoidable. There is a ‘glitchiness’ or erratic noise to be found in my paintings that is a result of this, which is a contrast against an intentional calmness.”
Clare Henderson, ‘Connemara III’
C.H: “I would describe it as two sides of the same coin. My work is quite still, James’ often has quite a lot of movement. Our shared imagery definitely conveys the island of Ireland, from its abandoned buildings to its misty mountains. Ireland’s landscape also provides us with a broad spectrum of bright greens, pinks and yellows along with muted greys, blues and purples, that we draw from in our respective palettes. I think there’s a duality to almost everything in our psyche, and what I hope the audience gets from mine and James’ work is a sense that there are things in life to celebrate and things to mourn, but the beauty of life is that there is room for all four seasons of the year.”
Need to know: “Thin Places” by Clare Henderson and James Kirwan is on at SO Fine Art Editions, Powerscourt Townhouse until October 21; www.sofinearteditions.com.