2 weeks ago

Artistic License: Isobel Henihan


The Monkstown-based artist’s new work celebrates the Irish coastline …

The new collection is like a breath of fresh sea air – where are your favourite parts of the Irish coastline?

We have an amazing coastline here in Ireland, so I find it impossible to choose one spot on this beautiful island. I absolutely crave the sea, and will always seek out a swimming spot wherever I am, all year round. I love our local urban coastline here in Dublin, but I’m really looking forward to revisiting magical spots along the coasts of Galway, Clare, Kerry, Cork and Waterford as soon as I can, with a particular soft spot for Kilkee and Valentia Island. These are all places, some real, some remembered, that resonate with me, each scene brings me back to a particular moment, memory or journey. The Dalkey Island piece really resonates with me right now, bringing me back to childhood summers, cycling up there with my mum or swimming there with my dad.

What sparked your initial interest in art?

I grew up in a very artistic family, but somehow only realised I had a passion and talent for art when I was in my twenties. After studying languages at UCD, I went to Florence to prepare a portfolio to apply for Architecture. One of my first evenings in the city, I went to a life drawing session at The Cecil School, one of the renowned classical art schools in Florence, and from that moment, I fell in love with the process of creating a visual response to my surroundings. I stayed in Florence for a year, where I studied the “sight size” method used by the Renaissance masters, and then I moved to London, where I studied portraiture at Heatherley’s Art College in Chelsea for two years. These classical and contemporary influences were an amazing starting point in my career as an artist.

How and where do you work?

I use a combination of reference material, sketches, photographs, memory and intuition, usually working from my home in Monkstown. I especially enjoy working in oils or in pencil and graphite. The immediacy of working in oils, particularly for landscapes, allows textures to emerge through using a combination of palette knife and brush. I also love the contemplative, slower process of portraiture, and pencil can be a lovely medium to really accentuate the nuances and idiosyncrasies of the sitter in quite a powerfully minimalist way.

Have you found the pandemic has helped you artistically – to escape – or has it been difficult to concentrate on your artwork?

This pandemic has definitely brought with it huge challenges, especially trying to work from home with three small kids with no school to go to! Thankfully, my husband and I understand each other’s creative processes – Ben is also a creative – so we support each other by taking the kids out so the house is quiet. It has been amazing having this show at The Doorway Gallery to work towards, I think the focus has kept me sane.

How has your work evolved would you say?

In lockdown, I found myself using more colour than usual, I think it may be my response to stress, a kind of escapism. As an artist, you are constantly evaluating and reappraising how your visual narrative is going to be told. My aesthetic has become more minimalist over time, allowing the colours and and shapes engage the viewer, rather than the detail.

Need to Know:Isobel Henihan’s new work can be viewed online or at The Doorway Gallery, 24 South Frederick Street, Dublin 2; www.thedoorwaygallery.com


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