Meet the Naas-based artist whose work is inspired by the beauty and stillness of nature …
You have had an interesting creative career and recently returned to your first love of painting …
I started off following in my mother’s footsteps; she studied at the National College of Art and Design long before I was born. I completed a mixed media course in Ballyfermot and then received further formal training at NCAD. I chose textile design as it offered a range of mediums; print, weave and embroidery. I created a collection of interior fabrics and cushions for my degree inspired by the earth’s aerial views.
My first job after leaving NCAD was a creative role with the Brown Thomas display team. I started with the fashion team and, after a couple of years, moved to interiors. This was when the store had massive side windows on Wicklow Street where we would design, style and create individual rooms in each window. My work involved furniture lifting balanced out with the joy of accessorising and painting the backdrop designs. I really loved working at Brown Thomas, particularly when the different display teams came together each year to decorate the store and install the Christmas windows.
I moved on to work for Arcadia Group as a regional display coordinator for one of their fashion chains. On paper, a good move, perhaps, but creatively not so much. After having children, I decided not to go back to display and to take a leap and follow my true passion, painting.
How do you define your work?
My work is inspired by the beauty and stillness of nature. I try to bring my awareness back to this beauty, and painting is my way of enhancing this connection. Painting helps me to reroot my awareness in something bigger and beyond the everyday experience.
I started with a collection of decorative hand-painted wall plates and canvases. Following this body of work came a natural desire to transition to painting more expressively in the abstract form. I do find painting in the abstract more difficult, but I like a challenge. I spend a lot of my time standing back staring at my canvas, problem-solving, I guess.
Where and how do you work?
I work from my home studio, where I surround myself with images of aerial views, plants and beautiful interiors. However, I find that as much as I intend to, I don’t generally seem to work from these images directly. When I am in front of my canvas, my attention stays there, where I find myself guided by my own mark. I usually start loosely in ink and acrylic and then get more defined with oils. I can’t avoid working in oils as they are my favourite medium with which to work.
Can you tell us about the inspiration of your third and most recent collection, “Musings”?
Painting and simply being in natural environments are both meditative and mindful experiences for me. I often spend weekends walking throughout Wicklow with my family, which helps me to clear my mind and access a rich vein of inspiration and motivation to paint. So, if anything, “Musings” was inspired by nature. I am also inspired by interiors and their colour palettes and, therefore, desire to create something beautiful to sit within the home. I work from feelings and memories. These are often derived from a direct sensory immersion in nature when brain chatter can be set aside. I used this method regularly during lockdown, which was when I worked on “Musings”. I feel my compositions tend to lead me as they develop. When I discover elements I like, I allow that to dictate the direction toward the completed work, which can feel independent of the visual and sensory references from nature that initially inspired them. I find it very interesting when people recognise these natural elements in my work as they seem to re-emerge, perhaps subconsciously. www.joanneduggan.com
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