Artistic License: Julie Ann Haines and Noelle O'Keefe - The Gloss Magazine

Artistic License: Julie Ann Haines and Noelle O’Keefe

The Irish printmakers are hosting their dual exhibition at Graphic Studio Gallery, Dublin 1 which is permeated by a quiet sense of contemplation …

Can you tell us the inspiration behind your new exhibition “Where the Light Falls”? 

As artists we are both interested in capturing light and the transient moment. In Julie Ann’s case within the built environment and in Noelle’s case in the pockets of nature dotted about the urban landscape.

Noelle O’Keefe and Julie Ann Haines

What was your starting point and how did you go about executing the double exhibition?  

We are great friends and last September we were invited to do an exhibition together at Graphic Studio Gallery. We had both in our own distinctive ways been working loosely on this theme of light – Julie Ann’s “Sanctuary” and Noelle’s “Her Favourite Place” having been made in 2022, so the new work evolved naturally as much of the research having been already done. Though our work is quite different, Dr Angela Griffith from Trinity College Dublin describes the exhibition as “a body of work that chimes in chromatic and thematic harmony”.

Noelle O’Keefe; ‘Her Favourite Place.’

Noelle, can you tell us how you define your work and what inspires you?  

My work is a response to the beauty, energy and vibrancy of my surroundings. Though now living in the city, I was brought up in the countryside surrounded by fields, trees and flowers and was always captivated by the beauty and variety offered by my environment. For this exhibition my inspiration came from the areas where nature finds space to thrive within the urban setting. My garden, represented here by the sunflower pieces in various stages of growth and decay, local parks particularly the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Donnybrook home to the beautiful pond which inspired “Her Favourite Place”, the diptych “She wanted the blue sky …” and the velvety night pond “A Place of Comfort and Calm.” I also found inspiration in the tranquility of the flag irises in the glow of morning light on the Grand Canal.

Julie Ann Haines; ‘Grace O’Malley, Early Morning.’

Julie Ann how do you define your work? 

My work depicts moments of stillness in the overlooked corners of urban spaces close to where I work and live. I try to depict the depth of beauty in ordinary domestic settings. I am inspired by light and my subject matter is the unremarkable and unpeopled localities passed by everyday in early morning or evening when all that is left are the traces of those who have passed through. I depict still life arrangements captured on sunlit balconies or in front gardens observed from my immediate surroundings. My current imagery is drawn from the area adjacent to my studio in the North inner city or housing on the semi rural fringes of wider North County Dublin. My work celebrates the depth of beauty in these ordinary domestic settings and the life that flows through them, the light illuminating their facades. I meticulously crop images of washing lines, potted plants, windows and garden furniture to create my compositions.  

Noelle O’Keefe, ‘Canal Bank Walk’

How and where do you work?

Noelle: “I paint at home either in the garden, my kitchen or in a small attic studio, depending on the weather or where the light is best at the particular time. I paint in oils as I love the flexibility, and the depth and richness of colour they offer. I start painting from life, the image changing as my subject changes over time, later finishing from photos. I make my etchings in the Graphic Studio Workshop on the North Circular Road. The facilities are wonderful. All my etchings involve making multiple plates which is a lengthy process. I draw the image with an etching needle, etch with acid the exposed line on a copper plate, apply aquatint resin to achieve flat or textured areas of colour. This can take weeks depending on the size and complexity of the piece. When the plates are made, colour proofing begins, inking and wiping the plates individually by hand, and printing the image using a large press layering the colour plates. There is a lot of trial and error until the finished piece is achieved.”

Julie Ann Haines, ‘Where The Light Falls.’

Julie Ann: “As a printmaker, I require specific facilities namely, large printing presses and acid to make my etchings on large sheets of copper. These facilities are available to me at my studio, The Graphic Studio Dublin on the North Circular Road, which is Ireland’s oldest printmaking studio and a beautiful three-storey old distillery building situated adjacent to Croke Park. I begin my process by photographing imagery and sketching in pencil or paint. From there I make my master plate, drawing onto copper and painting the acid on as if it was watercolour to etch the image. I layer up colours, inking and wiping each plate. It is an intensive process and one that takes time and focus to produce. However, when creating my smaller unique monotype works, I enjoy the privacy of home and the natural light provided in my kitchen. A lot of these works are produced on my living room floor or kitchen table.”

Noelle O’Keefe, ‘A Jungle In My Garden – September.’

Have you got any favourite artworks for this exhibition?  

Noelle: “It’s so difficult to choose! I suppose ‘She wanted the Blue Sky…’ was an achievement as it was a very challenging piece to make involving eight plates. I love the composition. The blue of that November sky was so intense that I couldn’t ignore it. I decided to crop the image to portray only the reflection, to focus on this glorious blue, fragmented by trees and set within the dense tonal contrasts of wilting pond life and broken vegetation. I love the vibrancy of the sunflower pieces. They are neither idealised nor sentimentalised, but depicted in various stages of growth and decay. Their energy is in stark contrast to serenity of the canal pieces, ‘Canal Bank Walk’ and ‘Morning light Grand Canal.”

Julie Ann Haines, ‘Red Geranium, Baskin Lane.’

Julie Ann: “This is a difficult question as I always feel quite emotionally attached to the subject matter I depict. My favourite artworks however in this body of work are probably those of the flats that I pass on my commute, when they are drenched in early morning or late afternoon sun. I observed and photographed these settings almost daily, intrigued by the light falling on all the usual contents of an apartment balcony. Curtains of washing, crooked pot plants, strings of solar lighting, private moments from other people’s lives. In the light of early evening or late morning they revealed a deeper, more contemplative and poetic beauty. It was this that most inspired me and I named one of my larger etchings from this series “Where the Light Falls”, depicting a washing line, the same title as the show and ‘Early Evening, Fitzgibbon Street’. The window is another motif that attracts me. Of the several I have depicted in the show ‘Red Geranium, Baskin lane’ is my favourite. When passing 1940s bungalows one morning, the light was golden casting cool blue shadows across the facades of the buildings. A neglected house caught my attention, its garden was overgrown and the plants withered in their pots and hanging baskets, except for one scarlet flower, hence the title. Out of this very ordinary subject matter, my first and largest etching was created. 

 Need to Know: Julie Ann Haines and Noelle O’Keefe’s Where the Light Falls is at the Graphic Studio Dublin until October 7;


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