Get to know artist NIALL NAESSENS …
The annual exhibition of Turner watercolours at the National Gallery of Ireland this year brings together the Gallery’s Vaughan bequest of 31 watercolours and a series of etchings and drawings by Niall Naessens. The exhibition includes elements that have featured in Naessens work for some time – a focus on line, framing devices and using multiple print techniques in one plate. Naessens also keeps his focus local – he lives and works from his studio in Kerry, overlooking Brandon Bay.
How did your participation in the annual Turner exhibition come about?
I approached Anne Hodge, curator of prints and drawings, four years ago with the idea of making work to complement the January Turner event at the National Gallery of Ireland. Anne liked the idea and worked on it. Good Morning Mister Turner was a working title but as the work developed it became more appropriate. Dawn permeated much of my new work. The figure of an artist appears in some of the works suggesting an encounter with Turner over the centuries through our work.
What did you learn about Turner in the process of this collaboration?
Turner is a master of light and space. The way he manipulates light creates magic in his work. When he paints he is working with light. In his late works he has not become vague or abstract, he has just dispensed with the peripheries to light. Look at his Venice watercolours in the Vaughan Bequest to see what I mean.
How long did it take to compile this exhibition?
I had done some preliminary work in 2016 drawings and notes but all the work in the show was made in 2017. The first couple of works took a long time and there were a few casualties but then it took its own course and momentum.
Who or what was a formative influence on your creative development?
Some people are from musical families. In our house my father encouraged drawing. I was more interested in drawing than design when I studied graphics in the eighties. My drawing teacher, the artist, Roger Shackleton was a big influence. I spent more time in his life room than the studio learning how to look as Roger put it. I am a draughtsman and drawing is fundamental to the art I make. James Mc Creary taught me how to make etchings at the graphic Studio Dublin. I worked as technician and printer there for many years with the studio’s many visiting artists, a chance to observe the nuances of how they constructed their work.
You have said in the past you are not a conventional landscape artist, yet it has an impact on your work.
I have become interested in how we are part of the landscape. Living in a fairly remote place you notice weather, tides, the phases of the moon. These days you can see Orion, Jupiter and Mars before dawn and also see how several ice ages whittled down the sandstone mountains over millions of years when the sun rises. The ocean never looks the same. The landscape humbles us. It will be still here when we are gone.
Do you draw outside?
I draw outside far less than I used to. I still use drawings I made outside years ago as references but now use many sources including photography and some appropriated (stolen) references. I often stick my head out the door of the studio to check things. I am inventing things now, merging places with events in my work. I try to suggest there are events before and after the image I present. I do not try to make definitive views of West Kerry but rather use the elements of my environment to create a kind of narrative.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on editioning the work in the show, which is an arduous task. I am thinking about the work I am going to make afterwards. Work begets work. For me the measure of a body of work is the amount of ideas it creates for subsequent work. Good Morning Mister Turner has opened up a lot of new ideas. My intention is that this show is a beginning.
Need to know: Good Morning Mister Turner – Niall Naessens and JMW Turner is on at the National Gallery of Ireland until January 31. Free admission; www.nationalgallery.ie.
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