For the acclaimed international artist NIAMH BARRY, Dollymount Island provides both mental relief and inspiration for her groundbreaking LED light sculptures …
I’ve lived in Dublin all my life. I studied ceramics at NCAD before transitioning to metalwork and glass, teaching myself welding in the process. My creative journey has been as exciting as any physical ones I’ve undertaken. Now I work mostly with bronze, creating edge-lit pieces using LED technology. I have always been drawn to light – LEDS were simply a technological advancement that allowed me the scope to literally draw with light!
I’m fortunate I get to travel quite frequently for work and have had exhibitions in London, Milan, Basel, New York, Miami, Dubai and San Francisco. I have gallery representation in New York through which I’ve had commissions for interior designers such as Peter Marino, Nate Berkus and David Easton. Even though I had contact with them at arm’s length only, via my gallery and email, the process was very exciting and rewarding. Much as I enjoy visiting New York, especially the SoHo area, staying in the Crosby Street hotel and having breakfast in Balthazar, Dublin will always be my favourite place. There’s nothing I enjoy more than walking around the south city centre when I have some spare time. I’ll have a coffee in Kaph on Drury Street, or a lunch in Cornucopia on Wicklow Street and take in the hustle and bustle of the city. I often find myself looking up at the streetscape above me and absorbing the energy and vitality all around.
I have always had a very natural response to space, so I had a very clear idea of which of my LED light sculptures I wanted to use in the new exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland. The six pieces presented span ten years of my work and are accompanied by details and drawings of how they were made – each sculpture takes hundreds of hours of work. I’ve always said my work is visceral – to be seen with the eyes but also experienced emotionally, and I hope visitors will respond to them.
When I first started out, I worked alone from a shipping container. Now I have a purpose-built studio space in Lusk and a team of nine. I work with sketches and computer-generated programmes, though a lot of my work is floating around in my head. I’m constantly thinking of pieces and how to refine them. I am drawn to fire and candlelight. The colour temperature of the light that they emit is 2,700 Kelvin; I can achieve that same colour temperature with the LED technology I utilise in my work.
I am inspired by nature, human form and animals. That’s why Dollymount Island is my favourite place. It’s close to home, yet when I cross the bridge, it takes me away from the business of my overactive mind and studio, to a place where I am immersed in nature, which feeds into the intuitive process of art. I smell the earth and the sea and look across the bay with all of Dublin revealed, and up to the mountains where I grew up. I love the wind blowing away the cobwebs, and the sight of kites and seals above and below.
I usually try to visit a few times a week.
Niamh Barry’s “Light on Earth” exhibition is currently at the National Museum of Ireland, Collins Barracks, Dublin and will run for a year; www.niamhbarry.com.
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