This is a piece I wrote for Droichead Arts Centre Programme in 2018. Part of their ongoing series ‘Voices’. I include some of the paintings of neighbourhood windows I refer to.
You start on a path not knowing where it will take you. An interest in painting and art leads to encounters with many elusive, previously unknowable places and ideas. A move to a specific geographic location leads to experiences that deepen interest and expand knowledge.
Paintings of images seen during night walks in my locality mark the start of paying closer attention to the built environment we construct. Glimpses into the lit windows on residential streets, images of interior lives filtered through and semi obscured by curtains, blinds, potted plants; rich colours, texture, light, warm and cold; the front window representing how we present the public version of our private spaces.
The business of Phibsborough, Dublin, where I live, the complex business of fitting so many moving things; people, cars, busses, bikes, prams, wheelchairs, trucks, vans, scooters into a space first laid out centuries ago. The corresponding underutilisation of other spaces; vacant sites, empty premises, top floors; the difficulty of getting from A to B, of crossing the road. Over 50% of the world’s population now live in urban settings. How our cities and built spaces work matters.
Drawing as a methodology of exploring these spaces may seem incongruous in this linked and digital age. Drawing is a slow process in a fast moving world; in a fugitive space such as a city, constantly evolving and never ‘finished’.
My work includes drawings of urban structures and infrastructures, incorporating many urban topographies including those temporary, permanent, functional, abandoned, those undergoing change, the iconic and the demolished. Drawing has helped me explore my own neighbourhood and my experience of it; it has made me think about the importance of the places in which our everyday lives unfold. I have been surprised by what I have discovered, what it has made me notice; how deeply layered are the places we create, how stimulating it is to look and draw.