Briefly describe the work you do
Sculpture for me is a means of giving form to my personal investigation of a core philosophical question: What is this enigma that we call life?
All living matter responds to external stimuli and internalises these external forces, transforming itself through such interactions, and endlessly manifesting ‘a state of suspended tension between being and non-being, in which both being and non-being are unreal and only their incessant interaction, their becoming, is real’, as Austrian philosopher, Ernest Fischer writes
By carving directly by hand in wood, without making use of any preliminary plans or drawings, my work strives to capture a moment in time of this ephemeral flow of life, in an attempt to give concrete form to this process of becoming. By giving a tangible form to such a constant metamorphosis/transformation, I strive to access the essential and enigmatic element or energy that exists in all things, but that remains elusive and unseen and that can only ever be evoked
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
My life in art is due mainly to my father and his interest in the Russian language. It was while he was studying Russian in Dublin that he met and befriended a Russian sculptor living in Ireland, Lev Neznansky. In my twenties I had just dropped out of college and was unsure of where my future lay. I was always artistic growing up but when I finished school I never had the confidence to apply for art college. On meeting Lev, I asked if he would allow me to come and work with him for a while. It was through Lev and his work that I discovered my love for carving directly in wood.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My current studio is a derelict building in Dublin city with no electricity or heat. As I work by hand my pieces are very labour intensive and so I would spend much of my time in my studio.
My practice involves carving directly in wood by hand without preliminary drawings or plans. I also work without the use of machine tools or a work bench and use the ground as my work space. The reason for not using a work bench is that it only allows you to work on one aspect of a piece at a time, before turning it over and re-securing it in order to work on the other side. This method of working is more suited to a rational, pre-planned approach which is the antithesis of my working methods.
My practice, is more spontaneous, and by working on a piece on the ground I can re-position my body or the piece itself so as to work on various sides in a more fluid and free-flowing way. Therefore when I first start on a piece there is no top or bottom, left or right only a constantly changing orientation that is only finally resolved towards completion.
The raison d’etre of my work is the process of the transfer of this energy through my body via hammer and chisel into a piece of wood. The final piece is a silent testament to the physical processes involved in its own making.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I don’t find myself playing any other roles or roles that are in any way different that I hadn’t envisioned before I started making art. Making art, for me is only an extension or manifestation of my life as a whole, for me I could never envision it as a distinct separate activity.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
There is no best time for me to make art. It is a constant and on-going conceptual process, a way of being, whether I am in the studio or not.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
The only major change in my work in recent years is a gradual simplification of forms and a toning down of the exuberance and energy of some of my earlier pieces, a movement towards subtlety, simplicity and the essential, involving a quieter and more meditative process.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
“Substance is movement and change” – Henri Bergson
My work very much engages with the notion of process and the essential energy inherent in everything and is a part of my wider interest in and exploration of ideas, everything from the Buddhist notion of Samsara to the ideas of Henri Bergson to contemporary “process philosophy”.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
I have worked in the past for many years in Arts organisations and galleries but these positions also played a formative role in shaping my ideas and experiences of art. My other interests in philosophy and art history are wholly bound up with being an artist and I would never see them as being separate endeavours.
As a sculptor, I never undertook any formal training. I started sculpting in my early twenties, working with Russian sculptor, Lev Neznansky and it was then that I first discovered my love for carving directly in wood. In the early 1990’s I worked with Irish sculptor, Cathy Carman and from her learned the techniques of casting in bronze.
I subsequently lived and worked in San Diego, California, where I exhibited extensively. After returning to Dublin and after a fifteen year career as an art gallery administrator I returned to sculpting full-time in 2011. Since then I have exhibited my work in various galleries and art fairs in both Ireland and England. I currently exhibit with the Solomon Gallery inDublin and with Nicholas Bowlby Fine Art and the Barbara Stanley Gallery in the U.K.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.