Briefly describe the work you do.
I make paintings that are based on human organs and skeletal structures. I look at the ribcage, the pelvic bone , the heart and lungs. The work suggests the presence of an unknowable energy within these forms. I am interested in death, rebirth and regeneration. I work in series, using a framework of notebook documenting, drawing, and then painting. I am looking at land and the body in a way where each inhabits the other. I view bones and organs as relics; buried, rising, unearthed, and then revived or inhabited. My paintings impart land and body as a microcosm of an ever expanding universe and consciousness.
I am currently on a residency at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin, Ireland.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
My Dad, Lorcan Walshe is a well known Irish artist, also a painter. And my mother Susan is a scientist. When I was around 4 years old I told them that I was a painter too. I never came up against any resistance from them for my chosen path and I am very grateful for their constant support and encouragement.
Because Mum works and teaches at one of Irelands biggest hospitals I have an interest in anatomy, the peculiarities of our bodies as systems and the latest developments in healthcare.
My parents buy a lot of art so I have grown up around paintings by well known Irish artists such as Patrick Graham, Cecily Brennan, Patrick Pye, Pat Harris, Michele Souter, Patrick Scott and Charles Brady to name a few. These paintings certainly influenced my early work, my drawings, my palette and my mark making.
I am also very lucky to have always worked in a studio space. I spent a lot of time hanging out in my Dads studio as a child. I think that had a very positive influence on me when I started art college. I was never daunted by a big blank white space and I didn’t find it particularly difficult to adjust to after leaving secondary school.
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 studio space is very important to me. I always invest in good studio spaces – big, bright, white, quiet and in a group setting. I have to be able to close the door behind me and feel comfortable in the space if I want to get any work done! I also need other artists around me for lunch breaks and to avoid feeling isolated.
When I am researching I need to go and look at things in real life and draw from them. I have recently spent some time at The Huntarian Museum at The Royal College of Surgeons in London. The Natural History Museum is two minutes from my studio. I can draw from skeletons there and The Royal College of Surgeons is a five minute walk away. I have been drawing from hearts and lungs in their lab and they have been so kind and accommodating. In some ways the lab and the museums have been temporary studios.
I return to my studio with my notebooks and then make paintings. Painting days are very long. I am in early and usually take a 2 hour lunch break in the middle of the day and ill go for a walk. I get my best work done in the evenings when I am a little tired and my body is more relaxed.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
It turns out that I am a pretty good organiser. I did not envision that I would collaborate with other artists, curate and put on exhibitions. That has been exciting and a real learning experience. I also did not imagine myself to be in as many public speaking roles as I have been in. Giving talks and engaging in panel discussions has been very informative and really helps me to feel like I am connecting with an audience and a community that I belong in.
There is also an admin role which is everyday! And sometimes all day! It has to be done but it is the side of making art that perhaps people do not know about. I have to be careful to manage it well and not let it interfere with my studio practice so I try my best to do this work outside the studio, usually in a café that has good wifi !
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?
I make my best work from October to April, they are the coldest months in Ireland, they keep me indoors for longer and my sleep is better in the winter. As for daytime hours, the mornings and the evenings are good for me. Not the afternoon. Afternoons are for phonecalls, meetings, going to the library, the hardware shop or the art supply shop.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
My research methods, the long periods of time spent drawing and my mark making still seem to be the same as five years ago. Older works were more about body sensations and energy whereas newer work is influenced by ideas about consciousness and unconsciousness and in between states of being.
Looking at the heart as a subject is a new thing. Two years ago I suffered a severe concussion in a freak accident. When I woke up, my brain activity was so slow that I wasn’t sure whether I was dead or alive. In the days that followed I had an irregular heart rate and for a number of months afterwards I struggled with post concussive syndrome. I am fully recovered now and although it was a difficult time I feel that it influenced my work in a very positive way. My palette changed and the paintings have more depth to them now.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
I was around very interesting tutors in art college (NCAD) such as Robert Armstrong, Diana Copperwhite, Clare Carpenter and Margaret O’Brien. Talking to them and following their work has helped me figure a lot of things out in regards to my own work, especially on a practical level.
Conversations about bodies and energy with other painters, singers and performers has helped me to think about how to tap into certain energies while I paint. I learn a lot from my friends and their methods and experiences. I always stand up when I paint and I don’t wear shoes. It is a very physical experience and I try to let anger, sexual energy, pain, joy, secrets and fantasy come to the surface as I paint.
I love the work of painters Cy Twombly, Mark Rothko, Frank Auerbach and Dana Schutz to name a few. I’m really into Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetry and Jeannette Wintersons writing.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
No not really, I always wanted to be an artist. Other interests include watching sports like soccer and tennis. I’m a big fan of Venus Williams and Paula Radcliffe. And my big passion in life is cycling. I am happiest when out for a cycle, my mind clears. I cycle everyday.
Chanelle Walshe lives and works in Dublin Ireland. She is currently artist in residence at The Royal Hibernian Academy and recent recipient of The Thomas Dammann Award.
Walshe’s work suggests the presence of an unknowable energy within forms such as pelvic bones, lungs, hearts and landscape. She is interested in death, rebirth and regeneration with particular focus on the permeable, transitory boundary that exists between them.
She works in series, using a framework of documenting, drawing, and painting. Her primary interests lie in both the self-destructive and regenerative qualities of both Man and Earth. She looks at land and the body in a way where each inhabits the other. She is influenced by a traditional and romantic connection to Irish land, heritage and treasures. Walshe views bones and organs as relics; buried, rising, unearthed, and then revived or inhabited. Her paintings impart land and body as a microcosm of an ever expanding universe and consciousness.
Walshe graduated from NCAD in 2010. Recent exhibitions include not life / necessarily at NCAD Gallery Dublin, 2014 (2 person) and Copernicus and other systems at FLOORONEGALLERY, Temple Bar Gallery and Studios Dublin, 2013 (solo). Previous group shows include PANORAMA curated by Chanelle Walshe and Kathy Tynan at Pallas Projects Dublin 2015, Future Perfect The Hugh Lane Dublin City Gallery 2013 and On Departure The Golden Thread Gallery, Northern Ireland 2010. She has undertaken residencies at The good Hatchery, Co.Offaly (2011) and at Werk.Stadt.Laden, Dresden, Germany (2013). Walshe is artist in residence at the RHA Dublin from July 2015 to Feburary 2016.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.