Artist and art teacher Paul Connell has an exhibition running at Cork County Hall this month. He talks about his art work, students and family life
TELL us about yourself:
My name is Paul Connell, I’m a 23 year old artist based in Cork and I’ve just started a new position as an Art Teacher at second level in Regina Mundi College, Cork.
As an artist, I’ve exhibited in a number of group shows in venues such as the Lavit Gallery, the James Barry exhibition centre and even Electric Picnic, but I’ve recently opened my first solo exhibition, ‘BOLG: an artist’s autopsy’ at the LHQ Gallery at Cork County Hall!
For me, this is a great opportunity to see my own work outside of my sketchbooks and hanging on walls that they actually fit on!
My practice involves using drawing to make very large works on paper or canvas or blackboard, but also to layer and animate them into short films. I find that drawing can be a powerfully expressive medium for storytelling and it’s never restricted by the limitations of things like special effects in cinema or even language barriers in fiction or theatre.
Drawing has always been a very intimate discipline for me, but it has also become discovery, and a very honest way of thinking.
Where were you born?
I was born in Cork in 1997.
Where do you live?
I live in Carrigaline with my family.
I’m the eldest of three children. My brother Jamie is studying engineering and is a talented violinist, and our sister Maria is just better than everybody at everything and it is very unfair. My mom and dad are exceptional people, it sounds a cliché but it’s truly uncanny how they just seem to know everything! They’ve been more than supportive of all my decisions and instrumental in my success, there is no=one’s opinion I value more than theirs.
My girlfriend Zoe and I just had our five year anniversary.
Earliest childhood memory?
When I was very young I had to go up and down from Crumlin sometimes, and I vaguely remember playing with some toy lions on the train. I still have them!
Person you most admire?
President Michael D Higgins always inspires me.
Person who most irritates you?
Anti-maskers. People who don’t turn their phone off in the cinema. Trump.
Favourite TV programme?
Snowpiercer on Netflix has got to be my new favourite and current obsession. It’s about social class revolution and reform in the most unique dystopian setting with some incredible performances, I highly recommend!
Favourite radio show?
‘The 9 at 11’ on TodayFM on Saturday mornings is a bit of a family tradition.
Your signature dish if cooking?
Egg and rasher sandwiches.
Captain Americas on South Main Street. Best chips in Cork, I swear.
Last book you read?
It was an Art History textbook called Rembrandt’s Nose by Michael R Taylor — I was studying up on the Renaissance painter for a college project and I found myself reading the whole book cover to cover because it almost felt like I knew him personally my whole life. He poured so much of himself, his personality, his humanity into his portrait paintings that even his nose had such charming character, I couldn’t help but feel that way. His work has had a significant influence on me since.
Best book you read?
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness is probably the most beautifully composed book I’ve ever read. It’s poetic and emotionally real and has actually had a very present influence on my artwork. (I’m very proud of my signed copy!)
Last album/CD/download you bought?
RTJ4 by Run The Jewels — probably the album of the summer for me!
I can’t be alone in having a new favourite every week, but at the moment I’m hopelessly in love with Dinner & Diatribes and In The Woods Somewhere by Hozier.
One person you would like to see in concert?
Panic! at the Disco.
Do you have a pet?
We have a turtle named Terra. She’s a bit insensitive and has bad taste in music, but we love her anyway.
Morning person or night owl?
I much prefer to work at night when the world is asleep. My family has gotten used to going to bed and coming downstairs the next morning to find my enormous drawings littering the house, that seem to have just appeared out of nowhere, like the shoe-maker and the elves!
Your proudest moment?
The director of the Glucksman Gallery, Fiona Kearney, spoke at the launch of an exhibition I had some work in last year called Fledglings at the Lavit Gallery. She’s an amazing public speaker and curator, and also really lovely in person — but she spoke really positively and eloquently about my work, and I suppose that was the first time I felt like a real artist as opposed to a student. I was being taken seriously by someone who everyone in the art world takes seriously, and that was a very proud moment. She described my drawings as ‘some of the finest and most imaginative produced in Ireland’ that she’s ever seen, and compared my career to that of some famous artists I’ve always admired.
Spendthrift or saver?
I am very good at spending absurd amounts of money on art supplies that afterwards I’m too nervous to use or waste up!
What makes you happy?
There is a hedgehog who lives somewhere near my house and I see him quite frequently in my garden, he always puts a smile on my face. I find happiness in nature a lot, spotting songbirds at the feeders or even the herons and swans I see on the commute to school every day. It’s good for the soul.
How would you like to be remembered?
Fondly, I hope. I like to think that I may make a lasting impression on my students. Some of my students from last year have recently been accepted into various art colleges and I can’t wait to see what they accomplish next, and hopefully I or someone else in many decades’ time will get to see their work hanging next to mine in a gallery some day. I think this is the legacy I want to leave behind.
What else are you up to at the moment?
I’m currently completing my Masters Degree in Art Education and working on improving my Gaeilge everyday. I’m also the new Events Officer for the UCC Scribble Society, and will be leading a lot of online arts and crafts events for beginners and veteran scribblers alike!
I’ve already begun expanding on and continuing my line of work from the point where I left off that can be seen in the body of work in ‘BOLG’, and I also have some plans for future exhibitions and collaborations with other artists on the horizon too.
‘BOLG: An Artist’s Autopsy’ runs in the LHQ Gallery at Cork County Hall for all of September, 2020, subject to Covid-19 public health guidelines.