A stint in Cork helped put artist on the map

Cork Printmakers and the city’s collective of artists were a huge help for Luke Reidy as he strove to find his artistic muse after college, reveals DAN JOHNSON
A stint in Cork helped put artist on the map

INNOVATIVE: Luke Reidy’s artform is screen printing, layering shapes and colours over one another, sometimes more than 20 times, to create bespoke contemporary designs

ARTIST Luke Reidy was unsure of what to expect when he moved to Cork in September, 2018.

Reidy, aged 26, is a screen printer who has become well-known in contemporary design circles. He has received commissions nationally and internationally from collectors, architects, and hotels.

The Office of Public Works and the National University of Ireland have also acquired several of his pieces, and he has had successful exhibitions in Cork, Galway, and Dublin.

But Reidy points to his time at Cork Printmakers as a key period of his development as an artist.

A 2018 graduate of the Centre for Creative Arts and Media at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, he was awarded a 12-month residency at Cork Printmakers, an arts facility on Wandesford Quay, which is one of only three of its kind in Ireland.

Reidy had been given full access to the printmaking studio and to its paints and supplies. So, after spending the 2018 summer back home in West Clare, he packed up his car and headed down to Cork almost two years ago.

Reidy’s artform is screen printing, layering shapes and colours over one another, sometimes more than 20 times, to create bespoke contemporary designs.

Often inspired by abstracted architecture, he works with three principles in mind: balance, colour and form.

Reidy says he seeks to create pieces that please the eye by playing with ratios of the three, finding ways in which unique combinations of form and colour meet in balance.

Essentially, each piece is printed in such a way that it’s the perfect embodiment of balance in relation to itself.

Reidy compares it to the way we read, telling me that he once saw a piece of his reflected in a mirror and thought, ‘that doesn’t look right at all’. He goes on: “We read left to right, and if we were to read the same sentence right to left it would make no sense.”

The same applies to his artwork.

Regarding his experience at Cork Printmakers, Reidy said he was initially nervous about the move.

He had heard horror stories from other emerging artists coming into new studio spaces — scene veterans guarding their work, being contentious over studio space.

On top of that, he was a fresh college graduate moving to Cork for the first time, and he had no connections in the city. He would be starting from scratch.

Still in the process of moving his things down from Clare, Reidy arrived on his first day in the studio on Wandesford Quay without supplies. However, one of Cork’s most well-respected artists, Shane O’Driscoll, welcomed him warmly and offered Reidy the use of his own tools for the day.

Reidy had been following O’Driscoll and his work for years and was, and still is, a huge fan.

“It was like meeting a famous footballer,” Reidy said.

A friendly welcome, indeed!

Immediately, Reidy could tell the Cork arts scene was something special. Other established and accomplished artists like Seán Hanrahan and Deirdre Breen brought Reidy into the fold, and studio technicians such as Jonny Bugler and Peter McMorris trusted the newcomer from the start with all the facilities Cork Printmakers had to offer.

Working in the same space as artists he respected so much helped him to reach new heights. He felt held to a higher standard, which was vital.

“Everyone was swapping work, being supportive, but also pushing each other and learning,” Reidy said.

The fingerprints, smudges, and dots of paint residue, common signs of novice print making, were swiftly cleaned up. Professionalism, Reidy said, was perhaps the most important lesson he learned, but it was also important for him, as an emerging artist, to feel “legitimized”.

An artist working in any medium faces the test of Imposter Syndrome. Even the Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Maya Angelou, after publishing 11 books said: “They’re going to find out now. I’ve been running a game and they’re going to find me out.”

But it was the inclusive, inspiring community at Cork Printmakers that bolstered the Clare native and made him feel like he belonged.

Seán Hanrahan even gave Rdidy the recommendation to the Halftone Print Fair in Dublin’s Temple Bar where Reidy sold his first pieces.

Before Covid-19 and social distancing became the new global reality, Reidy was in the midst of completing his newest position as Artist in Residence for Galway Capital of Culture 2020.

He had studio space at his alma mater, and he was giving weekly lectures to arts students, passing on the lessons he had learned during his time at Cork Printmakers.

More recently, he is based back home in West Clare, working to continue to create in the difficult conditions of the times.

Reidy said the knock on effect of Covid-19 for artists is hard to assess with any certainty, but he is busy filling orders for prints in the early months of it all, as some people took to home maintenance and redecoration during lockdown.

“I think that Covid pushed people to look at their homes and interiors and actually made them open their eyes to art a little bit,” Reidy said.

For now, he has cleared out the shed and has been busy transforming it into a DIY studio, ordering paints and materials, ready for whatever comes next.

Luke Reidy is on Instagram @lukereidyy, and his art can be found on lukereidyartist.com

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