Cork artist explores 'need for connection' in new exhibition

From working in costume design on the set of Graham Norton’s ‘Holding’ to having her own solo exhibition as an artist... TARA MAHER catches up with Aoife Nolan
Cork artist explores 'need for connection' in new exhibition

Sample-Studios is delighted to present a new solo exhibition by graduate artist Aoife Nolan in the Lord Mayor’s Pavilion, Fitzgerald’s Park, from January 26 to March 11.

‘FAMILY Album’ is the title of a solo exhibition currently running in the Lord Mayor’s Pavilion in Fitzgerald’s Park.

Aoife Nolan is showcasing her work as she was the Sample-Studios Graduate Studio Residency awardee for 2022,.

The exhibition, which opened at the end of January, continues until March 11.

Originally from Navan, Co. Meath, Aoife has always had a passion for art and creativity. As a child, she would spend her Friday afternoons in local artist Patrick Reel’s studio.

Aoife recalls how some of her happiest childhood memories were spent going on nature walks, where they would collect leaves and twigs before returning back to Mr Reel’s to draw and paint. A process which still influences how she works today.

Following second level education, Aoife chose to pursue a career in fashion and studied at the Grafton Academy for Fashion and Design in Dublin.

Fashion was a creative outlet for Aoife in the 1980s and it allowed her to express herself and her identity. She specialised in costume design and bridal wear and even found herself working on the set of Graham Norton’s Holding which premiered on TV last March.

While working in the fashion industry, Aoife always found happiness when visiting art exhibitions. 

It was when she was on holiday in Zimbabwe that she found herself drawing and sketching in the sand and would make pigment from the bog at the riverside.

There she realised that art had always been her passion and her creative tendencies shifted from fashion to contemporary art. She made a decision to return to formal education and pursue it as a career.

Aoife applied toMTU Crawford College of Art and Design to study Fine Art. After being accepted into the course, she bypassed first year and began her studies as a second year student and instantly made an impression in the art world.

While studying in MTU CCAD, she was awarded the Royal Hibernian Academy School Access Student Placement Award in two consecutive years, in two separate disciplines, painting in 2019 and drawing in 2020.

Aoife’s time in MTU was full of success and she thanked them for all the support they have given her since applying to the course.

While a student, she was awarded a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) award for the choice of the subject matter and materials used in her artwork. These pieces were displayed in the James Barry Exhibition Centre located in MTU’s main campus.

At the end of her studies, Aoife participated in the MTU CCAD degree show which saw the university purchase two of her pieces for their permanent collection.

Aoife was awarded the Sample Studio’s Graduate Residency for 2022. Sample Studios is an artist-led studio group first established in 2011 and located in Churchfield, Cork city. The studio has a membership of 85 visual artists and art practitioners.

The studio was established to support and promote emerging artists from Cork and beyond through affordable artist-run studios. Their mission is to drive creative practice and cultural vibrancy in Cork by providing artists with a high quality and affordable studio space, and opportunities to create artwork and share it with local and national partners and the community.

Aoife’s exhibition ‘ Family Album’, explores the theme of human connection - a connection to oneself, to the people around us and to our collective home, Mother Earth.

Her pieces are inspired by nature and yogic practice, and interior and exterior landscapes merge.

Aoife’s ability to find beauty in the ordinary is clearly evident throughout the exhibition.

Processes used to create the artwork in the exhibition include the exploration of copper, a metal which is found in both human tissue and in the earth, which is known to conduct energy and is believed to enhance psychic abilities.

She hopes that her exhibition will start a conversation where we reposition the things such as the air and the trees that are available to us and don’t commodify them.

The concept for this exhibition came to her while on a trip to the beach when she found herself comparing the earth to human beings.

Aoife’s work is not solely inspired by visual artists, but her work is influenced by creative storytellers. One of her greatest influences is American singer songwriter, Sufjan Stevens. She is also mesmerised by autobiographical artists including Paula Rego and Irish contemporary artist Laura Fitzgearld. All of these are able to retell the story of their lives through different mediums of art, which is also evident in Aoife’s exhibition ‘ Family Album’.

For Aoife, it is not her many awards or achievements that she would consider her career high point. Instead, she recalls a recent memory at a picnic in Donegal.

In 2020, following lockdown, Aoife applied for a group show in Art Link, Dunree, Co. Donegal. She had spent the pandemic working effortlessly on creating her own memorable artwork to share with the world.

After the closure of the exhibition, Aoife went to collect her pieces and began chatting with professional artists. She spent the day discussing art, artists and her opinions with other like-minded creatives, something she hadn’t done since the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdowns. This conversation assured her she was on the right path to becoming a successful artist.

Aoife’s exhibition , ‘Family Album’, is only the beginning of a wonderful career.

She is also a member of Backwater Artists Group, where she attends regular workshops to keep her inspired and empowered

The exhibition runs until March 11, open Wednesday - Sunday 11am- 4pm, The Lord Mayor’s Pavilion, Fitzgerald’s Park, Cork City.

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