Interview: Carmel Madigan – Artist

Carmel T. Madigan grew up by the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, at the famous Bridges of Ross on the Loop Head peninsula- in fact, only a stones throw away from the Gallery here. Carmel strives to experiment, to explore, to use materials in different way than their intended use, to be uncontrolled and insecure, to make suggestions, observations and to be absolutely passionate about the joy of a creative, simple mind as it translates her experience to a canvas. One of our favourite people, Carmel is full of happiness, positivity and a a zest for life. As an artist, she manages to walk that delicate tightrope of balancing boundless creativity coupled with focus, drive, business acumen and determination – a balance many creatives would say is hard to find. We were delighted for Carmel to be the first in a series of artists interviews we hope to do here in the Gallery.

Carmel, what most inspires you and does your location play a part in this?
I am most inspired by the elements and movements of nature, and also the colours and formations particularly of both flora and rock formations.
Location plays a huge part in my source of inspiration, particularly the really raw exposure to the elements (storm, winds, ocean, wind swept rain), that I encountered when I was a young school going girl. This was particularly so as our family didn’t have a car in the early years, and so to get from a to b, I had to be out in the elements. However, these elements are extremely energizing, full of movement and so when I paint, there is always movement, sometimes it is aggressive movement, while other works portray gentle movement. If I find myself coming towards the end of a new piece of work, and I feel no movement in it, I get back into the work with sprays, and fling washes and paint, just to get that movement in! Even when I find myself working on imagined still life works, I am likely to add movement through patterned washes or a wash over spray from the ocean! When I paint I am often transported to location, i.e the ocean, cliffs, hedgerows, moorland at Loophead (my favourite place for inspiration) and I feel the elements that exist there.

Is art a lifestyle choice for you, would you say? Or has it chosen you …
I strongly believe that I was meant to be a ‘creative’. I love creativity, it makes me really happy. I have worked across several sectors in my early career, Banking, Local Government, Multinationals. Each provided me with a decent salary at the end of the month together with much needed training and experience in the business world, having graduated with a degree in Business (finance) (Had wanted to do Art in college!). I cast that security aside so that I could lay my own creative pathway, work hard at it to yield adequate financial and personal rewards. I am really pleased to engage with people, who own my work and who tell me how happy it makes them everyday. I feel a strong individualist and expressionist pull and I am quite protective of that. For my art to have meaning for me, it has to be a journey of my own mind and soul, and I love those journeys. I constantly feel the urge to be in my studio creating. Quote from Julia Cameron’s book ‘The Artist Way’ ‘When you create, you expand the Universe, and the Universe will positively respond to that expansion.’!

Evening Bog - Carmel MadiganAs a Mixed Media Artist, what is the best part about having lots of materials to choose from for one piece?
Approximately half of my work is mixed media and collage, the other half is based on layered painting. My studio is full of a wide variety of materials, including decorative fibres which I specially imported from Thailand, fabulous hand dyed yarns from the USA, exquisite Japanese origami and tissue papers from Japan via London, dried botanicals from the hedgerows at Loophead, and the various natural materials of the shoreline. Here one can see that there is both a quest for delicacy and rawness all at once. I love both approaches, and sometimes to ‘undo’ the delicacy, I deconstruct while to upgrade the ‘raw’ materials, they will sometimes find themselves decorated! When I encounter materials anywhere, be it in my travels, online or on the roadside, I am already thinking of its potential usage, what it might represent, how it can be dismembered in the studio. Materials are my gateway to fun and experimentation, which is a critical part of my creative process.

Do you have particular materials that you prefer to use?
I love my paints and inks and my extremely delicate Japanese tissue papers, and I love the dried botanicals and the ….. Probably no real front runner!

Has your style changed over the years?
I find myself working across genres (mixed media & painting), and I have done this since the outset. I also feel this to be necessary for my own approach to diversity and progression in my work. What has changed is that my work has improved with time, experimentation, practice! In the earlier stages, the layered paintings were much less controlled and more carefree with bleeding colours. I let water play a more central role and saw this as the ocean moving the paint around in a collaborative effort! Nowadays, I have slowed down the production, and focused more on the brush strokes, and looking for a story/thought to emerge from the work in progress that provides a direction to the end. I rarely know what the end result will be when I commence a piece, and this is really important to me, as it keeps the excitement intact to the end. I also find, now nearly twenty five years on, that the ecology research of the flora and coastline at Loophead that I took on over ten years ago, allows for ‘intelligent’ deployment of that knowledge within the course of a painting. For instance if the work is moving towards a coastline piece, I will be using the knowledge of the scientific zonation of the shoreline in the natural progression of the work. I never paint from photographs, but it is exciting to deploy the knowledge in the work, when the opportunity arises.

Is there, would you say, one key element in creating a good composition?
Composition doesn’t enter my studio vocabulary as much as colour or texture does. As aforementioned, I embark on a journey with the canvas/paper and art materials. That journey may sometimes be purely aesthetic, a mix of colour blends that excite me, combined with mixed textures that together conjure up a vague idea (often a garden of sorts!), while other times I am waiting on dried out colour wash shapes to lead me along a creative story pathway, e.g ‘Festival of the Lyme Tree’ a joyous response to free floating birds and festival like streamers all focused around a lime coloured tree with a lilac bark. This is playfulness, and I particularly enjoy this approach, solving a riddle from base washes, that have organically settled and formed coloured shapes on the canvas/paper. The end result is a happy painting with a creative thought, and I have to conclude that much of my work strongly orientates towards ‘creative happiness’ with a title that meets that direction.

What would you say is the most rewarding and most challenging thing about being an artist?
The most rewarding aspect for me of being an artist is the joy in the creation and the sense of achievement in the completion. It also provides for quiet contemplation, constant exploration of the mind and soul and I conclude that it must be really good for the wellbeing!
It is a very difficult market, full of individuals, all single-handedly (mostly), trying to develop, promote, be viewed/shown, and earn a decent living. It is I believe, achievable, if one is prepared to really manage all aspects of their practice professionally, and to work extremely hard at doing so. The most challenging aspect is probably trying to compete for grants and commissions as there is no end to the paper work involved and therefore less creative time. This element can be completely removed from the equation by focusing on creating and selling art. (Like it, Buy it – approach!).

Do you feel influenced by any other artists?
I particularly admire modern masters like Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, from the point of view that they took on the heavily conservative academic art world of the 19th / 20th century, by introducing creative thought, simplicity of line, exotic colour to the world of art and began to herald in the contemporary, expressionist art and design world we have come to take for granted today. Picasso and Matisse both had a playful approach, introduced collage as an art form and so I feel that the their influence in the art world freed up my desire towards playfulness, rich colour, creativity and collage. On a more local level, I would find similar playfulness and creativity and aspiration towards simplicity in Tony O Malley’s work. I have also been a fan of John Kingerlees abstract landscapes, which have a deeper resonance with the soul and searching.

Do you have any upcoming works, shows? 

January 2018 – Interview with ‘Women Mean Business’ magazine..not sure of date yet. Available online as link when published.

Planning Spring Exhibitions in Killarney and Clonmel at present in March/April 2018

Lots of new works in 2017…some here in your own lovely Kilbaha Gallery

Looking towards making some very very large work over the next year, plus a set of smaller pieces – mostly mixed media.

Follow this link to view some of Carmel’s incredibly uplifting artwork here