Last year we spoke to artist James Earley about his artistic family lineage and his various commercial and personal projects.

James’ newest venture is an online art collection, and as the name Iverna (Latin for ‘from Ireland’) suggests, there’s a hugely homegrown feel to the available pieces.

We visited his studio to chat to him about what it’s really about.

Why did you think it was important to start Iverna?

I felt that there were a lot of artists that weren’t being represented in Dublin, artists that couldn’t be included in the galleries that were around the city, myself included. So I thought it was important to put an online gallery together that was well considered and a good basis to represent these contemporary artists.

Also, I wanted to represent not solely fine art. My interests are very broad. Having a design background I was interested in having certain graphic designers on the site as well. We have photography, fine art print and, of course, street art. There’s no outlet in Ireland for street art to be represented properly, and there are a couple of core street artists in Ireland that are creating some really progressive and interesting work. So it was nice to pull all of these people into one place to showcase them.

Was it an easy process to decide on the artists you wanted to feature on the site?

Yeah I think so. I had a pretty solid list in my head of who I wanted to contact. Everyone I did contact was excited to come on board. I thought it was important to give them an idea of the other artists that were getting involved too. Also, having worked with some of them on the Dean Hotel project, or just being familiar with their work, meant they were keen to come on board.

What’s your process of finding out about new artists?

It involves studio visits, some grad shows. I think it’s important for me to have a good relationship with the artists. I’d have other artists tell me about someone, then I’d check the work online.

At the moment it’s growing but I don’t want it to get too large. I’m keen to get it to a certain amount of artists and then probably cap it. I don’t want it to become unwieldy and you lose the relationship with the artist.

As people grow, you grow with them. It means getting more established artists as well as up-and-coming ones and growing the collection with them. I also want a fair representation of different artistic disciplines. I need to not only like but love the work, and have a strong emotional connection to the work, so it’s not just a purely financial venture.

It sort of seems like you’re taking on a player/manager role. Being an established artist yourself obviously helps the process?

When it comes to an artist that hasn’t created a print before it’s good to be able to talk them through the process. You can also talk with them about interesting ways to translate work into a screen-print.

A good example would be Sek2 who wanted to release a print last year. I followed his work for years and we had a conversation about it. I had mentioned to him that there’s a process where you over print colours and make other tones and his work is all about that.

It’s also about knowing what works would be popular and a bit of guidance.

How important is the online aspect in the current climate of art in Ireland?

I can’t stress how important it is. Getting to the international market is the ultimate aim. The Irish market is only so big, so to push the message of the talent we have it’s so important to show people outside of Ireland.

I’m sure America stands out as one of the bigger markets you look at?

Yeah you hit the nail on the head there (laughs)! I’m very interested in the American market. Given the story behind the site as well, that Iverna means ‘from Ireland’ in Latin, means that it will appeal to the large ex-pat community in the States.

You had the opening exhibition in The Library Project, but do you have plans for any more physical shows to demonstrate how the works look up close?

Absolutely, I have plans for at least one or two pop-up shows a year. I have ideas about doing talks involving the artists, basically just educating people about the work.

A lot of people who go onto the site could see a piece and think it’s visually captivating, but ultimately it’s the story behind the artist that really informs people. It’s the context of the piece that people will be really drawn to.

Iverna is bringing artists to the Dean Hotel for a series of intimate talks with some of Ireland’s best contemporary artists. Click here for more on the series.
Photos by Eoghan Barry

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