Artist Spotlight: Neil Dunne

Words: Katie Gartland
Artwork: Neil Dunne
Photography: Rubio Alvarez

The artist’s latest exhibition ‘OUTLIER’ takes influence from the inner city Dublin landscape he grew up in.

Neil Dunne is an artist from the Liberties who uses the medium of printmaking and painting. This Saturday he will launch ‘OUTLIER’, an exhibition in the Powerscourt Town House Centre.

‘OUTLIER’ is an abstract painting exhibition that has been influenced by Dublin’s urban landscape. He has taken features from the buildings as well as the socio-cultural heritage of the city.

Neil Dunne was raised and was educated in Dublin 8- from primary school to his Masters in NCAD, the area been an important influence in his art.

“I had that intrinsic connection to the area and it ended up become a focal point throughout my work.”

He began making art from an early age, when he was 10 years old his Dad began to get heavily involved in Dublin’s art scene. Creativity was always encouraged at home.

Near the end of secondary school, Neil gained a huge interest in art when his friends began doing graffiti and street art. After doing a one-year portfolio course, he began his undergrad in NCAD. He then received a scholarship to do a Master of Fine Arts in the college and has since lectured in the print department and taught silkscreen classes.

Neil said that  ‘OUTLIER’ was a continuation of his Masters dissertation, he has been working on it for almost 2 years. Neil was inspired by Dublin’s urban spaces to create the upcoming exhibition. He has studied the motifs and patterns of the city’s buildings.

“In some ways, I think there might be a tribal element, this intimacy to a physical place, that sort of links us all together. It’s an interesting aspect to research and for me, it brought out some very positive reactions and creative pursuits”, he said.

Neil Dunne has been inspired by many contemporary artists such as Ida Ekblad and Conor Harrington as well as other Irish artists like Aches, Du Jingze and Geniveve Figgis. He noted the “healthy creative competition” within the Dublin art scene and the importance of arts and creativity during the current pandemic.

“I think now more than ever there’s an importance for creatives to keep going- it takes peoples’ mind off all the bad stuff in the world, even if it’s just for an evening I think we all deserve that respite.”

Tell me about yourself, where you’re from and background in your career.

I’m a Dublin Based artist, I grew up in the Liberties. It’s such a creative and vibrant place. Iwas lucky enough to get my whole education (primary school to MFA) in the area – it reallyworked for me, its not for everyone but I had that intrinsic connection to the area and it endedup become a focal point throughout my work.

Since college I’ve lectured with NCAD in the print department, thought some silkscreenclasses and worked from Damn Fine Print and PALLAS Projects– I never thought howadaptive a creative degree could be. At the minute I’m between my studio at PALLAS andworking with Hang Tough. We are in the early days of setting up a print studio and workingwith contemporary Irish artists on producing and releasing editions.

2. Who are your biggest art influences?
At the moment I’m obsessed with Ida Ekblad, her work is the pinnacle of contemporarypainting in my eyes. Alongside her, Conor Harrington, Brian Maguire and Patrick Grahamhave all had a serious impact on my aesthetic. If I could find myself somewhere amongstthem I’d be a happy artist.
Some home grown talent like Aches, Du Jingze and Geniveve Figgis are all killing it in theirown styles, I love seeing it. I think the healthy creative competition that has developed amongst the emerging artist scene in Dublin has had far reaching effects and encouraged the younger generation to really push themselves and their style. I find it a really positive and dynamic scene to be a part of.

3. How long have you been making your own art?

Art has been a part of my life, since I was about 10 years old my Dad got heavily involved with the art scene in Dublin. My auld lad is a painter, sculptor and he was an actor in another life. My mam is also part of the performance scene so the idea of a creative career was always on the table.

I got into art on a serious level right before I finished secondary school, I had some pals who were into the graffiti scene at the time and they were a real big influence in wanting to go to art school.

NCAD had always been my ideal scenario and after falling short on my first application I went and did a portfolio course. Second time around I got in and in hindsight it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I was far too young to appreciate the diversity that was NCAD, especially when I was 17 turning 18.

4. Have there been any landmark moments in your career so far?

I suppose on a personal level my scholarship to pursue my MFA was a huge landmark, itmeant a lot to me and gave me a platform to develop my academic studies and also pursuemy career in the arts.
Sometimes it’s the smaller comments and moments of support that have had a far reachingeffect on me. Having a discourse with people about art and its effects on them has always hada positive impact on me, it’s a beautiful thing. There has been one or two occasions whenpeople I look up to shoot me a message or a comment and are overly supportive, I try tospread that love to people when I can, but Ireland has a great creative community and alot of support is borne from that.
Thinking back to 2011, choosing printmaking was definitely one of the big landmarks, mywhole time in that department has shaped me as an artist and the lecturers there really set a high standard which has stuck with me to this day.

5. Tell me about OUTLIER exhibition, what has inspired it?

OUTLIER is a series of studies of urban spaces. I’ve spent some time studying the motifs andforms found in our urban spaces and brought them back to the studio and worked into them. Ilove strolling through Dublin and taking note of strange little marks and impressions onwalls. Using that as a starting point I took all the recordings (photographs, drawings, etc.) andbegan a process of abstraction, I wanted to capture a manic flux, those fleeting moments weall experience everyday. It can be hard to put into words sometimes but I was alwaysattempting to capture a very distinct urban feel from the work.

I guess in some ways this is a continuum of my MFA grad show, that interest with the builtenvironment has never really left me – I think there’s something really intrinsic involved withthese spaces and we have a subconscious relationship with them on a far deeper level than Ifirst anticipated.

In some ways, I think there might be a tribal element–this intimacy to a physical place–thatsort of links us all together. It’s an interesting aspect to research and. for me, it brought out some very positive reactions and creative pursuits.

6. How is Outlier important to you? How long have you been working on it?

OUTLIER is in the making for about 2 years now. In some ways it is a continuum of myMFA dissertation, its research is fundamental to the ideologies and cultural aspects of myimmediate environment. Like I mentioned above, I really wanted to capture that idea of urbanspace and urban culture but in my own way. The whole show has really brought a uniqueperspective on how I look and engage with real world places.
The show has developed so much since I first set out doing some research. It’s something tobe really proud of. I think now more than ever there’s an importance for creatives to keepgoing – it takes peoples’ minds off all the bad stuff in the world, even if it’s just for an evening Ithink we all deserve that respite. Interestingly, this show has already led into some newresearch and a couple of projects that are in their early days. It’s exciting to see one creative endeavour lead into another.

‘OUTLIER’ will run until October 27 in the Powerscourt Centre on Southwilliam Street. Find out more about the exhibition here.

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