Spotlight: Creative Stories from Around Ireland

SPOTLIGHT: Abstract Expressionism and surrealism

“Abstract Expressionism and Surrealism were always so fascinating to me. I love escaping into the world's that artist past and present create.”

Abstract Expressionist are known for expressing a profound level of emotion through their work. As a movement that begin in New York city in the late 1940, it has always been viewed as advanced, edgy and modern. Today, artists all over the world are still using this style of painting to express and create.  

We spoke to Irish abstract expressionist painter, Aishling Hennessy, about her creative inspirations and how her role as mother and creator are intrinsically linked.

Aishling Hennessy

Who are you?

I ask myself that same question every day! I am Aishling Hennessy. I am a mother to Mia and our two rescue dogs - Suzie and Pippin. I am a daughter and sister. I am an earth lover and abstract expressionist painter from County Laois.

What do you do?

I have worn many caps throughout my 35 years. I graduated with a BA in Fine Art in 2004 from GMIT. I then went on to do a HDip in Art Education in Crawford College of Art and Design in Cork and graduated in 2007. From there I set up art classes and camps for Children throughout County Laois. I worked as a Youth Arts Worker with Youth Work Ireland Laois for 5 years that lead onto working with young adults with challenging behaviours in County Kildare. I have worked also as a part-time Community Arts Facilitator with KWETB for 7 years.

In 2014, I went through some challenges of my own which lead me onto a different path. A path I had never anticipated but I am fully certain that on my journey, everything has happened for a greater purpose. At present I am a full-time mama, painter and I am starting a part-time course in Special Educational Needs in September.

Ashling Hennessy

Why do you do what you do?

That's a tough one. Especially because sometimes it can feel like being an Artist is not an acceptable "job" in today's rat race society. Trying to make a living for myself and my daughter through art is something that makes me feel amazing and bring me so much joy, which can feel wrong... At times. But then I remember that this journey of mine, never has to look like anyone else's. A trait I hope to pass on to Mia. To pursue whatever brings YOU joy!  That is why I do what I do. Every cell in my body comes alive when I paint. When my paws are covered in colour, life is beautiful!  I feel blessed to have such a supportive and loving family to encourage me, no matter what mad ideas I have brewing.

How do you come up with your amazing designs?

Throughout college I explored many different genres of painting. Figurative and landscape painting always made me feel quite restricted as the final product had to resemble the concept. Abstract Expressionism and Surrealism were always so fascinating to me and I love escaping into the world's that artist past and present create. I guess I want to create my own worlds through my art. Places filled with emotion and curiosity.

I do use nature and nebulae as inspiration for my colour palette. Always looking to see which colours work seamlessly in nature and out in space and then attempt to capture that essence in my work. I am also inspired by spiritualism and this helps to keep me grounded as I create.

Ashling Hennessy

Where do you get your inspiration?

I am constantly inspired by my daughter. She has the purest awareness of life and inspires me daily. I love being inspired by seeing other friends and artist creating work that speaks to my soul. I have always been inspired by poetry and music also.

What materials do you use?

At present, I use Acrylic paint. I sometimes add oil paint to pieces to create texture and depth. Also pouring mediums to create layers on top of other work. It's all a work in progress and every piece has its own tale to tell.

What do you do when you hit a creative wall?

Oh gosh. I have hit many a creative wall since graduating in 2004. Some walls became blockades, for years!  But in recent years, the most important thing for me is to keep that wall from becoming too hard to move around or through. I guess that wall is an illusion of sorts. Created out of fear and many other stories we tell ourselves. So knowing this, I keep check of myself and my intentions, daily.

There are still studio days where everything I touch looks unbalanced or the energy is off. I know to leave well enough alone and return to that piece another time. I have many pieces in rotation for this exact reason.

In the studio

Do you have any advice for other creatives out there?

I think it's so important to have a really strong sense of your own style and work ethic. To keep a loving and supportive network of people around you and to not be so hard on yourself. Life is tough enough without being your own worst enemy on top of it all. So try and ease up on the self-criticism and keep creating, no matter what.


You can follow Aishling and check out more of her work online:

Facebook HERE

Instagram HERE

Upcoming exhibitions:

Mountmellick Library - December 2018

Abbeyleix Library - February 2019

Words by: Rachael Taylor Fawsitt

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