Irish print maker, oils artist and visual artist
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My guest today is Monika Crowley, a printmaker, oil painter and visual artist from Dublin, Ireland, and a mother of 2.
Monika spent 20 years in commercial advertising and design, to which she credits her bold graphic style. Her practice explores the trauma of change and identity crisis, domesticity, the traditional structure of the home & the changing expectations of modern motherhood. Monika uses mundane objects in a symbolic, transformative manner whereby they become totems & talismans of the past.
Monika strives to capture the essence of a mothers guilt, the feeling of being torn in two and the resentment from the other self. A decade on, her work still documents the internal struggle between the selves Mother/Artist. Her work walks a line between anger & love, between despair & joy, her explorations of the everyday are often raw and unadulterated, showing a grimness through the repetition of daily chores, but at times finding a quiet beauty in the mundane.
We also have a little chat about the Irish horse racing industry, of which Monika's father and her family were a significant part of.
**This episode contains discussions around Cancer, grief and loss of a parent**
View Monika's work
Monika's website - https://monikacrowley.com/
Watch a murmuration - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4f1r80RY
Music used with permission from Alemjo -
Podcast transcript at the bottom of the page
Thank you so much for tuning in to this episode of The Art of Being A Mum Podcast. I'm beyond honoured that you're here and would be grateful if you could take 2 minutes to leave me a 5-star review in iTunes or wherever you are listening. It really helps! This way together we can inspire, connect and bring in to the light even more stories from creative mums. Want to connect? Take a screenshot of this episode and share it on Instagram tagging me in with @art_of_being_a_mum_podcast
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Alison acknowledges this Land of the Berrin (Mount Gambier) Region as the Traditional Lands of the Bungandidj People and acknowledge these First Nations people as the custodians of the Region.
Welcome to the Art of Being a mum, the podcast where we hear from mothers who are artists and creators sharing their joys and issues around trying to be a mother and continue to make art. Regular topics include mum guilt, identity, the day to day juggle mental health, and how children manifest in their art. My name is Alison Newman. I'm a singer songwriter, and a mum of two boys from regional South Australia. I have a passion for mental wellness, and a background in early childhood education. You can find links to my guests and topics they discuss in the show notes, along with music played a link to follow the podcast on Instagram, and how to get in touch. All music used on the podcast is done so with permission. The art of being a mom acknowledges the bone tech people as the traditional custodians of the land and water which this podcast is recorded on and pays respects to the relationship the traditional owners have with the land and water as well as acknowledging past present and emerging elders. Thanks so much for tuning in today. My guest on today's episode is Monica Crowley. Monica is a printmaker, oil painter and visual artist from Dublin in Ireland and a mother of two. Monica has spent 20 years in commercial advertising and design, to which she credits her bold graphic style. Her practice explores the trauma of change and identity crisis, domesticity, the traditional structure of the home and the changing expectations of modern motherhood. monarchy uses mundane objects in a symbolic transformative manner, whereby they become totems and talismans of the past. Earlier Prince had their starting point in motherhood as a rite of passage. They served as a memoir comm warning about nostalgia for retro culture at a time when mothers were not expected to juggle jobs and families. Monica strives to capture the essence of a mother's guilt, the feeling of being torn into and the resentment from the other self. A decade on her work still documents the internal struggle between the selves, mother and artist. Her work walks a line between anger and love, between despair and joy. Her explorations of the every day, are often raw and unadulterated, showing a grimness through the repetition of daily chores, but at times, finding a quiet beauty in the mundane. We also chat a little today about Monica's connection to the Irish racing industry. This episode contains discussion around grief and loss.
Welcome along today, Monica. It's a pleasure to have you all the way from Ireland. Thank you very much for coming on.
Thanks, Alison. And thanks for doing it at my local time when the kids were in schools. I wouldn't, I wouldn't have people constantly opening the door behind me.
I can understand that. Now. It's pretty good here. It's almost eight o'clock at night. So it's a pretty good time for me to so the kids will be off to bed and I won't have to worry about doors at my end too. So we're about in Ireland, are you?
I'm in Dublin. So it's gray and cold out my window. We had a bit of snow last week, but it seems to be hopefully brightening up this week a little bit.
Oh, I'm jealous because we don't get so where I am. It just doesn't. It's not cold enough. And I've spent well I shouldn't say I'm jealous today because I've spent the day swimming and a little bit sunburn you might be able to see. But I never had the story. Like it's something I've never, never done been in the snow so
well. Unfortunately, Irish snow is generally wet and sleety every now and again. We get you know decent snow but it's not. It's not a country for skiing snowmen every now and again. Yeah. Oh, that's
fun. Share with us. What sort of art that you make.
So I suppose up to recently have been predominantly a printmaker. I used to work in advertising and design. So I think printmaking was a really natural step for me because they kind of understood, you know, color mixing and separations and plates and that kind of technical aspect of the process. So and also because I was back then, I was renting. I didn't have studio space. So being part of a print, making studio I'm a member of the Black church print studio. And it was a good way to have a place where I could go and work and keep all my stuff and keep my art practice going. While I was still working as well, so, yeah, yeah, in the last couple of years, I've, my practice has kind of changed a bit, I suppose, because of lockdown printmaking, and go into my print studio was a lot harder the studio was closed up. So I did a lot more drawing at home and painting. So I'm, I'm actually doing a lot more oil painting at the moment.
Yeah, that's cool. What do you prefer to do? Do you like your, your printmaking better? Or?
I don't know, are you sometimes feel like there's this hierarchy in the art world stuff. I'm like, you sometimes hit a wall and you go, you know, am I getting that response, because I'm a printmaker, and the value of printing is perceived as lower. So I, you know, I sometimes come up against it. And I find it quite frustrating that the value of a print even though it's like quite a hard technical process to do, somebody described at one says, like, totally over complicating the process of creating art is so as I think, I suppose, as well, being able to join lock downs, and all I've been able to keep my practice going and being able to draw and paint at home, made me realize, you know, sometimes, actually, that remove of going to a print studio. While it's nice, it's nice to be able to get up in the morning and sneak an hour before the kids get up in, you know, in my home studio.
So, and I guess then if, if you have an idea anytime you can sort of act on it, rather than have to keep it till you can physically get to the Fluffies.
Yeah, exactly. And I suppose you keep your notebooks going, although I do find myself, you know, sneaking upstairs and saying, I just have to go do something and running upstairs and getting stuck into something. Because now I can. And, you know, I, I tell the kids, I'll be back in 10 minutes, you know, do your homework, and I come back 45 minutes later, an hour later. They're watching TV and the homework isn't done. And I'm like, oh, god, okay. It's very hard to, to thread that balance.
I think one of the things people have talked about on your podcast before, and it probably comes up a lot is that struggle between when you're in the mother role, you constantly you never switch off being an artist to your head, you constantly frustrated that wanting to get back to your canvas. But, you know, when you're working at your canvas, if you can hear your children in the vicinity, your mother had never switches off either. So there's just this constant struggle for space in my brain, I feel.
Yeah. So you said you had the notebooks is that something a tool that you use to sort of to help, obviously, to make notes, but to bring yourself into this space and say, right, I'm gonna make a note, then I can, you know, relax my brain, because now I've got that written down. I can move on sort of thing.
Yeah, absolutely. Because you're constantly getting distracted and interrupted, and then when I go to sit down or get my students like, Oh, my God, what, what was that? Like, I had this flash of genius. Now, I can't remember it. So, and if I don't have my notebook to hand, like, I will use my phone to document it, or I will use notes a lot on my phone as well. You know, I take photographs and and notate it and then I can come back to it. At least I've recorded it, but I do. I do think keep a notebook. So is it a good practice? So kind of, then you can make sense as you. You see things develop and you go oh, yeah, actually that came from way Back, when I actually have a note of that, it will could take months to act on something that they've actually written down. So
that would be fascinating actually, at the end of a project, and then you've got this record, and you can browse back through and go, Oh, yeah, like you said, you can see where it started. Or you might even see something and go, Oh, I sort of, you know, I might have bypassed that, but now I'm interested in that, or, you know, it's, it'd be awesome to have that that record.
I worked in advertising and design for about 20 years, when I, when I was a kid, I just always wanted to go to art college, I had, which I got to go to art college, but I had to persuade my parents that, you know, I would get a job at the end of this. So I studied, I actually went to art college studying Industrial Design, which is product design. Yeah. And, you know, until my mother Oh, I mean, practically engineering. She, if she did that, then I kind of segwayed and took a very, you know, a long route through art college. And I actually finally graduated in Visual Communications, which meant I went into graphic design and then into advertising from there. So, so that, but at the same time I was working, and it was creative. And it was a really good grounding. Like, I don't regret the course, or the, the journey my practice has taken because it's really good grounding in notebooks and research and because you always have sketchbooks on the go, and you're always sketching out ideas, and, you know, and having to articulate ideas and concepts. So that's, and I even, like, even when you're designing, I always felt there had to be thinking behind it and concept behind us. So and that's how my art practices as well.
I find it very hard to do a picture that doesn't have some kind of personal or autobiographical meaning for me, I don't just sit down and do something that looks nice. It's just, it's a weird layer to put on myself. i Some people are just able to enjoy the process of painting. And but, uh, sometimes I feel like, you know, I think about it, I overthink things maybe, I don't know,
is it sort of like a way of processing experiences or remembering things or making sure you remember things is anything like?
Yeah, I think actually, my art is really therapy. For me, it's how I work through my own emotions. Like, initially, I know my, my print practice, it started, I was actually doing a lot of prints of places I traveled and using photographs I took and I think when I became pregnant with my first child, it just this huge wash of terror and emotions. And you know, this, the weight of expectation of, you know, actually, I often say is, in my like, artist statement, like, my work is all about identity crisis. And you know, and I think that was the point when my art practice changed to become this personal thing, where I needed art to work through my own emotions to try and make sense of them. And sometimes I'll do like a body of work and then step back from it and go, Okay, now I understand what that was about. And this is an I can totally see. When I finished, where it all came from, and kind of understand myself that little bit Battery tech
Yeah? I wanted to ask you flooding leading to a beautifully there's there was a piece that I saw on your Instagram account that you called Space Invaders. And I won't try and describe it, I'll let you describe it. Can you just share the background for that and what the inspiration was for that for that pain?
Yes. So that was a print actually, I have, I think I have a sketch up on my wall, you can kind of see up there behind me. So that actually was a project that stemmed from the initial lockdown, and I was doing a lot of work at home. And I eventually took over the children's playroom, which is where I am now. And it became my home studio. So all the shelves around me, which is now full of my stuff was was initially full of the kids toys, and it's where they came and played. So I set up a desk here and I started working here. But you know, the kids, there was this constant kind of battleground, I saw my desk as this battleground, like I would leave to go down and make dinner or whatever, and then come back and I would find some of the children's toys like propped up like, obviously, on my desk, either abandoned, or like deliberately put there as almost like, some kind of protest
that you undertake, they claim back on their face. Yeah,
exactly. It became this disputed territory where, you know, it's like, that's our room. No, it's my room now. So if it was this, so the print behind me there, it's, I think I call that one cutting ties. And it was I came back and my son's toy Hulk fist was balancing on top of my scissors on my desk. And I was like, on it, there's just something so aggressive, but yet so playful about it, you know, and that was you know, and I have another one that I call mother's bottle and it was my child my daughter's doll naked, because they don't know what the clothes from my children's dolls just they never seem to have them on. And, and had knocked over my water bottle and spilled water across my desk. And I just, you know that it kind of brought up so many different kinds of images and emotions like that doll very much represents my daughter, and even just the water bottle in a way kind of represents me and it's that whole being torn into of having these two cells that are constantly vying for your attention. Your art it's that struggle I mentioned earlier, where half your brain is thinking about ideas and half your brain is thinking about what's for dinner.
Let's see at the exact same moment. Yeah, it never stops so going back to your early days when you say like you had to convince your mom to to let you do your study. Were you always a very creative child growing up?
Yeah, I think so. Well, it's I always loved painting and always loved art and always wanted to be an artist. My family, I live in Dublin now but I grew up down in Kilkenny. And my mom always had this thing my family my dad was a racehorse trainer. And we I have five sisters. So the six girls, we all worked with horses. is all the time. But my mum was always like we're always having broken arms and broken legs and ending up in hospital. And she used to say to us, I don't care what you do when you grow up, you'll have your own jobs and your own lives. I don't want you to work in horse racing, or art of this of the six girls for have ended up in horse racing. And two, I'm an artist and my other sister has an art gallery. So I think I think she could just see the way things were going, like, really early on, and she tried to redirect us. But I think once your brain is set on something, you know, you're going to end up there. If you're driven enough, no matter how much you're kind of diverted, you're going to weave back around to what you really want. So yeah, that's it.
There's there's no stopping that. That inner passion. I don't think it's just an even if you try to try and stop it. It's yeah, it still tries to creep out does that. Yeah. Do you?
You mentioned your children a little bit too. Can you tell us how many children you have a little bit about your family?
Yeah, I have two children, a 10 year old daughter. She's the eldest and a seven year old son. And yeah, they're, they're great. They're the at a really good age, I think. And I, I always, when I was younger, I didn't ever know. I couldn't ever imagine me with babies. Because I was the youngest of my family, I'd never even held a baby. When I was about 16. I went to France and worked as an au pair, where I looked after a baby, it was my first time ever even holding a child. Even I wasn't one of those people in school who went you know, as the younger groups came into school that I would go and oh, the new kids are in Yeah, I actually really didn't care about anybody younger than myself. I always wanted to hang out with people older than me. So I think that's why when I was pregnant with my first child, it was kind of traumatic of like, I don't think I can do this. I could see myself with older children, but never with babies. But obviously, like now, 10 years on, I realized that everybody's just learning as they go along. And you know, babies are quite forgiving. They love you. No matter how terrible you are as a mother.
Thank goodness for that. Yeah, so do you, when you when you had your first child, your daughter, where you work while you're doing your art, like a lot at the time, and did have to sort of stop? Or did you manage to keep going? How did it sort of work?
Weirdly, I think it amped up a bit at the time, because I mentioned earlier. I, my art had been about traveling and things like that. And then suddenly this fear of you know, motherhood and what was expected of me. And, you know, I worked full time and all my spare time was given to my art. And now I was going to be a mother and working. So working motherhood on art. I was like, how do the three things fit into each other. But like I said, I needed the therapy, almost of doing the art. So my first solo show is is was called domestic. And it was about when my mom found out I was pregnant. She sent me her recipe for brown bread. Actually, she ran me and said, I'll give you my recipe for gram bread now and I was like, oh my god is that who will I will become this person who makes bread. And I just couldn't get my head around it. Because I'm a terrible Baker and I still am. So I just said no, I can't even deal with you've given me this recipe over the phone. So she wrote it down and sent it to me in a letter. So I had this letter. And that was the starting point for doing this whole series. called domestic, which was about the fear of becoming a mother. But it was centered around, I always use kind of ordinary objects to kind of trigger emotion. And you know, this kind of sense of recognition yourself like, like, oh, so I use the recipe for brown bread. And I did make the brown bread once. really badly. No, it was edible. We'll just leave it at that.
But isn't that interesting? That's like, your mom sort of had it was almost like this initiation. It's like, okay, now you're allowed to know these these things you weren't allowed to know before. This Fascinating, isn't it?
Yeah. Well, it's not that I wasn't allowed to know them. It's like, she just thought I would have no interest in nowhere, which I did. I didn't have any interest in making brown bread. And then when I was told, Oh, now you'll probably want to make brown bread. I was like, oh, so me as a person, I'm going to change completely. Yeah. Okay. I had never even thought that. But actually, I didn't, I never became this person who made brown bread. So
I can sort of like, if you're already feeling a little bit anxious about everything. And then to get that and to have that, that moment of going, Oh, hang on a sec, I'm going to these all these changes are going to happen. Like that would have been quite startling, like, not very reassuring.
Yeah, like the whole pregnancy and your body changing and all that that's a very physical and normal and well kind of documented kind of process that you can google and go, Okay, that's totally normal. What I wasn't prepared for I think, was just the avalanche of advice, and all these conflicting things that people are telling you and telling you about the person you will become. And I was like, I don't want to change I still want to be me, you so can I not be me, an artist and a mother and still do my job. But, of course, some things do change, but some things don't.
I think it's so it's so important to to keep your pre pre pray mother self, it's like, it's so important.
And yeah. It's even, you know, my daughter, she keeps pointing out to me that I'm a decade now. So like, I, I can now look at the whole, the whole thing is still very fresh to me a decade later, I still very clearly remember. But the trauma of that change that was happening. And I still, I'm still struggling with my identity, like 10 years later, of how much of me is me? And how much do I give over? And even that guilt of like, am I holding myself? Too much of myself back? When I'm with my kids, I throw myself into it. And you know, I love them. And I love them, Tibet and have great fun with them. Like we have great crack, that really at a lovely age at the moment where, you know, they're interested in things and their brains are just fascinating, like, like my daughter is cleverer than I am. When we were locked down there for the last 10 days with COVID. She learned how to do a Rubik's Cube, something I have never been able to do. And I found myself last night like googling it and doing a step by step guide and I swore I wanted to throw the thing in the bin and I was like, How does she do this? She's 10 Like she has worked a site and I can't.
COVID the pandemic started or whatever. I actually took a step back from work. And the work was always an important part of my identity as well. I was a creative director and an advertising agency when all this hat and I just did took a step back and needed to be with the children. And it was just this, like a one stop, it was kind of taken away, I realized how much of myself I was giving to work, actually. And when it was just divided between my art and my children, I actually saw that that's where a lot of the struggle was happening. But also, I realized how much of myself I'd been given away to work. And because I suppose also your job is creative. It sucks a lot of the creative energy out of us so, but I still, I feel like now I have a much better life balance where it's, you know, probably I was gonna say 50% Children 50% Or it's but it's probably 70% Children 30% ours if I was to be totally honest.
With the guilt then, do you ever feel like the pool between, like, do you ever consciously have that thought I shouldn't be doing this art now. Because the kids are meant to be doing their homework and I need to check on it. Like, does it feel like
that? That Oh, all the time, all the time. It never stops. If when I'm doing one thing, I feel like I should be doing the other. If and then, you know, then I have like a my different kind of selves start to resent each other. You know, I feel like there's a constant struggle in my head, I have to say, where if I'm in the zone painting. And I'm just thinking, Oh, I just I just need half an hour. And I hear myself saying that the children are knocking at the door. Because they're hungry, or, you know, I want to do this or can you open that for me or you know, and I'm like, Just give me 30 more minutes, I swear, I'll be done in 30 minutes. And you know, and then when I'm i if i But if I don't get that time to do my art, I find myself just being this horrible, angry person that I don't like, you know that. You know, even though my seven year old will come and hug me he really knows how to defuse my pent up frustration, he'll come and hug me and go, Oh, Mommy, Mommy, I love you. Please don't be angry mommy, which he sees as a whole other person. And it's angry mommy who comes out when I when I just feel like I haven't been able to get into my studio and do anything. I feel. Actually, I'm just a much nicer person. When I have my art practice running smoothly as well. Like some days you really feel like you're winning and oh my god, I'm totally killing this. I'm like doing everything. You know that like, yeah, I am the woman who has it all. Oh my god, this is incredible. And, unfortunately, it's where those days are rare. But for for the most part, I can resolve the fact of you know, okay, today, I didn't spend as much time in my studio or, you know, things just didn't work out when I was there. But, you know, tomorrow will be a better day, I've become a lot better. I think actually motherhood teaches you the US you know, as babies, you're always told, you know, tomorrow will be better, you know, and not pits reset on everything. So I bring that to my own life. You know, I'm just gonna sleep on this and reset and in the morning everything will be better. So yeah, that's so
true. Yeah, I remember having those feelings of when like in the middle of the night I'd just be thinking that's okay. The sun will come up in the morning and we'll just start again and just see how this makes one goes and yeah, that's a really good way of looking at you know, yeah, I don't like and you and your expectations I suppose around what what you want Want to get done and what you life allows you to get done, I suppose.
Yeah. And even like just looking at children and IVIG can go to bed being these like really angry and you know, you're having a big row about something. And the next morning, they've totally forgotten about it and you're like, okay, okay, I suppose I better just forget about that too. And move on. Yeah, yeah, that's true.
That's so true Yep. Wanted to ask you about, there's a series that you did the compact compart mental causation. So it's spilling over the three lines. All right, this was like, personally, my my pop that passed away. Just recently, he was 1994. And when I saw the things like, I just like the birds and I don't know, it's, it was like I was meant to see it because he had pigeons. And so all these all the birds that you had, sorry, I'm talking about this, people won't know what I'm talking about. So I'll put a link up. And then the window. It was just I got really like smacked in the heart by that it was just incredibly moving.
Thank you again. And like, like I said earlier, a lot of my work becomes, it comes out of me working through emotions. And just at the beginning of the pandemic, my dad passed away. Again, he was 92. It was just before his birthday is 92nd birthday, actually. And he'd been sick for a while. So my six six girls and my mom, we were down there with him when he died. And there were a couple of days where we were kind of waiting for the inevitable to happen. It was really kind of torturous, long drawn out kind of fairly traumatic, actually the whole thing. And we sat in his room and the these murmurations just started in the evening, which we didn't really have grown up when I was a kid murmuration of starlings. And it became a kind of a thing that we did, we'd go out and watch the birds and then come back in. And it's funny, like you mentioned that your your dad kept pigeons. My dad actually had this like, like, because we had racehorses, he had this thing that the birds were like eating the horses feed and shipping and the horses he used to have this ongoing battle with keeping the birds away so it was just weird that all these birds like that this became a thing and Mike my childhood growing up I won't go into the graphic stories of what happens on farms when people are trying what they kind of considered to be pest control. But my dad was not very nice to birds, I think. And we lived out in the country and it was just he just wanted them away. So it just became this weird kind of thing as I watched him die to see the birds flying around. They just seem to all most come back and I don't know I don't know if it was something that I don't even think it was his Spirit coming back as birds I don't know Was there some kind of karma in but but even even just to kind of watch the birds from his room. So it became very represent representative of him and the idea of compartmentalization was I like obviously I loved my Dad, and we all idolized him for that you could in depth, we kind of put away all the things that were bad about the person, like he wasn't a saint, and he was a tough man to grow up with me. I think he made us all quite tough. But, you know, nobody talked about any of the bad stuff at the funeral. It was all very, wasn't he great? And I think that's a very Irish thing to do. Or maybe it was, it's just something we deal with. In grief, you have to put things in boxes and kind of put them away and go, do you know what, right now I'm just not going to deal with that, I'm just going to deal with this little piece of how I'm feeling. So that's, that was how that I did a window done in the black church print studio, a little display where I actually printed a murmuration on a downstairs bathroom window from my house where my dad used to watch the birds and decide to go out and kill some of them like, to be perfectly honest. And so I actually brought a new thing into my practice as well, where it was like printing on find objects and kind of moving off paper and editions and stuff like that as well.
Yeah. So it'd be just like experimenting with with things.
Yeah, with materials. And just, I suppose I never really felt the need to. I think that the part of me that isn't a printmaker is I don't need to do, you know, 10 perfectly executed prints in that they are absolutely identical. For me, it's the process of printing and the process of bringing to life an idea that kind of exercises, the feelings and the emotions. And that's my therapy. And once it's done, it's done. And I find it really hard to revisit, I could never reprint anything I've printed before. Once it's done, it's gone. And yeah, that emotion has left me almost Yeah.
I had cancer a couple of years ago, and some of my work was was about that. Just, I suppose in terms of me using my art as a kind of a therapy to work through stuff. So that actually was, again, a huge part of recovery. From in fact that I did a show at the time called treatment, which was obviously just coming out of treatment, and it was even kind of linked to this whole desire for things that comfort you like and looking at my children and I think at the time I was constantly like, giving them treats as well. And so the again, the words often the kind of Lincoln spark things in my head and and, you know, whereas at the time when I was sick, I couldn't really stomach sweet things, but I was craving them but like I'm feeding them to my children as a way of comforting them or compensation that mommy couldn't be there because she was in hospital or whatever. So so that was just, yeah, I think I'm tired of treatment about two years and I finished in early 2018. So gosh, four years.
Good for you. Do your children. That's sort of a two part question. So your children are aware of your artmaking and your tuition? And if that's the case, is it important for you that they see that they see what you're doing and what you're putting out to the world?
Yeah, I certainly don't keep them away from us. Like, on occasion, I've bought them to my print studios well, and I suppose I don't sit down and explain my work to them. But they're definitely they know that they're in the work. And sometimes I kind of talked to them about it. Like the piece I mentioned earlier motherlode where I felt I came across as quite dark and negative towards parenting. It was important to me that my children knew that, like, I love them. Absolutely, wholeheartedly. And that it was about the the accumulation and the drudgery of the little small tasks that that just get on top of you that it's not the mothering part, it's the all the little things that build and build and build. That, you know, so it's important that they know how much I love them. And that if my work deals with the network and negative aspects of motherhood, that, that it's not about them. It's about the role.
Yeah, that's it. Yeah. It's not direct reflection on them personally. Yeah, absolutely. And do you sort of feel like, it's good for them to say that, like that identity, again, that, that mums can be more than, say, just a mom, because whenever just mom, but in your children's eyes, is it? Do you feel like it's good for them to see you, you know, leaving the home and doing your thing? And, you know,
yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, I would hate if, like, when I'm talking about my art, I refer to it as work as well, since I left advertising and leaving the house to like, earn a wage. I suppose I did kind of feel like my art isn't necessarily earning a wage. But I refer to it as my work, because I would hate my children to differentiate between the fact that my husband works. And that his work has more value and more importance, because he gets paid for it. So there's always this balance of my art definitely does come second, as work in the house, because, you know, it can get pushed and deadlines are a little bit more flexible, and we need to pay the bills. But it's important for me that they understand that my work is important to
absolutely, he put that beautifully. That was very well put. Yeah, it's interesting, you say that I refer to my music now I say, I'm going to do some music work. Because it's like, I it's so important to me. And it's not just um, fluffing around and having a bit of fun. Like, I do love it. And it's fun, but it's like, I want to get something done. I'm trying to achieve something. So to me, it's like it is work. It's labor, you know? So yeah, I've started constantly calling that. I don't know, when the kids have noticed.
Yeah, but I think it just it does, it reinforces something, a degree of worth on what we're doing. And that it's not like he said, just me playing and having a nice time. Like it actually it is work it is hard to it would be very easy just to sit down and do nothing when you know, the kids are in bed or distracted with something else. So it would be easy not to do work. But the fact that you compel you're compelled to go in and work out your music and I'm compelled to go work out my art. You know, it's and I think a work a work ethic is also important. So you know, I want the guys to know that I when they go to school, I get up every day and I'm like in my studio working until I become mom and have to go pick them up and do the after school activities and stuff.
Yeah, that's it. Yeah, absolutely. Literally Yep. I can't let you go without asking you about your connection to your racing family, which I did Google actually.
It's pretty impressive that your sister married Aiden O'Brien. And this is Joseph O'Brien, who's where to milk and converse.
I do have my nephew Joseph Joseph O'Brien. He is called Joseph after my dad's. And he trains on the hill at home in Kilkenny where my dad trained his horses. So basically, my when my sister and Marie my eldest sister got married, she married Aiden, who worked for another trainer Jim Bolger. When they got married, he moved over to us in Kilkenny, and they, my dad kind of said, Okay, you can train on, you know, my gallops and gave them kind of half of the so they built their own stables and they we all trained together. So my dad was still training at the time, and he's super competitive. So he, you know, obviously Aiden is pretty competitive as well. So, actually, my dad had handed my license his license to my sister, who then gave it transferred to Aiden when she got pregnant, which was a she was pregnant, like, very young, she thinks she was 23. So, you know, I think then, my dad just couldn't, like, cope with the fact that, you know, Aiden was in a training on the hill, even though Aiden was like, he wasn't well known back then he kind of made his name then training with my dad, and well in competition to my dad. So, like, the dinner table was always, you know, quite funny. And, you know, then my next sister married a national hunt jockey, travel Oregon. Then my next sister had an art gallery and then my next sister married paths Mullen, yep. And she was well known racehorse trainer as well. And Pat was champion, flat jockey here like, God, I don't know, 10 times in a row. And then my twin sister is married to a jockeys agent and racing pundit on a racing channel here. So that's so my, my husband's like our family gatherings like people just talk core. So I like that horse racing is always on. Probably on about three different TVs in the house. You know, when when we get together like that, people just talk horses.
Yeah, I can imagine it'd be bad. Like if you didn't enjoy the trophy, just to sit there and take it. Yeah.
I mean, I worked with the horses myself, like up until I was about 18 or 19. I had a jockeys license I wrote as an apprentice. Oh, yeah. But I think a lot of it was just trying to prove that I could do it. I really did not have the interest or passion for horses, like I know, I loved horses. It's not something I yeah, for the industry. I didn't want to spend my life in horse racing.
Yeah. Is it really scary writing, like, riding them that fast? I'm sorry, that just came in and no, yeah,
it's, do you know what it's actually it's not the speed you're going us. For me? It was the sense of control I. They're, like, it's this muscle of machine that you have to be in control of, and I just never felt in control of the horse completely. And, again, it was it's kind of a battle of wills as to whether the horse is allowing you to control it and you know, I always felt like if they weren't allowing me to, so I used To get run away with all the time I was kind of small and light, so and the amount of times like the horse would just take off at me and I like that is the scary part of it of not being in control. So I it's funny I yeah, I ended up in hospital several times with head injuries and broken legs and actually one of the pieces we discussed earlier one of my art pieces, that's the water bottle knocked over with the dead baby doll. The words bottle actually is a racing term. It's like a jockeys bottle is your bravery. So I would often like have like said to my sisters, no, I've totally lost my bottle. I can't do this anymore. A year. So in a weird way, like bottle is courage and bravery. And and that was the kind of a phrase that was in my head when I was doing that art piece. And it probably comes from my racing background
Yeah. Can I ask you what you've got coming up? If you're working on anything in particular? I mean, with the COVID restrictions, I don't know if that means you can't do shows or anything. But if you got anything you want to mention.
Yeah, well, I was part of a group show last year that I organized with seven other artists and I did a piece called motherlode for that, which was it was again, one off piece, it was four canvases that where I repeated these three objects over and over and over again to show this kind of build of I suppose the build of the daily burden of motherhood and parenthood. Yeah, that kind of falls to us. And when I stood back and looked at it, I had the pieces quite gray and blue and dark. And it felt like, you know, that was definitely something that was coming out of the pandemic and didn't really feel like me. So I actually have made a conscious decision where I want to do something that redresses that balance of that last piece that I feel, you know, came out of me, but maybe miss represents where I am now, you know, I've been working on a body of work called the kitchen sink, which, again, sounds depressing, and was coming from waking up every morning and making coffee and looking into my sink and going, Oh, my God, you know, there was always like some kind of dirty dishes in there that never either made it into the washing machine or were put in after the washing machine was put on. And it was like building this resentment and frustration in me. And I thought, I need to redress my thinking here and start thinking, and I started seeing the kitchen sink as an art project. So I would look in the sink and see what was in there. And it would become a memory and nice memory of the meal we'd had the evening before. So I started sketching what was in the thing, or taking photographs and sketching it later. And then working out. You know, just while I was doing that, thinking about the meal we had and the conversations we had. And suddenly it became this beautiful thing where again, I use objects to kind of symbolically word these objects in a sink became this symbolic diary entry of my life almost so can't wait. Well, it's something I've been working on for the last few months. And now I'm also just about to I was supposed to move into a new studio, which I have temporarily with Randall Arts at a local arts organization that I work with. So I'm going to take the back room here. It's an it's an initiative I want to bring to other businesses that rooms that are lying empty for businesses that they could do short term art artists residencies in there. So I'm doing a kind of a pilot scheme, I'm going to be moving into the back room of this building today, and start painting from there for a month or two months or six weeks and see how it goes. So that's kind of excited. Yeah, I'm a little bit terrified of moving to somewhere a bit more public as well, you kind of have that fear of exposing yourself of like, because not every piece works actually. Okay. And you're like going, Oh, no, that's crap, I just have to put that facing the wall. So nobody ever sees that again. Or, you know, like I am used to being in my print studio, where other people are there, and you're meeting other people. So but I, I know, was part of this, moving down to this temporary art studio. At the end of this residency, I plan to do kind of an open day in the studio and invite people in and talk about my work. Because I mean, there has to be, I wanted to be of benefit to the arts organization, as well. So there has to be kind of a quid pro quo. So so I'm interested to see how how it will affect my work. And, you know, will I even be able to work there? I'm kind of slightly terrified. It's a new adventure, I have to say,
well, there you go. It'll be an interesting challenge.
Yeah, yeah. I think it's, it's important to keep moving forward and do stuff that terrifies you. I try to I try to not shy away from things that scare me. So I always say to my, I always say to my daughter, you know, being brave is being scared, but doing it anyway.
That's so true, isn't it because you're allowed to feel scared, but then you have to do it. Anyway. That's actually a quote that one of the girls I interviewed early in season one said said the same thing. He said, You can be scared you can be terrified out of out of your mind. But you have to do it anyway. Thank you so much. I've really enjoyed chatting with you. It's been lovely,
was great. And it's, it's fascinating. I'm really interested in the fact that, like, sometimes we don't, I think in the art world as well, like, there's this concept of, you know, I don't want to be a mommy artists kind of talking about motherhood. And I made a conscious decision not to shy away from us, because I just, I like, it's who I am. Some people do their work, and it's escapism from, you know, the drudgery and the mundane and the every day, but I I kind of my work is my life in a way. So I just, it's a record of it or so. So I feel like it's, maybe I talk about it too much. But
I think I think we don't talk about it enough. Honestly, I just think I think you're right, people have this stigma that you can't have the two coexisting. It's like, if you want to be serious, you got to just put all that to one side and just, you know, pretend it's Yeah, but it's innate. It's a part of you. And it's, you can't help but have it influence what you do, whether you realize it or not, but I think but yeah, it's maths even.
Yeah, like, I remember even in work in advertising, you know, some people would, it would almost be taboo to say that you had to leave work to pick up your children, like people almost pretended they weren't parents. That's scary, isn't it? And I just feel like this is like a huge part of who I am. And I can't deny it or pretend it doesn't exist and why would I want to? So I kind of make no apologies for my art dealing with motherhood and it's nice to see that there. I see different organizations around the world. I'm a member of a group in Edinburgh called Spilt Milk. And we're again, it's a support network for artists who are mothers. And not all the work deals directly with motherhood, but it's just, it's interesting. It really makes me feel part of a community. I don't have that direct support in Dublin or in Ireland. But I find the support internationally, more readily available. So that means that's fantastic. So I was delighted to when you reached out to get in touch about it.
Oh, that's great. I appreciate that.
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