Good news for art’s lovers! For the second time Italish has had the opportunity to have a chat with one of the Duke Street Gallery’s artists: Clare Hartigan, who has been kind enough to answer my questions about her work.
Having grown up in Castleconnell, County Limerick, Clare started painting and drawing since she was a child, but she officially decided to devote her life to art after she graduated from Limerick Art College, where she specialised in printmaking. In her paintings the human figure has a predominant role.
Italish: What are you inspired by?
C.H.: I am inspired by life in general. Very often by personal experience mixed with current affairs, and whatever I am reading at the time. I often find that when my mind is further from trying to paint, that is when my best work comes to me. Switching off and just being is essential.
Italish: In your paintings the human figure, isolated or with a family, has a predominant role: you are very interested in the human being, both from the biological and the psychological point of view…
C.H.: It is a bit like looking at the person as a whole, but trying to draw the soul.
Italish: You seem particularly fascinated by certain themes, like the feminine figure, maternity, the family, and dancing. Can you tell me why? Is this inspiration drawn from your personal experience?
C.H.: Yes it is, but it is not only because of personal experience that I paint these themes, but because I see the importance of it for the human race. Without these core values we cease to be civilized.
My use of the female figure goes beyond my personal experience: the female I paint is often about tapping into raw emotion. Letting go, screaming your head off, feeling alone, dancing like crazy or being with your family and friends, and being irrational at times.
These are things that are easier to accept from a woman. Men are taught not to cry, because acting emotional is not seen as being manly.
I feel it is the female side of us that has been ignored in favour of a more logical and driven manner of being.
However, I feel that we are at a time in history when this female energy is being valued more: a kind of feminism – without the resentment! I think both men and women need to appreciate their natural emotional intelligence, which is what the girl has come to represent for me; the female subject in my painting is more to do with emotion than gender.
Italish: Could you explain the meaning of the recurring figure of the little girl?
C.H.: The little girl in my painting represents me on a very basic level, but on another level she represents the inner child for everyone, male or female. For me, using her as my central theme is about getting back to the people we were as children, to explain and explore how and why we act the way we act today. She is the central core of the soul, pure emotion, loving, caring, fragile, and often so damaged.
Italish: Let’s talk about your style: it has changed through the years: for example, in some of your previous works I have noticed a particular attention to light and colour, and a quite traditional and sensual (I would say Botticellian) way to paint the feminine figure; in your latest works you have explored the more contemporary technique of paint dripping, often combined with monochromatic backdrops: I think this technique conveys an impressive sense of dynamism, that makes your human figures seem alive. How and why has your style changed in this direction? Have you been influenced by a particular artist or artistic tendency?
C.H.: I have always worked in both ways. My drawings were either dynamic and moving or soft, round and sensual. Over the years I have been trying to combine the two different sides of me. I am a massive fan of movement, dance, martial arts, gymnastics, sports – anything that involves the body moving to its full potential. The inspiration behind the dripping paint technique was the bitumen that I used to draw with for the etchings, while I was studying printmaking. I couldn’t get this same dynamism with traditional oils. I tried for years using the brush strokes to express it. At the moment it is minimalizing the light and dark while combining it with the dynamic movement that interests me most.
Interview: Eleonora Cocola