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Matthew Jacobson ‘On The Streets I Ran’ Interviews artist Eimear Kavanagh

Liverpool – my lifetime of love for the city stems from growing up here with a combined adulation for its history, its people, culture and the glorious buildings scattered around this wonderful city.

There is poetry in the Liverpool pavements that lovingly lead people from one place to another, from one situation or scene to another and from one culture to another.

Whatever your interest or love, whether it’s music, the arts or sport, it is here to enjoy in Liverpool. And wrapped up with a regional boundary that declares our city ‘open to all’. No wall will ever appear around this city. No bricks, mortar or spirit level will be needed because our spirit is determined, inclusive, caring and strong. It is a Liverpool life.

Space control – by Eimear Kavanagh

The energetic city centre is the hub for music and the arts. I enjoy them when I can and when I am unable to do so, I know someone else is enjoying the many delights on offer. Year after year, gig after gig, exhibition after exhibition, I have travelled to the area to enjoy the creatives from our city and beyond; leaving events fulfilled and inspired.

The poetic pavements also lead me to the peaceful and tranquil South Liverpool parks. I enjoy thought provoking walks through the salubrious soul of the city. Walks to collect myself that lead me to answer questions I am yet to formulate.

On one walk, I discovered a sparkling talent. I stopped at a South Liverpool community café for a well-earned drink. Perusing the cafe and relaxing in the warm and welcoming environment, I was immediately taken in by the striking and compelling artwork on the wall. As I sat and scanned the beautiful artwork, enjoying this celebratory moment for discovering a wonderful talent, I realised that art is reaching out to communities and communities will benefit. A city centre hub is welcoming for those able to afford to travel, to park and to buy food and drinks throughout the day. But to see art exhibitions and platforms for artists sat deep within the community, outside of the city centre, is artwork in itself.

In Vogue Outa Synch – by Eimear Kavanagh

Platforms have also appeared with live music venues and festivals cropping up outside of the centre; reaching out, helping local communities enjoy the creative world. A city should share its love; its people are housed all over, not just the city centre. Sharing the love can transform an area, provide a helping hand to creatives and also be an invaluable inspiration to the creatives of tomorrow.

On this day, the celebratory feel continued as the stunning artwork transported me from my seat to another world. Artwork filled with human emotions, escapism and nature took over my thoughts and feelings. The artist: Eimear Kavanagh.

Boombox and Gulls – by Eimear Kavanagh

I just had to find out more – so I did just that. I interviewed Eimear about the early years’ inspiration, buildings being torn down, The Sugarcubes and her forthcoming residency.

The early Eimear Kavanagh – as a child, did art, or creativity bring an immediate wonder and experience into your childhood? 

It did, as I think it does with most children. What child doesn’t love to play make – believe? To express what they did at the weekend, or how their family home looks in picture? It comes almost as an innate response to certain things. As children we love playfulness and my sister and I were really encouraged to create by people around us.

And today, are there moments during a project that take you back to your childhood days, creating and experimenting with the materials around you? 

Yeah absolutely I experience it as a sense of freedom and escape because creating brings me so fully in the moment. This level of concentration doesn’t allow for thinking about adult stuff, the burden of everyday chores (the to-do lists, meeting deadlines, paying bills). The mind loves to experiment and try new things. Creativity plays out not just onto paper but also in ‘real life’ scenarios.

I feel there is something poetic in the mundane, the normality of life and I enjoy the interpretation of life by the creatives. When launching your career, did the life around you inspire your career, enhancing your journey – and did you ever feel the opposite, at times, feeling the inspiration wasn’t there in your surroundings? 

I think my everyday life can be observed in an artist’s way, admiring, distorting, stylising, simplifying, and transforming things in my mind. I live in a beautiful world and this influences what I want to do in my life. I don’t carry a sketch book and pen around with me everywhere but I collect things mentally and save them up.

Inspiration is not always there for me to make art. I don’t see my art as a career, there was never any set direction for me to follow or opportunities that would give me life-long stability or financial security. I see it more as a business, like any other. As an artist you have to create your own luck. Sometimes there is effort involved in that.

I felt there were subtle themes running within your recent exhibition which touch upon the experience of city living, human emotions, escapism, nature and making a connection with the things we commonly disconnect from. Do you constantly witness things around you or is it a mechanical process where you feel it is time to begin a project?

A bit of both! I see and hear things around me and think “Oh yes this is brilliant” and then it gets either filed away as an idea somewhere in my mind, or it begins to evolve into words on paper. Some ideas are never revisited. Last year I had a lot of time. I gained a lot of commissions and held a solo show. My whole year was devoted to making art. Being in the flow like that, creative work comes very easy.

This year is the opposite, more ‘mechanical’. I’ve intentionally divided my time up to build a new website (still in progress) I have completed an intensive business course for artists, researched and created a business idea, moved home and worked in another job which I am passionate about. This has left me with little time or energy to create art. But I knew this was going to be the case so I have had to look at it as a progress exercise, to get from A to B. Thankfully I have some set time aside coming up to create new work, this has been a my light at the end of the tunnel and it’s getting very bright right now.

When that moment an influence connects with you and you move with the idea – how does that feel? 

Aliveness like nothing else.

An overriding influence is emotions. Does your art become a one off as such? They couldn’t be reproduced because of the emotions at that specific time?

Absolutely. All art relates to real life experiences, mine are often unresolved issues. At the time of making they had such a strong personal connection with me, but then a year or two down the line I cannot recall entirely what I was feeling then as the emotions weaken or change. You can see from my collection that I keep moving. If I found a niche and decided to stick with that one look just because it sells well, I would get bored after making 3 or 4. I’d lose momentum and purpose to create. I suppose it’s a common thing for a lot of creatives feel the need to keep improving all the time.

When people see something in your work that you may not, do you then see your work from another angle? And does that bring a fresh perspective? 

I find it very interesting how people see things differently. After spending so long caught up in the making of an artwork, you never really know if the meaning behind it is clear (to others) or not. To me it doesn’t matter if people don’t get it straight away because I don’t want my art to be so transparent. I like to be asked questions so I can witness people’s reactions. There is a lot of joy in experiencing their change in perspective.

I feel there is always potential, for the most interesting or beautiful buildings to be replaced by cloud mauling, sky scrapers; one being ‘Turning The Place Over’ by Richard Wilson, in Moorfields. This was / is a mesmerizing piece, but I feel, one day it could be erased from the city. On your journey, have you witnessed places changing, and does that change bring huge sadness or a creative opportunity? 

I do understand that some changes are for the best. I don’t agree all of them are and I see a lot of (in my opinion) bad taste. I am drawn to decaying buildings, the disused spaces which tell tales and hold memories for the people of the city. I love where nature begins to take over man-made structure. These places give a city lots of character and charm. Getting rid and building new high rises become a uniformed look to match other cities. I have only been in Merseyside for 12 years and these changes do make me feel sad. I feel sorry for the people who have history here, it must be devastating. To be so powerless in this situation is very wrong.

If you could collaborate with any musician, who would it be and why? 

Expressing another person’s story or song in a painting is such an honour, especially if it is somebody whose work I love and admire. There are so many amazing musicians and writers I’d love to work with (we are spoilt here in Merseyside). It would be an exciting challenge for me to collaborate with a kick-ass, loud, rip-raw band (I’m thinking the likes of The Mysterines). It would really stretch my imagination to visually represent that sound and energy and push my work into other dimensions.

On your arrival to Liverpool; was there a particular area you warmed to first, because of the art, or the influence it brought you? 

I was very open minded about where to base myself, I moved up from London in 2007 and I didn’t know Liverpool at all (apart from the Albert Dock!) but I’d previously visited Wirral a few times and I loved its closeness to the city yet feeling a million miles away. The Irish Sea makes me feel closer to home, the expansive sky, views and its slower pace of life seems ideal. I found a lovely little flat there in Oxton which was all very random. I based myself there for a bit and then moved to Liverpool and moved around the city for few years and then back to Wirral again. I haven’t latched onto one particular area, and l have felt at peace everywhere I have lived. Merseyside is very diverse, you can have city, parks, river, industry, canal and wondrous architecture everywhere. And people are different wherever you go, even if just a few miles up the road. The communities are lively and welcoming and a pleasure to exist within them. I have fond memories of all over and been influenced by each place. Merseyside as a whole has a great reputation for art, music and its people and that’s what drew me here.

Art is reaching out to the community and is a warm and welcoming addition to the surrounding areas of town. Is a community feel important to you when searching for a venue? 

I don’t often exhibit to be honest, but I like it when an opportunity appears before me through friendship. I know some people feel intimidated walking into established city galleries. Community cafes have a relaxed feel; eat and drink while you browse. The viewer has no need to feel forced to have any deep and meaningful conversation if they don’t want to. The owners understand the ‘struggling artist’ and are more sympathetic to give wall space without charging a fee or taking commission from any sales. This allows art to be kept at a more affordable price. They appreciate that art is bringing a nice ambience into their surroundings, it brings something extra for their customers and the art reaches out to people who might not usually go to see.

What next for Eimear?

I have been dedicated to working on a new business venture which will be up and running for 2020. It originates from recognising that people are bound by personal limitation and self-doubt. The offering will be a highly personified artwork representing who the client really is, after exploring their long-forgotten needs and desires. There will be more on this coming soon.

Meanwhile I will be heading to Stöðvarfjörður, Iceland at the end of this month for an artist’s residency. The Fish Factory well, it used to be a Fish Factory and they are giving me a whole month of undisturbed time to create art. I will join 6 others working on paper, ceramic, metal, sculpture and photography. Other than the factory, a handful of houses and a swimming pool, there is nothing else there. Once a week there is a bus ride to the nearest supermarket. I have been waiting to do this for 2 years so I am very, very happy about it. I’ll be up at 5 every morning. Nobody to answer to, but the sun and moon.

Why Iceland?

I wanted to go there since I was a teenager. I had a fascination with the band The Sugarcubes. Their sound, their accent, their presence, I thought they had an ‘otherworldliness’ about them. Everybody wants to go to the country that their favourite band is from? When I stumbled across the residency, I just felt it had my name all over it and I applied immediately, there was no thinking time. It must be the Irish in me that adores wild weather. Rain, howling wind, rugged and dangerous terrain I find so stimulating and sublime. I love seeing how other people live.

What are your aims and objectives for Iceland 

I plan to draft the illustrations for my sister’s book of poems, which correlate with her début novella, Pearl. We have been talking about this for years, and now is the given the time. ‘Meditative’ could be the word to describe her poetry, I might say that they are not what they seem. Niamh’s stories are transformational/transcendental, allowing for spaciousness with the intention to provoke awareness. They often reveal destruction and longing. I think Iceland will be the perfect setting for me to go with this.

And finally, ‘On the Streets I Ran’: Can you name three Liverpool Streets that mean the most to you and why?

I love these questions!

Aigburth Drive is an enchanting pathway circling Sefton Park, under the shadows of the trees. I used to do this walk at least once a week in all weathers with a friend who eventually moved back to Australia. We went through a lot of spiritual growth together and this path reminds me of great friendship and of the conversations we used to have. Distance holds no boundaries, we are still very much in each other’s lives.

Northumberland Avenue, Everton. I only lived there for six months, in the grounds of the marvellous iron church, St Georges. I was there in the winter and the views down to the Mersey and across to Wales were so good; I would just sit there gazing for hours. The house was surrounded by ancient gravestones it was spooky and atmospheric. We had a good downpour of snow that year too and the house felt so wind-battered being on the edge of the hill. The icy colours in the sky in January were just beautiful. The people in the neighbourhood were comical and wonderful too. We had kids knocking on the door selling goods from ‘the back of a lorry’, and members of the community looking for advice on all sorts of things from finding birth certificates to needing financial help. It did actually cross my mind how humbling it would be to live my life as a vicar. I wanted to invite them in and make a pot of tea.

Waterloo Road/Regent Road – all that land which stretches far down the north docks leading into Seaforth. Absolutely amazing there is such a feeling of ancient times there, docks and wasteland and industry, wind turbines and all the roads which lead into the back streets of Bootle, a cyclist’s utopia. A photographer’s feast. A film makers dream. A gangster’s paradise.

A Sense of Reality – by Eimear Kavanagh

Thank you to Eimear for such a wonderful and warm interview. I look forward to updates from Iceland – best of luck and please, keep us all posted.

Matt Jacobson

READ MORE: On the Streets I Ran With Kaya Herstad-Carney : Artistic Director, Threshold Festival

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