Artist Sinéad Breslin has created art in various countries across the world. Currently based in Fermanagh, she tells The Impartial Reporter what inspires her work, her favourite project to date and what her art means to her.

JC: What is your artistic background? Are you self-taught or did you go to art school/do courses?

SB: In my vault of childhood memories, of which most are inaccessible or irrelevant to the needs of everyday life, I see vividly in my mind’s eye two large posters that were pinned to the wall beside my bed and recall clearly the curiosity they evoked. They were images of artworks by Vincent Van Gogh and Edgar Degas.

Great tutors and courses did indeed pave the way, from the art classroom at Erne Integrated College with the brilliant Johnny McKee who in turn encouraged me to do the foundation diploma in Art and Design at Fermanagh College. Then on to art school in Bristol where I completed a BA and MA in Fine Art under the stellar guidance of Roy Voss, great artist and advocate of all things facetious.

I spent a few years living and working in Moscow where the people, atmosphere and energy were certainly determining. In recent years I have spent much time in NYC learning the trade so to speak. Possibly one of the most important habits an artist can have is to visit shows of other artists in galleries or museums, and if this isn't feasible then acquire books and use the internet. Artist residencies in various places have also been a fundamental part of my development, and criticism from peers, curators, gallerists, friends, and collectors have been key throughout the years.

JC: What inspires your art?

SB: The want and will to paint stems from an innate compulsion that is perplexing, to say the least. Nevertheless, visually reflecting the obscurity of life, its mysticism and its mundanity brings satisfaction and revelations, both subtly and overtly. I draw inspiration from the complexity and simplicity of lived experience. I paint people within environments - people are fascinating, as is context. Life is an amalgamation of highs and lows, trauma and successes across vast spectrums of differences. Holding up a mirror to moments in time helps me live in the world. The depictions of settings within which my figures exist presents an opportunity to reflect and investigate our contemporary situation, and explore perceived reality. Painterly language allows me great freedom in the observing of psychology, emotion and circumstance. In the attempt to make decent paintings, I think the trick is to pose everlasting questions. My favourite works of art and literature are filled with ambiguity and wonder.

JC: Who/what are your biggest influences?

SB: In no particular order, a few of the greats; Gorgio Morandi, Nano Reid, Philip Guston, Kerry James Marshall, Alice Neel, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Elizabeth Peyton, Alex Katz, Peter Doig, Hope Gangloff, Chantal Joffe, Kara Walker, John Baldessari, Angus Fairhurst, Martin Creed, Leon Spilliaert and Mark Lecky.

JC: Is there a specific place that you do your work? Do you have a studio?

SB: Currently I have a studio in London and a small space in Fermanagh. I move around a lot to make bodies of paintings in different locations, this has been an integral part of my practise. I’ve just returned from Mexico City where I shared a studio with an incredible artist, Alvaro Ugarte, in the downtown region close to the historical district. I made a body of work in response to the city and those who dwell in her.

JC: What has been your most ambitious piece to date?

SB: The recent paintings I made in Mexico were for Latin America's leading art fair Zona Maco in February. A couple of these pieces could be viewed as more ambitious, although I feel most pieces were ambitious at the moment of execution. My practice is continually evolving and transforming - as it should - but I do feel that each new successful piece is as relevant as the last. Although of course, it’s not important for audiences to take this position.

JC: What different artistic mediums do you use and which is your favourite?

SB: I paint primarily using oil on canvas or linen. I tend to paint on a larger scale. I’m interested in collage, as my works are collages of sorts, and photography, but I mainly use photography as source material. There are a range of methods I use when constructing a painting, but the process will always unveil the most glorious surprises.

JC: What are you currently working on?

SB: Real time context plays a major role when choosing focus and subject matter. I’m currently in Fermanagh and I’m working on small portraits depicting individuals within rural landscapes.

JC: Do you exhibit your work anywhere?

SB: Recent major exhibitions have taken place in NYC and Mexico City. I’ve also had important shows over the years in various galleries in the UK, Russia and Italy. I have been focused on the US for a while and I am currently represented by Marc Straus Gallery in NYC. Now I am keen to have a stronger presence in the UK and Europe.

JC: Any new artistic ventures planned for 2020?

SB: Make decent work and exhibit decent work, hope for works to find adoring homes.

JC: What has been your favourite project to date?

SB: I was selected to do a residency in Brescia, Northern Italy at Palazzo Monti at the end of 2018. I spent a few months living and working in this incredible palazzo that dates back to the 1200s. I had an exhibition in the most gorgeous space with frescoes on the ceiling and original features - this juxtaposition with my works was beautiful. The general atmosphere of the palazzo was incredibly stimulating due to the range of other artists from different countries that participated, the intrigue from the surrounding community and audience, and the gallerists, dealers, collectors and art lovers who dropped by.

JC: What are you up to when you aren’t creating art?

SB: I love good food in unique settings. Intense exercise is an effective form of meditation for me and for a few years I have been an extremely inconsistent yet committed crossfitter. I attend a lot of exhibitions, openings and art fairs, which has also been an integral part of my progression in the art world.

JC: How would you describe your artistic style?

SB: I contextualise my work in terms of established contemporary painters who tend to employ a language that is a meld of what's gone before. Painting carries a lot of historical weight and when we talk about contemporary styles we sort of naturally reference moments and movements of the near and distant past. I’ve heard it said that it’s possible to be innovative but not original. My particular meld is essentially Figuration that alludes to magical realism, they are at once representational and obscure. I follow in an Irish tradition of imbuing works with a sense of the unreal where magic, fable, allegory is explored. There is a strong sense of expressionism in terms of line, colour, and psychological discernment, and a salute to Primitivism in terms of the works being instinctive and sometimes unreasonable. There are moments of controlled paint application alongside movement and gesture. Perspectives are flattened, colours are exaggerated and settings are charged with symbolism.

JC: What does your art mean to you?

SB: It’s a bittersweet process and a bittersweet career choice, but making art and living with art settles my mind and makes me feel connected to the past, present and future.