Kiln it softly at Duncairn Centre for Arts

CHALLENGE: Eimear Ó Caoilte will develop your artistic side at the Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts CHALLENGE: Eimear Ó Caoilte will develop your artistic side at the Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts
By Evan Short

IN the wide world of artistic endeavour ceramics would be one of the lesser known disciplines, but one Antrim Road based artist is making a name for herself with her groundbreaking designs.

Eimear Ó Caoilte is resident in the Duncairn Centre for Culture and Arts where she teaches courses in ceramics as well as developing her own artistic creations.

Her route to the Duncairn was mapped out thanks to the Ulster University reaching out to the North Belfast institution to display students’ end of year work. Eimear was one of the lucky graduates to succeed in securing a placement as part of that relationship.

“I had started out studying fine art but transferred over to ceramics in the second year of my degree. Fine Art was multi-discipline so you had to do some ceramics and woodwork and printing, photography and painting.

“All my work brought that together – my stuff is multi-disciplinary and my ceramincs are turning out that way too so I’ll be taking my fine art drawing onto cremanic based stuff but I’ll be printing as well.”

When not teaching the next generation of artists Eimear’s work is concerned with reflecting people on the margins of society.

“I would start with a concept that interests me and since my degree that has been around social ignorance. During that period I was looking at mainly homeless people and our everyday ignorance of those who find themselves living on the street.

“I took portraits of homeless people and camouflaged them into urban textures that aren’t immediately identifiable but if you look closer you can see their images in my work.

“Over that period I widened it out into looking at our ignorance of other countries and how if things don’t affect us we are less likely to have opinions on what is going on there.

“I went travelling between second and third year of my degree for three months and that was a real eye opener in South America. When I came back I started looking at my own ignorance and looking at why I’d developed views about things and I started to challenge my own views through my projects. I then move onto challenging the gallery viewer.

“I make a conscious effort of trying to gain knowledge and then reflect that in my work. I wouldn’t call myself a political artist because I don’t have enough knowledge but I think through challenging myself my views will develop as I get older.”

Getting people involved in the arts who would never have been interested before is something Eimear says has been an enjoyable part of her time in North Belfast.

“It’s turned out to be way better than I thought. What they are trying to achieve with getting the working class involved in art is great. There’s such a pretentious aura around art but everyone is visual. People might say they aren’t interest in art but they’ll be visual in some way.

“Art galleries can be intimidating and to be honest I am not really comfortable in them and I think art can be a barrier because of that and because of the attitudes of people involved who can be stuck up.

“Centres like this are helping to break that down by linking with the community. Just getting people involved in activities helps. The exhibitions we have here are good craic and people come along and get some wine in them and it’s always a good laugh.”

Watching as a new person gets to grips with the discipline of ceramics is hugely rewarding, she says.

“They start off making wee pinch pots from balls of clay and then they decorate them. Then we learn building techniques and towards the end of the class I encourage them to go on and make their own projects in using the technique they like the best.

“They love it. They tell me they’re most surprised at how therapeutic working with clay is. They all come in noisy but very soon my class is quiet because they are engrossed in the clay. People really do enjoy it and they get so much out of it. To turn what starts off as a big ball of muck into something beautiful and shiny is a great achievement.”

For more information on Eimear’s courses visit www.theduncairn.com

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