Aideen Barry is a visual artist with a national and international profile whose means of expression are interchangeable, incorporating performance, sculpture, film and lens based media, employing visual trickery to create a heightened suspension of reality. In 2020 she was elected to the Royal Hibernian Academy as an ARHA member. She is also a member of Aosdána and lectures in several universities and schools of visual art. Aideen has received numerous awards for her practice and has exhibited her work extensively in Ireland and internationally including The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Moderne Museet Sweden, The Wexner Centre Ohio, The Royal Hibernian Academy and Banff Centre Canada.
What is your job?+
I am an Artist. I also lecture in a University, so I am also a teacher. My job is to make art about being in the contemporary world with all the feelings that brings and the contexts of living in the world right now. As an educator I am especially interested in how the artists and creatives of the future are also considering how they make work in the world right now.
When did you know you wanted art to be your job?+
I always knew I wanted to be an artist. From as young as I can remember I have been drawing, constructing sculptures and making worlds. I used to enter lots of art competitions when I was younger and even won one or two of them so I kind of got a feeling from quite early on that I might have a super power so I have been putting that super power into action ever since!
Did you attend art college and if so what was the experience like?+
I did, though I grew up in Cork City I wanted to go elsewhere so I heard of a great art college in the "City of the Arts", Galway and I decided to set my sights on that so I did my first degree there. It was the first time I really felt like I had found my tribe, in a college with other thinkers, makers and dreamers I felt like I finally had permission to be me and to breathe.
What is the job of art (or of artists?)+
That's a really hard question to answer because it's almost a different job for different artists. For me personally I feel the job of Art is to really think about what it is to be human in the world right now and how you can use the unique language of Art to communicate those feelings of being in the world. For an Artist like me, I feel the job is to hold up a version of the world that I see in my experience and ask you the viewer if this is acceptable to you and if you want to work with me to change it for the better. That is not to say that that is every Artist's job, certainly not, but that truly is my job as the Artist that I am.
What is art to you?+
Art to me is my oxygen, and if I didn't have it in my life I wouldn't be able to breathe.
Why is art important?+
Art is so important because it is a different language. It kind of communicates telepathically to the viewer about the experience of what it is to be that Artist and so we are pulled into that person's world and given a secret passageway into that Artist's mind and their inner most thinking. So for that reason Art is so important because it shows us a way of how to process the world and how to relate to other people, develop empathy, resilience and understanding of how we and others live.
Do you have a favourite type of art?+
I love all Art. I especially love Art that sucks you into a world. So my favourite works are made by artists that challenged "normality" or what is considered normal. So Artists, that when you experience their work, you don't feel like you are the odd one out for thinking differently or being different. Art that celebrates difference is my favourite kind.
What inspires you and your art?+
My life, my lived experience, and other Artists. Sometimes it's not just visual artists that inspire me, sometimes it's literary artists, philosophers, designers, architects, poets, scientists or contemporary musicians. So having Art and creative thinking in all its forms in my life is super inspiring to me and my creative process.
Do you have a creative philosophy?+
Make it first, don't talk yourself out of the idea before you even get started, once it's made stand back and look at it and think critically about it, edit it, turn it upside down if you have to, remake it, research other artists, thinkers, writers etc. who think and make work this way, put it out into the world for others to think about it critically, write about it and repeat.
How do you know if you are a good artist?+
Em, I wouldn't think about that because I am not sure if everyone thinks they are agood artist. For me I just am an artist, some people think I am ok at what I do and some people probably don't like what I do, but I wouldn't waste my energy onthinking if I am a good artist or not, I just am an artist and I carry on regardless.
What advice do you have for young artists?+
Keep going, never give up even if it doesn't work out, turn it upside down and try thinking about the project in a different way. Failure is a good thing. I have learned so much from the works that ended up being flops more so than the works that ended up being successful. It's all knowledge generation and Art often is about the journey you are on rather than the end of the destination. Your process is the most interesting part, so keep on the journey.
What advice would you give your teenage self?+
Don't worry so much about what other people think of you, it's such a waste of time and energy and a good night's sleep. You may be the outsider thinker, you may be the "weird one", but in time the centre will shift to you and suddenly you might end up being the radical thinker that everyone needs right now, perhaps even a leader, so relax and carry on.
Is this an exciting time for art and artists?+
Yes it’s a very exciting time for Art and Artists. All the conventional ways that art has existed are being challenged and artists are taking control of where their work is manifesting through alternative spaces such as online galleries, augmented reality experiences, and in non-traditional spaces like artist residencies in industry spaces and as acts of protest. There is a lot of very pressing issues around the environment and human rights and right at the fore front of these big topics are artists who are making radical interventions and coming up with creative strategies for thinking about these challenges. So for that reason it is a very exciting time for our community.
How will you judge This Is Art! and what will you be looking out for?+
What a privilegeit is to be a judge of This is Art! For me I will be looking for artworks by artists who are manifesting an experience of what it is to be you or in your world right now. I am looking for the artists of the future and how they are thinking about living in the contemporary world right now.
Is an artist statement important to you as a viewer?+
I think an artist's statement is very helpful. It gives so much more information to who you are and how you have thought about the artwork you have made. You are unique and have had a very unique life and I want to hear how that experience has shaped the work you have submitted to the competition.