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The work of Dublin-based artist Genieve Figgis transports us back in time with her entrancing, dramatic, and ghoulish works. Washes of color make up vibrant birds, macabre couples, and those of the hierarchy during the 18th and 19th centuries.
This spring, Whitewall caught up with Figgis as she was isolated in Ireland. Her studio set in an old house helped to pull her back in time and fuel new work. With her new series of paintings slated for a show at Almine Rech, Figgis shared with us how she’s staying inspired by theater actors, the prehistoric world, and the nature outside her very window.
WHITEWALL: How are you doing?
GENIEVE FIGGIS: I am very well, thank you. These are very strange times for everyone.
I always try to keep busy. Being creative is the best medicine. I need to be completely immersed in my work and that type of pace suits me as a person. I am quite happy with my own company and the quiet lifestyle suites me. All I want to do when I wake up in the morning is to go to the studio.
WW: What are you listening to, reading watching?
GF: I have been watching live performances from the Abbey Theatre in Dublin called “Dear Ireland.” I really enjoyed the experience. The Abbey is Ireland’s most famous theatre and they produced a digital production by 50 writers and actors to get drama to the people in a virtual forum.
I have always found the experience of live acting in a theatre fascinating. I am gripped by the emotion actors portray when putting on a performance. These experiences definitely influence my own work.
I have been reading a very interesting book called The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Stephen L. Brusatte. I have always been interested in the natural world. I am intrigued by books that bring you to a place that challenges your ideas or knowledge. Paleontology is such an interesting subject. I love how this important research can bring you on a journey and tell you about the subject which they are discovering.
You are reading about a world that no longer exists—animals which are now extinct—and this book brings you into the prehistoric world that describes how the animal lived, their environment, how it survived, what it ate, and even how it died. Absolutely fascinating.
My tastes in music are very varied. It could be jazz, classical, or heavy metal! Sometimes I just like to listen to the sounds of the forest or the waves of the ocean. It helps me escape to my own world.
WW: What are you cooking?
GF: I have always enjoyed cooking from a young age. At the moment I am deeply involved in my work, so I don’t have much time to be spending on cooking to any great extent. When I am in my studio working, nothing else matters. I can’t have any distractions, so I don’t think too much about cooking to any great degree at the moment.
WW: How are you staying connected?
GF: I have always been very connected through social media and electronic technology, so the current crisis doesn’t have any challenges in that regard. I embraced the benefit of connecting with the wider world through social media very early on.
WW: How are you staying creative?
GF: I take a lot of creativity out of nature, books, podcasts, and music. I love to sit in my garden and watch how it is coming alive again for summer. My studio is based in a very old house in Ireland and I find this inspiring because it brings me back to a time which is regularly reflected in my work. I am very influenced by the 18th and 19th centuries. The costumes and the decor are exceptional.
WW: Are you able to make work at this time?
GF: Yes, I am currently working on a series of paintings for my next show with Almine Rech. My work demands a lot of my time, so I am in my studio every day.
WW: Where are you finding hope or inspiration?
GF: I am finding nature very inspirational, so I have been sitting out in the garden, sometimes pruning the roses and watching the birds. These little tiny birds in the garden have been very busy. I watch them collecting bits and pieces and returning to their nest. They are so trusting of me and just walk by to nibble away weeds from the step beside me. I leave them out some seeds because they are so beautiful.
These birds have probably lived their whole lives in the garden, so trust comes naturally. I love animals and I enjoy sitting amongst them in the sunshine. I think most people will agree when I say nature and animals give us hope at this time. We need to protect this. Planet Earth is taking a well-deserved rest.