Barbara Kenneally shares her creative journey:
- What it was like to go art college after retiring from science
- the connection between her scientific research and her glass art
- her interest in surfaces and what lies beneath
- the inspiration of the old mine shafts in West Cork
- the different kinds of glass
- her favourite glass
- Her process
- Finishing and displaying glass
- her photography
- her studio and studio practice
- how she records her process
- her least favourite part of being an artist
- her attitude to rejection
- being hacked on Instagram
- The best advice she received
- her art influences
- Upcoming exhibitions in Canvas International Art Fair, Venice and the International Biennale of Glass, Bulgaria.
‘I was always interested in science, not so much art..I was always drawn to creative things in the evenings’
Barbara studied biochemistry and worked as medical scientist. It was only when she retired from science, that she decided to study art. She went to Coláiste Stiofáin Naofa and the staff there encouraged her to apply to art college. Her portfolio allowed her to enter into second year of art college. Following her BA in Art, Ceramics, Glass and Textiles from the Crawford college of art, Cork, Barbara has since developed her own unique style of abstract glass sculptures and photography.
Barbara shares a childhood memory of seeing a mine shaft flooded with water
“the surface looks like glass..it’s a shiny surface but you’re looking down into it”
Barbara’s work is inspired by the Allihies, in the Beara Peninsula in West Cork, in particular the old copper mines. She starts the journey of her abstract glass sculptures with a rock found at the old mines to create a mould for the glass. The colours in her work are inspired by the natural mineral deposits in the area. Barbara’s work with glass and her photography allows her to explore both the surface and what is beneath the surface.
Barbara shares how she’s always been drawn to glass, and shiny surfaces with the ability to look within.
“I like to have a surface and a subsurface in my work.”
There is a correlation between Barbara’s previous profession as a medical scientist and her glass art. As a medical scientist, Barbara worked on reference ranges [for people in cork]. People may think they are normal but they may not be once what’s going on inside is analysed. the people who think they’re normal but may not be when you actually analyse what’s going on inside them.
In Barbara’s glass art she is interesting in both looking at the surface and inside the glass at the same time. With her photograph she goes deep inside the glass.
Barbara begins her process with taking photographs of the colours of rocks at the mines. Then she chooses a rock for her mould making. The process of creating moulds (negative and positive), firings, polishing and grinding is slow and laborious.
She makes only a few pieces per year. She usually makes handheld pieces that she can move herself.
Barbara decides at the outset which surface of the rock sculpture will be polished smooth to allow the viewer to look within, leaving the rest of the sculpture in the form of the rock.
Barbara makes detailed records of each firing, not dissimilar to lab notes.
Barbara works with warm glass and her favourite glass is Bullseye Glass, which she imports from the US via the UK.
Mick Wilkins [www.instagram.com/mick_wilkins] Cork based sculptor designed plinths for her current sculptures and George Duggan from Cork Crystal used UV glue to secure the sculpture to the flat glass.
Barbara likes to photograph close ups of the inside of her sculpture with a macro lens. She displays the photographs with her sculptures.
Photographing glass is very challenging and Roland Paschhoff, in Cobh, Co Cork photographs all her work.
“Believe in your self is probably the biggest thing.. there is nobody else like you so believe in yourself.”
“Every time I enter an open call, I prepare myself to not to be accepted”
Barbara’s upcoming exhibitions in 2023 include the Canvas International Art Fair, Venice and the International Biennale of Glass, Bulgaria.
Influences and credits
Her influences include Dale Chihuly, American glass artist
Róisín de Buitléar, Irish glass artist, Agnes Martin, American painter, Colin Reid
Barbara’s mentors include Debbie Dawson (her glass tutor in the Crawford College of Art and Design) Eoin Turner and Lorraine Mullins.
Hazel Hutton was always awarded a residency with Barbara and they have exhibited together.
you can see Barbara’s work at www.instagram.com/barbarakenneally