The Warrior Artist Podcast 8 – the opportunities are out there – Maurice Quillinan shares his creative journey

Maurice Quillinan grew up in Limerick, Ireland.  He  studied at Limerick School of Art and Design, The royal college of art, London, the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Art, Paris and University of limerick.

Maurice has received many awards, some of which include Arts Council Awards, Culture Ireland awards and Henry Moore Foundation Scholarship and he has exhibited widely both nationally and internationally and his work is represented in the public and private collections of thirty four countries. In Ireland he is representing by Hambly & Hambly, Enniskillen and ‘I am of Ireland’, Lismore.

Maurice has curated and project managed many exhibitions and site specific works both in Ireland and abroad, including the Sasse Museum in LA, the Limerick Museum and Ireland’s submission for the Beijing Biennale.

Maurice also mentors and teaches in Artform,  Dunmore East, Waterford, Ireland.

About art college

“I think what one of the fantastic things about art college is the amount of people you get introduced to…it’s kind of nonstop rolling kind of contacts. And the thing is just to kind of just take them and see where they go.”

Maurice originally trained as a sculptor.  He also did “print and painting.. my main passion was drawing all the way through.”

After art college, “it becomes more like work. You’ve got to produce a certain amount of work for specific projects.”

About being an artist:

“I think one of the things about the art business is you’re essentially self employed. You make something, you have to sell it, you try to make the next one. ”

“one of the things about the art is you don’t make any money, but you can make enough to keep yourself tipping over.”

“Another fantastic thing about the art is you’re constantly having to learn stuff.’

“It’s hard work, but it’s worth it. It’s incredible. Like, I’ve been all over the world. I’ve had shows in many places.”

Maurice Quillinan and Ciara Hambly of Hambly & Hambly

Opportunities

“The opportunities are out there, and it’s just a question of ..finding them and trying to take advantage of them. They’re willingly given by people. There’s a huge support for the arts out there.”

“It’s about people introducing you to other people all the time, and it’s about taking part in that wider conversation. It’s extraordinary the places you get invited to and then the people you get to meet that you never get to meet in any other business.”

Travel

“One of the great things about the art businesses, you’re literally able to hop on a plane and go somewhere. There’s always a studio you can borrow or residence or something going.”

Maurice has been inspired by the places he has visited and lived in. “I see art as a conversation. It’s a visual conversation, essentially visual language, where artists are making images and doing videos, sculptures, whatever, to connect with other artists in other places.”

“You take that information and bring that back to your studio”

Drawing and Painting practice

Drawing is an essential part of Maurice’s practice. “Always keep a drawing program going in the background, because drawing is looking and collecting information and what that turns into in your paintings, your sculptures, your videos, whatever. It’s the only way, I personally think, that you can actually look at the world, sit down with a piece of chalk, with a pencil, crayons, whatever, and just literally try and draw what’s in front of you. And it’s why life drawing is so important.”

Maurice’s instinctive response to something that interests him is to draw it, “to understand it though repetitive and obsessive drawing it over and over again…No beginning and no end, the process of looking and making, the work evolves from the work. ”

He repeats and practices mark making so much that when he moves to paint, the work often seems to happen almost by itself.

“[Drawing] is muscle memory…when you come to make those marks on a canvas, the mark is made before you even start.”

‘I am not an abstract artist, everything is formed after hours of observation and repetitive drawing.’

Maurice explained how he believes that all paintings are ultimately abstract: “I don’t see a difference between abstraction and literal visualism…no matter how good a rendering of a person’s face is going to be, it’s always just going to be an idea of a person’s face.. in a sense, it’s all abstract”

“Important thing for me is what the viewer sees and how you’re engaging with the viewer through your work.”

How he knows a painting is finished

“I think when it gives the message you wanted to give, then that is kind of finished. So I suppose in the sense the painting is never finished, you can keep painting it over and over and over again. But you try and try and take it to a point where it’s okay.”

“The conversation is the thing that really interests me more so than the actual finished piece. Because the finished piece is done. It’s done, it’s kind of over. And all the learning and possibilities have kind of concluded. So you kind of like to keep it going because it’s always giving you new possibilities.”

Editing

Maurice is ruthless in editing his work. “I’ll throw it out… I throw out most of the stuff actually make.. there’s a great sense of freedom doing that, because it means that the next one you start, you’ll have all the problems from the previous one, but you’ll be able to solve them, hopefully, on a white surface to start off again.”

His love for brushes

“You can look at a brush and you know exactly what kind of mark it’s going to make.”

“Brushes are like that kind of conduit between the person and the idea, the material and everything. They’re like that kind of lightning or whatever. It puts all that together. That’s why I love brushes.”

Themes in his work

Recurrent images in his work are war horses, semi abstract landscapes and figures which he view as metaphors for an exploration into memory and meaning.  Maurice “grew up with horses.” He aims to imbue his war horse drawings with the feelings of  the “chaos and uncertainty” of war.

Maurice is inspired by imagery and writing about war

“Artists have always been invited to go to war zones and to study.

But the thing I learned mostly about all that was that how movies don’t really depict what war actually is. Like, it’s really messy.

I was looking at how artists were, I suppose, recording their experience back in war zones and the information they were giving against the information that say, soldiers were collecting on their head camps.”

“Soldiers [learn how] to look at the landscape, how to deal with the situation. ..How do artists look at the information given by the soldiers?”

“One of the best books I ever read was what you call it the Special Forces Guide to Escape and Evasion. Sounds bizarre, but what it does is it teaches you how to look at the land, what to see and how to operate within the land.”

 

Time management

Maurice has become more selective in accepting projects.

“This year I’m actually trying to get some work done. I did 22 shows and projects last year, which was way too much, there was not the time to capitalise on many of the possibilities which emerged out of these, before I had to launch into the next one.”

Maurice aims to select shows that can generate possibilities.  “I always try and get at least three possibilities, three outcomes out of a particular show. Otherwise it’s not worth doing.”

“Doing any project takes an inordinate amount of time and energy.. This year [2023] I am limiting projects to the LA collaboration between Hambly & Hambly and the Sasse, two courses in Artform and some curation projects at the Limerick Museum.” These projects included two Ukrainian shows ‘Children’s Art From The Bomb Shelters’ and ‘With Faith’.

Collaboration

Maurice loves to collaborate with others in making his art.

Currently Maurice is collaborating with an American dancer , Emily May Morrison, who will choreograph a dance piece based around the process of forming his War Horse drawings.

He is also collaborating  with the American poet, John Brantingham centred around War.

Curating

Maurice started organising exhibitions in art college: “I just got a group of us together, put a load of work into a van, take the stuff off to the exhibition. More than likely they wouldn’t sell, but then you just take it back.”

Maurice’s approach to curating is one of collaboration.  He aims to initiative and develop links between cultural communities.  He believes curation only works if the cultural project is able to sustain itself long after the physical exhibition has moved on.

 

Philosophy of Morphic Resonance

“Morphic resonance is essentially we don’t store our memories, our experiences in our brain. They’re actually stored in time and we tap into them..I like the idea that it’s not stored in your mind. That through the muscle memory and through the experience of making stuff, you’re tapping into something that is much wider than what we are.”

The best advice Maurice received

“Draw and learn to look”, Henry Moore

“You got to keep jumping up and down because if you don’t do something in a week in the art business, people think you died.” Pat Murphy, Head of the Arts Council

 

His advice for emerging artists

“the most important thing is to meet people. You really can’t sit in your studio.”

“you won’t have any money, and you have to kind of take that into account at the beginning”

“believe in yourself.”

“Keep making work to have it ready for opportunities”

“Why don’t you just get off your ass and do it yourself? That’s what you have to do. You’re self employed. You have to go out there and make the stuff and then kind of kind of move around”.

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