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Writer vs. Artist: Stiofan O’Ceallaigh

This post is the beginning of interviewing artists whose arts count as revolutionary, transgressive and against the norms. Today's guest is Stiofan O’Ceallaigh, a multimedia artist and curator born in Ireland. Currently exhibiting between the USA and Europe, O’Ceallaigh’s focus is an exploration of the understanding of a Queer aesthetic, if indeed, there is one. A personal journey and an acknowledgement of flux, his work seeks to emancipate those who know it, by promoting discourse around areas such as HIV, queer art censorship, the body politic, internalised shame/stigma > pride and fundamentally an effort to reduce hate... in all its forms. In 2016 he established the Queer art project called Balaclava.Q, a not-for-profit which strategically functions to connect, promote and create platforms for LGBTQ+ artists globally by devising and producing curatorial projects.

Thank you Stiofan for joining us today. I'm in love with your art and purpose and I'd like to know Why Do You Make This Type of Art? Why are you drawn to this subject?

I make lots of different types of art in a variety of mediums. In the past, I have worked with video, sculpture, photography, installation, painting (which is my true love), and more recently I have been making digital art. My work explores who and what I am. But my work is also political; responding to current events, especially news in the march for LGBTQ+ equality. As a gay man, I believe that none of us are equal until everyone is equal. I make art because I have to. For me, making art is a cathartic experience. It helps me understand the world around me and helps me say things I cannot put into words. I am drawn to particular subjects, such as identity and experience because in order to understand what or who I am I must first understand where in the world I fit in.

  • HOMOPERSPECTIVES video: source

I understand because for me writing transgressive fiction and non-fiction have the same purpose. Could you tell me, what Does Your Artwork Represent? Does your art represent something about you?

I am a gay man and I was born and raised in Ireland. Those two parts of me form the bulk of my identity and are contained within my work. But overall my art is my biography. Through my art, I tell stories about myself that take place in the here and now. In my work, I also explore my past and (im)possible futures. My art is both a statement and dialogue. A conversation with myself, by myself, is then shared with the viewer in exhibitions and online. Everyone has a constantly evolving understanding of the world, everyone has something to say about the world and their place in it… I have these dialogues through and in my art.

Beautiful answer. What Inspires You Stiofan? What connection do you have to your art?

Art is extremely important to me. I am connected and contained within all of my art. Making art heals me. It gives me a voice and allows me to process, reflect and then breathe. Injustice inspires me. It drives me to create and make indelible marks. People also inspire me, as does art history. In my strongest work, I try to connect all three. During the act of making art, music is my companion which also inspires me. When I make art I listen to music and during the art-making process, the music distracts my brain and creates a gap to allow the visuals to come through me and onto the canvas and/or screen. My art is part of me made tangible.

How Do You Make It?

When making art I usually grab the nearest thing to me; it could be a paintbrush, a camera, a mobile phone or random ephemera, and then I start to manifest something. My art is hardly ever planned. Planning my art would bore me. What excites me and keeps me captivated is the art of making and creating. Usually, I never know how a piece will look until the moment -- as an artist -- you get the gut sense that the piece is finished.

During the covid lockdowns, I lost access to studio space and therefore, for practical reasons, I had to find a way to make art that required little or no space. The obvious solution was to make art on my computer and mobile phone. This resulted in the creation of my most recent series, called HOMOPERSPECTIVES. During the recent lockdowns, I decided to create a daily visual diary to record moments, thoughts, and feelings. I use a combination of apps and computer programmes to create the finished pieces which come in the form of GIFs. More recently I decided to amalgamate selected works from the series to create a short video piece also titled HOMOPERSPECTIVES which will be premiered at a forthcoming exhibition presented by SEAS (the Socially Engaged Art Salon), at Brighton’s (UK) new LGBTQ+ centre called The Ledward Centre.

Lastly, for any artist, there's a meaning for what they're doing. What Does Your Art Mean to You?

To me, art galleries are holy places that allow for ultimate freedom of expression. My art means everything to me. It is part of me. I have been making art since I was 7 years old and it has helped me through the good times and the bad. Since 2016 I have been exhibiting work regularly across the US and Europe. I am a true believer in the arts' capacity to heal and change minds and attitudes. In particular, I feel that Queer art -- more often than not -- is too often censored and therefore underrepresented online (specifically on social media), and in the public realm, and so in 2016 I established Balaclava.Q - An international queer visual art project and collective. Since 2016 Balaclava.Q has been supporting the LGBTQ+ community by connecting, promoting and creating platforms for queer artists. To date over 500 international LGBTQ+ artists have been supported by this project to develop and enhance their careers and networks.

Thank you for joining us Stiofan and I hope to have a chance for future collaborations with you.

If you're interested to know our guest today, please visit the following links:

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