Irish Gaisce artists on creating queer art in lockdown and hopes for new generation of creatives

The artists are featured in the new exhibition 'Queer Mind, Body and Soul' now open at the National Gallery of Ireland.

A young man with glasses speaking in an art gallery
Image: Jayson Pope film by James Cody

15 young artists, participating in the Gaisce Award, currently have their works on display in the National Gallery of Ireland’s Queer Mind, Body and Soul exhibition.

Exploring themes surrounding LGBTQ+ identity; from those who identify as LGBTQ+ themselves and their allies, their creations focus on the importance of the mind, body and soul of a young queer person in today’s world.

Collaborating with artist Shireen Shortt, the group have worked on a fantastic variety of artistic mediums such as paint, sculpture, embroidery, photography, film and more.

We sat down (virtually!) with some of the artists involved in the exhibition under Gaisce to discuss their creative processes, what kept them inspired during lockdown and their hopes for Ireland’s next generation of creatives.

The Gaisce artists featured in our interview are Béibhinn Collins, James Cody, M and Victoria Piekarska-Daly.

Well thank you for joining us and congratulations on being a part of this exhibition! What was your first reaction when you found out about this project being a part of the Gaisce Award?

Béibhinn: I was really excited! I’ve always enjoyed art and I was really excited to be involved with other artists.

Victoria: I was shocked that a program like this was being made available, especially through schools, and to have it recognised by Gaisce. Having a space to express yourself without being judged is incredible.

What challenges did you come across during the making of your piece?

M: The original idea I had for the project changed as I was making it; I had trouble finding the right meaning. Not much of that comes through in the exhibition. I know what it means and that’s important to me!

James: My original idea changed too as I was making it because it’s a film. I’m really proud of the casting because the voices of our community are the ones we need to hear. Because of the area that Jay [Jayson Pope] works in, I think he’s going to make a great impact on people and the community.

What kept you inspired throughout lockdown?

Victoria: I found it really hard to stay inspired but the meetings really helped. You knew that if you could make it through to the Zoom check-ins that the project would start again. There was a real sense of “we’re all in this together”.

James: The weekly meetings were the highlight for me especially through the winter and keeping that energy up. I watched lots of new movies like Disclosure, the TV series Banana and Hedwig and The Angry Inch.

What do you hope the public, be they LGBTQ+ themselves or otherwise, take away from the exhibition?

Béibhinn: I hope they feel a sense of unity with people they haven’t met before. I think the exhibition will be a space for people, be they LGBTQ+ or not, to be able to relate and understand some of the issues that we tackle in the exhibition.

M: I hope that people in the public that feel LGBT themselves feel represented in some way and any of the struggles that they go through. I hope that the public can be more emphatic to our struggles.

What are your hopes for LGBTQ+ artists and performers in Ireland in the future?

Béibhinn (an ally to the community): I hope that they get more of a platform to speak about things that they are passionate about. I hope that they can bring attention to what they wish to talk about be they topics relating to queerness or not.

M: I would hope that they’re able to become more mainstream and not face as much discrimination in their fields. Also that they’re not always expected to create based on their queerness.

Victoria: I hope that we’re always given a space to discuss our issues and not just showcase them for the month of June. I also hope that performers feel safe to enter their creative spaces free from hate crime.

James: My hopes are high for all generations, queer or not. That their joy will be at the forefront and that LGBTQ+ characters are not just portraying queer suffering in film and performance.

Queer Mind, Body and Soul is open now at the National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin until October 17, 2021. Book your FREE general admission ticket here.

This exhibition contains references to assault, homophobia and transphobia, which some visitors may find upsetting. If you are affected by this and need support, there are many organisations who can help. Visit the BeLonG To website for more details.

© 2021 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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