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Exploring the Mysteries of Creation: The Artistry of James Carroll-Freeney

In the bustling realm of artistic expression, James Carroll-Freeney stands as a beacon of creativity, weaving intricate tales through his captivating artworks. Hailing from the serene landscapes of Wexford, Ireland, James’s journey into the realm of artistry was practically predestined, with a lineage rich in creative prowess. With a father who wielded paintbrushes as effortlessly as a maestro conducts his orchestra, and a mother whose words danced across the pages with elegance, James was steeped in a world where art was not just a vocation but a way of life. The legacy of creativity continued through generations, with his grandfather, known as the ‘Gentleman of Letters,’ leaving an indelible mark on Dublin’s artistic landscape.

Despite his early flirtations with acting and the world of cinema, James found his true calling in the realm of visual arts, where he discovered the power of storytelling within the confines of a canvas. Drawing inspiration from cinematic giants like Andrei Tarkovsky, David Lynch, and Bela Tarr, James’s work transcends mere paint and pigment, delving into the depths of human consciousness and mythology.

“I’ve always been an artist,” James muses, reflecting on his artistic odyssey. “It was always inside of me, waiting to burst forth into the world. But the path to where I am now was anything but certain.” Indeed, James’s path to artistic enlightenment was paved with detours and dead ends, with years spent navigating the labyrinth of unfulfilling retail jobs before finally finding solace in the embrace of his true calling. It was during the tumultuous days of lockdown that James rediscovered his love for painting, a passion that had lain dormant within him for far too long.

His work, a melange of myths, memories, and alternate histories, serves as a testament to the enigmatic nature of human existence. Through bold brushstrokes and evocative imagery, James invites viewers on a journey through time and space, where the boundaries between past, present, and future blur into oblivion. “I try to formulate my own mysticism,” James explains, his eyes alight with passion. “I let the paint guide me, surrendering myself to the creative process and allowing the images to emerge organically.”

In James’s world, nothing is quite as it seems. His paintings evoke an uncanny sense of deja vu, a feeling of nostalgia for something that never was, or perhaps a glimpse into a reality that exists beyond the confines of our understanding. As he looks towards the future, James is filled with a sense of anticipation and excitement. With plans to travel, complete residencies, and delve into the realms of installation art, his artistic journey is far from over. And as he continues to push the boundaries of creativity, one thing remains certain: James Carroll-Freeney will leave an indelible mark on the world of art for generations to come.

My name is James Carroll-Freeney, I’m a 28 year old artist from Wexford, Ireland. All my life I was focused on being creative as it came more naturally to me, my father is a painter and my mother is a writer. My GrandFather was a signwriter known as the ‘Gentleman of Letters’ in Dublin, along with a long line of painters and creatives, painting is something ingrained in my D.N.A. I was acting for the longest time maybe from the age of 8, I spent a lot of time obsessed with that. I did a year in the gaiety school of acting and found that to be very beneficial but in the end wasn’t really the path I wanted to go down. I then moved on to creating videos and performance pieces with my sister Katie Freeney. We called it KIN. Film still plays a huge part in my work, the imagery in the works by Andrei Tarkovsky, David Lynch and Bela Tarrs carry a weight to them that always find their way into my art. I am now the lead singer of the band Onion Boys which is one of my major creative endeavours at the minute. I find that my background in acting has given me what it takes to front a band as chaotic as the Onion Boys. My work has begun to really find its way recently following my residency in the RHA which I was granted through my college course in NCAD.

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What does being an artist mean to you?

I love this question, I’ve been asked it many times. I remember during covid I was doing a zoom call to try and get into the Hague School of Fine Art in the Netherlands, they asked me this question and I nearly had a conniption. However, I feel like I have an understanding of where I sit with this now. It is an ever changing answer. Some days I don’t know what being an artist means to me at all. Today being an artist is all a part of leaving something behind, leaving a part of you, the trace of our existence, the human being in its rawest form, a creator. Adding to the human footprint. We have this innate ability to create something and make it aesthetic or choose to create something not aesthetic. We are visual, we understand how visuals work, it is one of the strongest parts of human nature. I use a lot of early renaissance paintings and religious iconography from around the world to inspire my work. All of those pieces are marks of a time. They are reaching out to us from then, they exist in two realms of time. As do any artist’s pieces as they exist now they will exist into the future as a record of presence.

What events led up to pursuing art? Did something snap or was it a gradual progression to this profession.

I have always been an artist. It was always inside of me that I would end up on this sort of a path where the path went or what creative form it would appear as was unknown to me. During Lockdown, I was searching for something I could do to fill my time. I decided to purchase some canvases and return to painting. I fell in love with it all over again and decided that I would commit myself to it moving forward.

I enrolled in a level 6 course in Whitehall college, anyone looking to go to art school I cannot recommend this course enough. From there I ended up in NCAD, I wanted to really get my teeth into the aspects of art that I couldn’t wrap my head around and am finding my footing. I was happy to find myself in a creative route. It took me years of working dead end retail jobs and being unfulfilled in my own life before I landed here.

Where do you find inspiration? Is there a place? An emotion? A cultural event? A mixture of many things at once?

My work mainly revolves around myths, stories of old and our interaction with them. I like to think of memories and how they can be lost or be misremembered. As if our histories are uncertain as well. The ideas of what is left behind the traces of a human The presence of something that was that now isn’t. The concepts of block time and block universe where everything is occurring at once is a mental gymnastics I am always trying to engage with. The stories I try to compose are that there are alternate timelines and we are engaging with alternative histories through paint.

Can you tell me how you approach your work? Do you follow a particular system or just jump right in?

I mainly enjoy working on bigger pieces. Something where I can be lashing on the paint and get lost in the process following instinct. I always have an idea of where I want to go at the start but that will be lost. That’s the journey and the instinct, that’s where you lose hours, that’s where you want to be. Follow the paint and the images it suggests as you go. I try to allow the paint to make it happen as much as I can, let the paint speak and I try not to get in my own way too much. I try to formulate my own mysticism with approaches to painting teetering with the zeitgeist of painting.

It’s also a must for me to be working on multiple pieces at once so I don’t get bogged down or stagnant trying to ‘perfect’ certain aspects of the painting. If I end up in that situation I will ruin it, then I will have to completely destroy it to get a new image out of it, that is the only saving it.

What do you aim for people to feel or acknowledge when viewing your work?

An uncanny deja vu, the feelings I have wanted to bring forward has been a journey for me, this is where I have landed for now. With a foreboding mystery and undoneness. A sense of nostalgia for something that never was or perhaps the feeling of being somewhere that you have never been or that you feel like you have been there before. Perhaps you have seen something like it before but it is not quite correct. It’s very hard for the artist to feel what it feels like to see the paintings for the first time or to know what emotion they invoke. Something I will continue to explore.

Ideally a sort of untrustworthy deja vu feeling, like religious paintings where something is just slightly off. A church that’s images have been dragged through the mud, or has been submerged underwater for years.

Why not say some words on your latest release? Or give us the scoop on some unreleased work?

I have put most of my time into the work that is on display currently in Luckys. That exhibition is definitely the foundation for a lot of my most recent discoveries of where I stand. This thread of thought is something I will continue to expand on for the rest of my time.

Have you got any plans for the future?

Finish college next year then I want to travel more and complete some more residencies and develop my ideas further. I want to work bigger and venture into the realms of installation but I don’t want to rush that aspect either. I want to make more videos,also very busy with Onion boys stuff coming up too. We are touring Germany and playing Athens at the end of this month. I will be spending a lot of time in Athens

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