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The Complexity of Urban Space.


Have you ever been struck by the beauty and complexity of the urban environment? Dublin-based printmaker, painter, and educator Neil Dunne certainly has. Since graduating from the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) in 2014, Neil has been on a mission to capture the essence of urban space in his art.

For Neil, the urban landscape is more than just a collection of buildings and streets. It’s a complex arrangement of geography, architecture, and socio-cultural influences that come together to create a unique sense of place. This fascination with the city has been the driving force behind his artistic practice, which has been influenced by his research into the conceptual narratives that underpin his work. As a printmaker, Neil has a particular affinity for imprints and traces, the marks left behind by the city and the possibility of what could happen. He’s always been interested in street culture, and this has played a significant role in the way he approaches his work. There’s a noticeable aesthetic to that culture, and “it feels ever-changing and evolving.”

Neil’s work is a reflection of this fascination with the urban environment. His prints and paintings capture the gritty, raw, and vibrant energy of the city. They’re full of life and movement, with layers of texture and colour that reflect the complexity of the urban landscape. It’s not just about the physical structures of the city; it’s about the people, the culture, and the energy that make it what it is. One of the things that set Neil’s work apart is his ability to capture the essence of a place. His prints and paintings are not just representations of buildings or landmarks; they’re expressions of the spirit of a neighborhood or a city. Neil’s work feels authentic and true to the essence of the place.

If you’re a fan of urban art, then you won’t want to miss Neil Dunne’s work. His prints and paintings are a celebration of the vibrant, ever-changing cityscape that we call home. Through his art, he invites us to see the city in a new light, to appreciate its complexity and beauty, and to recognize the imprint that we leave on the urban landscape every day. We’ve spoken with Neil to dive into his work and discover the artist behind the art. You can continue reading to hear from the artist himself

Hello! My name is Neil Dunne, I am a printmaker, painter and educator based in Dublin, Ireland. I graduated from my BA in 2014 from NCAD and was lucky enough to receive a scholarship to continue on my research in NCAD at the ANNEXE on James st from 2015 – 2017. To cut a long-ish story relatively short, it was at this point I began developing and researching the conceptual narratives that have set the foundation of my practice. I love urban space and the complex arrangements of geography, architecture and socio-cultural influence that reside in it. This way of approaching a city has become a major point of research and influenced the style and way I make work.

Being a printmaker, imprints and traces have excited me massively and those marks left behind or the possibility that could happen. I’ve had a keen interest in street culture from a very early age so this has definitely played a role in how I approach my work. There is a noticeable aesthetic to that culture, and it feels ever-changing and evolving.

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The artist behind the art.

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

I was in the very privileged position to be born into a creative family. It certainly helped form my own ideas of art and creativity but most importantly it meant I was exposed to conversations around how to experience life. My father is an actor and later on in life got involved with painting and sculpture so this had a huge influence on what I wanted to do. In a lot of ways it prescribed a way that I can project emotions, resolving my own questions on the world and regurgitating my own opinions back out there.

As with all young people, coming towards the end of my secondary school stint I was extremely unsure of the decisions I was making, at that time academics wasn’t my strong point but I knew university was going to be a thing in some capacity. I remember not getting into NCAD straight from school and my other options didn’t really tick all the boxes so I spent some time doing a portfolio course and then got in next time around. It was something I was really appreciative off in hindsight. I was far to young to get thrown in amongst the other creatives at NCAD – I would have gotten lost, very quickly.

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

I know I spoke a little about that earlier on but the idea of the city is a recurring space of influence for me. Histories come into play, architecture too, but most importantly I feel my inspiration is dedicated to a sort of primitive exploration of space. I love coming across a texture or natural mark, it just sparks up ideas of how I could use that form and in what way It could possibly balance out a painting I’m working on. My phone is filled with snapshots and crops of street scenes which when taken out of context look almost alien. That sort of visual language is how I gauge my paintings I guess. There is also a very evident public sphere in which ideas and movements, opinions and just fundamental creativity play out. The politics of a city can be very enthralling.

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

Ample research and then muscle memory kicks in, its circular in a lot of ways. It’s helpful for me to have that system in place as I feel my mind can tend to wander to other ideas or back to old works. I’ve found recently its important to take a creative break in between large bodies of work, I’m very conscious of being overly repetitive in my practice so mixing it up is very important. I also love experimenting, as a lot of creative people in all fields know, 90% of the build up to a show or piece of work gets unseen. The most interesting work has a series of failures to get it there.

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

I like people to get involved with a concept or an idea I have. I also realise that the conversations surrounding a piece of work are almost more important than the piece itself. Ive found in the past that a lot of my concepts have developed through a very non-representational style but whenever I have spoken to a person or given a talk around my work it lays out the process of how they got where they are and people find that really interesting. I love material explorations so sometimes things can seem like something else or at least allude to something else. I’ve recently started a new body of work for a forthcoming show in 2023, its going to approach things slightly different than before and I’m incredibly excited about that.

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

I have spent a lot of the past year working on some preliminary research and just started back in the studio with some new paintings and prints. It’s exciting, I’m looking forward to expanding them over the next couple of months and seeing where this all goes. I haven’t made prints in quite some time either, I’ve been drawn back into the workshop and have started working on some etchings and screen prints! They’re just about nearing completion and will be placed out in the world soon enough. My painting has also matured quite a lot, after some long reflection and research, I’ve become strict on my process.

Have you got any plans for the future?

I recently signed with Hang Tough Contemporary in Dublin, this is a very exciting relationship and something I am very proud off. Rubio and I have similar visions and having that support network behind me will mean a more solidified approach to my creative practice. We have a show pencilled in for summer 2023, which will comprise of some exciting new works – I’m in a very privileged position to have recently completed a residency in Lisbon which was solely a point of research so I’m packed full of ideas and starting points, the rest of 2023 is explorations and failures which will culminate into my next solo.

I’ve also started off with some sculptural work that I want to expand, I think it suits my concepts very well and will help dictate some paintings I’m working on, which is very exciting.

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