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Raw emotions, emphatic passions and staggering ability are some of the many observations that come to mind when I find myself admiring the work of Ciara Sheehan, nevertheless after narrowing my choices down to a select few and tossing a coin to decide the winner I’ve come to conclude with the phrase of controlled chaos to best describe the work of the 22-year-old Droghedian artist.

Each layer of thick dark paint unlocks another angle of understanding in each piece. I find myself being lost with each brush stroke only to discover a breadcrumb that leads me down another spiralling rabbit hole only to become lost once more. It’s a strange feeling and begs the question as to why I’m enjoying the feeling of being lost. Is it the edge of psychedelic inspiration I can see in her work or is it that I feel safer not understanding the back story behind her work? The striking intrusive thoughts between artworks aggressively painted raw onto the exhibition walls as if the artist was trapped in an asylum only add extra shivers down my spine and further conveys where I find my line of safety to be. Exploring Ciara’s exhibition led to this imaginary line between safety and understanding vanish right before me, leaving me vulnerable to where the artist’s true inspiration arose from. Suddenly the stylistic approach conveying the raw emotions of anger, confusion, sadness and suppression made sense to me.

Sheehan finds herself lost in a system that is unjust. Her frustration and anger towards the subjectification of women are vividly exhibited throughout her work. The artist continuously questions why the attitude toward traumatic experiences differentiates between gender and displays her confusion through an aggressive approach to her work in the studio. The aggressive technique Ciara uses adopts the role of being more than a stylistic trademark. Her progressive and aggressive attitude to bringing her traumatic experience into a form of art brings a sense of maturity rarely seen in artists so young. Ciara proves that despite the mental position an artist may find themselves in the best way to show how you’re truly feeling is by covering your canvas with your emotions.

Ciara who is now a graduate from NCAD has relocated to further her education and experience with art. Where better to go than Rome? Before she got on her flight and set off for Italia we reached out for an interview to get a more personal understanding of her recent exhibition.

“So a bit about me, I’m 22 years old and up until recently I lived in Drogheda just on the outskirts of Meath, but I worked and went to college in Dublin. I’m currently living in Naples Italy as it’s always been a dream of mine to experience a culture that’s so enriched with art! when it comes to interests I loveee art history, mythology, and poetry, I also read a lot of fiction and I love photography! I’m trying to find my way with film cameras at the moment! I feel all of these things come together when I work especially in my recent degree show”

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The artist behind the art.

What is your first artistic memory?

My first artistic memory would have to be when I was about 11/12 years old when my grandpa gifted me a set of 48 acrylic paints he got in the middle aisles in Lidl lol. My grandpa was my best friend was my biggest supporter and I feel he’s the reason I started painting in the first place. i remember he told me to paint what I love so I painted Disney characters hahaha!

What inspires you to create?

So for my degree show project, it was very much the ignorance and unjust system we have in society that inspired me to create work. The anger and frustration I have towards the subjectification of women have always fuelled me to speak up against it. I’d like to think I’m very straight up and to the point so I will always challenge someone who is being ignorant or misogynistic, I just don’t feel like this behaviour should still be so prominent in today’s world. So in short my own emotions about certain topics inspire me to make work as I find creating work helps me control my more negative emotions.

Your exhibition is titled ” The Ghost of Myself”, what’s the meaning behind your title?

‘The Ghost Of Myself’ is a broad phrase I chose to represent women who have been through some traumatic experiences and feel like they’ve lost a bit of themselves along the way. Identity loss was a big part of my project as a society can demonise mental health in women such as postnatal depression or the depression and grief a woman can feel after the loss of a child. Mental illnesses like these aren’t spoken about enough as women are made to think they’re not allowed to be unhappy as mothers as “that’s what we’re made to be”. Identity loss is also evident in women who have been sexually assaulted and/or raped as they can experience complete body dysmorphia as their bodies have been changed forever. So the “Ghost” is the part of someone that’s been lost to trauma.

What emotions motivated the exhibition?

The first emotion I think of is anger which most people get confused about as my work to them doesn’t seem necessarily angry but sad and lonely, which it is. But when I made each painting I was mad, I was annoyed that we still have to fight against this. But as I look back and see my work together I feel an overwhelming wave of sadness; the text, the portraits, the black and greys, it does get a lot of carry but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Any plans for the future?

For now I am spending my summer in Italy! I’ve recently been accepted to study for a Masters’s in Art History in Rome! I hope to go on to a career in art restoration, working with historical archives maybe even becoming a professor one day. I have a lot of different career ideas such as art therapy, child psychology, and archaeology but for now, it’s definitely in the direction of art history 🙂

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