David Monaghan | Issue Ten Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your work 

I am a recent graduate of the National College of Art and Design, Dublin. However, I live and have based my studio in Gorey, Co.Wexford for the previous year. I have always been enchanted by Art and its ability to evoke powerful reactions, and articulate the needs of a community in moments of crisis. This present moment in art history, is one of true excitement as its unique presence is being recognised as a core component of our democratic institutions and processes. The recent referendum in Ireland which sought to allow Abortion best articulates this point, as Artists were at the very heart of the discussion and played a significant force in ensuring the referendum passed.

What potential do you feel artists have to help bring about change? 

The instruments of change has always been a bold imagination. Artists, Designers and creative individuals have always led the discussions that have manifested in true structural change. In many ways I think it's because we are invested in the visual manifestation of ideas. This is crucial when we are pushing boundaries in regards to new socio-economic formations and the radicalisation of democracy. The Creative practitioner's place is on the front line in the march for the future.

Tell us about the themes you pursue in your work 

Democratic procedures have always fascinated me. Since the solidification of the free market and technocratic Governments, liberal - democracy is in steady decline. This is not because people do not want democracy, but they want a democracy that works for them. In my recent series of paintings and photographs, I want to explore the outcome of the Brexit referendum in Northern Ireland. Looking at themes of legacy, division and isolation. I explored the city of Derry, Belfast and the Creggan Housing estate. The location became of particular interest with me due to the recent murder of journalist Lyra McKee by paramilitaries, the rise of sectarian division since the Brexit referendum in 2016 and the collapsing of the Northern Assembly.

Exploring both cities and taking my film photographs - I could not separate the present discourse around Irish identity politics and the horrors of the Northern Irish war, 'The Troubles'. The medium became of particular importance in building a bridge between what was, what is and what could be. The growing unrest expressed by both the Nationalist and Unionists, have allowed for a return to violent discourse. In Derry alone, there has been 12 paramilitary style gun attacks in the past 12 months. I wanted to capture a moment in Irish history that was divided between pursuing a tomorrow along the lines of the Good Friday Agreement, or bathing in the past of war.

What art do you most identify with? 

I'm inspired by multiple art forms and their different processes from Rebecca Sugar's symbolism in 'Steven Universe', Wes Anderson's colour combinations, to Li Zhensheng commitment to photographing the truth. Artists who place community at the heart of their work has always resonated with me. I am constantly inspired by their passion to not replicate systems of oppression, but to challenge their very foundations. One such artist is Fiona Whelan, who worked consistently with the Rialto Youth Project for over ten years. Her collaborative piece with the 'Whats the Stary?' collective entitled Policing Dialogues (2007-2011) questioned the power dynamics between the Irish police force and teenagers in inner-city Dublin. The power of the piece was its ability articulate the powerful emotions of the teens, and negotiate with the police in the area to heighten their awareness of the communities needs. Artwork that dares to work around the failings of society and establish areas that overcome these defects is what has always spoken to me.

Are there any upcoming exhibitions or projects in the works?

I am currently working on a socially engaged piece of work which seeks to tackle access to education in the region of Wexford , in the Republic of Ireland. Presently, the college graduate population of Wexford is the lowest in the state. The present Government's record on education has been dismal, it eradicated free college fees during the Austerity years, it cut maintenance grants and has failed in ensuring affordable housing is offered to perspective students. This in combination with a lack of investment in the county, means employment opportunities and educational access is proportionally being denied to the south east of the Ireland. The project is still in early days and is still taking shape, however it will revolve around the Trade Unionist icon Mary Fitzgerald.


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