Galway artist Finbar McHugh began his artist career with doodles on copybooks, before taking his work to the walls of the city. We catch up with him in his studio.
After graduating from Limerick School of Art & Design with a degree in visual communication, graffiti artist Finbar McHugh spent a few years travelling the world working as a street artist and collaborating with other international creatives.
Upon return to his hometown of Galway, Finbar found his work in demand commercially: joining forces with the Cúirt International Festival of Literature on a series of “Poetry Walls” around the city, and converting the lobby of the University Hospital, Galway into a space for mindfulness, gratitude and reflection. As a personal creative outlet, Finbar began playing with the medium of his teenage years – spray paint– creating great rivers of colour across the canvas.
Accumulating work, he was encouraged by fellow local artist Margaret Nolan to consider showing his work. His first exhibition, entitled "Feelings", ran for four weeks in the Town Hall Theatre in April 2017, selling nearly every piece and Finbar's kaleidoscopic creations have been in demand ever since. We catch up with him in his light-filled studio to find out more.
On Finding Graffiti
“I didn’t even realise at the time that I was drawing graffiti, I was just doodling my name everywhere and on everything, like lots of kids did, and then it progressed. And from a kid's perspective graffiti is just a big game graffiti, you try and develop your letters and your name to the best style and get it all around the world. You never win but you’re always just competing, it’s really fulfilling.”
On Irish Creatives
“I think any creative coming from Ireland is very lucky because you are a big fish in a small pond. You get the opportunity to meet other people at the top of their game in other countries, and you develop so much quicker when you get to work with people so talented.”
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On The Importance of Colour
“I have always been very expressive with my colour. Colour is probably the core thing I took through graffiti into my current work, and the use of space, shape and colour and how to interact with it, which is something you just learn through practice.”
On Transitioning To Canvas Work
“It took me a long time to allow myself to paint! Which sounds ridiculous but I had learned so many rules through graffiti culture and vis-com culture and art college and working commercially, that it took an awful long time to let go of them all and allow myself to express freely. The process of my current work is all about letting go, understanding that creativity is free and can’t be judged, it’s personal. Personal to me and then hopefully, personal to someone else looking at it."
On The Value of Creativity in The Real World
"It’s amazing to see that lots of organisations and entities starting to find the value in creativity, whether it’s a creative industry or not, everyone has the ability to express themselves. This year I’m working with medical students teaching awareness through creativity, about the importance of creating a space to visualise those values that are associated with the professional medical practice."
PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEOGRAPHY Gavin Hartigan
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