Photographer Molly Keane spoke to four artists; a photographer, a musician, a tattoo artist and a director about where they find inspiration and what drives them to create…
Try to imagine a world without art in it. I would hazard a guess and say that you couldn’t – at least not without great difficulty. There would be no music, no galleries, and no cinema. There would be no poetry and no fashion, no paintings or pottery; a colourless, spiritless society with very little human progress.
But where does art come from? And where does it hide, patiently waiting to be brought to life in a burst of colour or sound or feeling?
Musician Constance Keane, known as FEARS told me ‘…It’s usually interpersonal experiences that inspire me the most – family, friendships, romantic encounters.’ While director Elena Horgan similarly views her friends as her greatest source of inspiration. One would think that in this modern age of technology and with having access to literally anything you could ever want, there would be much greater reliance on the digital world for gathering inspiration and ideas. Because of how much our employment and visibility as artists is now heavily reliant on social media, but many artists feel the need to reject technology and embrace the traditional and the tangible in order to feel inspired to create.
On where he encounters the beauty and richness of human experience, photographer Donal Talbot tells me his inspiration comes from “…chatting with a friend over a coffee, walking for hours through the woods, sitting in bed reading a book, tasting something I’ve never eaten before, wandering around a gallery in town or taking photos of things that catch my eye.”
On the other hand, fine artist and tattoo artist Peter McAteer relies less on reality and more on the preexisting art of a time and place that are nostalgic, dreamy and idyllic. “A lot of my work is inspired by pulp fiction covers from the 50s and 60s,” says Peter, “as well as ‘beefcake’ magazine covers and vintage porn spreads. I’m also inspired by the work of Tom of Finland and Pauline Boty,” he continues.
Rather than trawling through the social media accounts of others, which is a deadly endeavour to begin with, there is a want and a need to immerse ourselves in nature, draw from real physical connection with others, feel the pages of a book turn and get lost in a gallery of masterpieces in our quest to find that ‘aha!’ moment.
A love of art was ignited in me at a very young age. Growing up with two filmmaker parents, they were very encouraging of nurturing our artistic expression always. Maybe it was when my brothers and I would roll out large sheets of paper the length of our hallway onto the floor, then step our bare feet into trays of poster paint and run around until we had made footprints in every colour of the rainbow.
Maybe it was when my grandfather would take me to the beach and we would collect shells from which to make intricate shapes in the sand. Maybe it was when my secondary school English teacher read Keats’ When I Have Fears That I May Cease To Be. Maybe it was when I first flicked through the pages of an Edouard Boubat photography book in my early childhood that lived on our sitting room coffee table and marvelled at the Parisian streets filled with naked women, sunflowers and black cats. It was definitely when I first picked up a camera – my mother’s old Pentax k-1000 that she used throughout her college years, and decided I was going to learn how to make my own pictures.
Donal found photography at a similar age. “[I was] Around the age of fourteen. I would spend hours gazing through old boxes of 35mm film photos my parents had taken in their youth, and subsequently [had] archived in a box above their bed. My dad had a box of black and white photographs he had taken around my age and I was obsessed with them,” he says.
Peter remembers an affinity for drawing as early as he could hold a pen. “All of my childhood story books are covered in spirals and doodles that I drew over the illustrations as a baby,” he told me. And similarly, at a very young age, Elena remembers realising she wanted to be an artist in second class of primary school. “We were doing a step by step art lesson and my teacher told me she wouldn’t hang up my painting in the classroom cause I didn’t follow along and my picture didn’t look like everyone else’s,” remembers Elena. Constance also recalls starting to play the drums on her ninth birthday, when she got her first lesson, and that “everything kind of went from there”.
The commonality here seems to be that a creative awakening happens at a very young age for most people. The transition from longing to create to becoming an artist is a long path reliant on nurturing, toughness and the pining to see and understand the world differently. Whether you define yourself as an artist, as a connoisseur or lover of art, or somebody who is indifferent towards it entirely, it cannot be denied that art, in its endless capacities and forms, plays a vital and integral role in the shaping and uplifting of our planet.
Creativity isn’t a rare commodity that some are born and gifted with whilst others are not; It’s a longing to reframe reality and to materialise dreams, and a commitment to expressing ourselves and bringing more colour into our own lives as well as the lives of others. Art is a nonviolent protest, an untangling and an unravelling of societal norms. To create art is to spark joy as a powerful, visceral act of resistance.