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Student stories: Geraldine Leahy

OCA Painting student Geraldine Leahy successfully completed her Major Project this year and is now embarking on her final course – Sustaining Your Practice. Geraldine currently has work featured in an online publication as well as other platforms. Her Major Project tutor, Clare Wilson, asks her to discuss these opportunities and the of impact of getting work seen by a larger audience. 

Geraldine Leahy, Mutation, monoprint, acrylic and gouache on canvas board

CW:  You have work in the current issue of Artists Talk Magazine https://www.artisttalkmagazine.com/current-issue How did this opportunity come about? Was there an open call for submissions from artists – and was there a particular theme for the issue? It would be interesting to hear more about the application process.

GL: Artist Talk had an Open Call for submissions for issue 16 of their magazine in June. There was no particular theme, just a ’celebration of art’. Submission was through their website and there was a fee of £15. When I received an order number I was able to submit my work, including the title and a short blurb about the piece. I also included my Instagram account name, @gleahyart.

CW: Mutation – The piece featured in the magazine, was completed during your Major Project and I remember it being an important piece in the development of your ideas about fragility and impermanence in response to coastal erosion and human intervention on the environment. Could you tell us more about how the ideas behind Mutation and the way you used media to suggest this sense of fragility?

GL: My practice involves the observation of traces and imprints in the landscape due to coastal erosion. I use shoreline debris in layered processes that suggest changes in the environment and encourage reflection on the effects mankind has on the landscape. Mutation began as a monoprint of found plastic strands. The monoprinting process implanted the plastic into the surface to reflect the fact that it was similarly embedded in the sand due to erosion. Then I covered it with layers of acrylic and gouache, washing out paint in places to signify erosive activity. The gouache helped to create delicately opaque areas which contrasted with the  darker tones in the painting. The plastic, outwardly innocuous and even quite beautiful when monoprinted, has mutated into something sinister and deadly to marine life.

CW: You have also had work featured on the Instagram account of The Big Draw – A drawing festival that in 2021 is focusing on sustainable living. Do you know how they encountered your work?

GL: In October 2019, I took part in the OCA’s short course for The Big Draw for which the college won an award. In 2020, The Big Draw’s theme was A Climate of Change. I was interested in taking part in some way as the theme resonated with my own work, but unfortunately, due to Covid-19 the OCA were not able to put on another short course. However, in early 2021, Aimee Labourne, an artist based in Shetland ran a drawing course for The Big Draw called Elements, which was concerned with the environment and the natural world. The Big Draw started to notice my work and occasionally included it in their ‘stories’ on Instagram. Then in early August they contacted me and asked if they could feature some of my sketchbook work after I had taken part in #plasticfreejuly. 

CW: Have there been any other opportunities to show your work, on social media or elsewhere? 

GL: My work also came to the attention of @bind_collective, a digital journal for creative work examining ecology, the environment, and the natural world. When they also included some of my work in their ‘stories’ on Instagram, I decided to submit a series of paintings, Traces and Imprints, which they featured online. They have a lovely website which also features writing, music and photography.

I recently registered online with CuratorSpace. As I am not resident in the UK, a lot of their opportunities are not available to me. However, I was able to submit work for The Flux Virtual Exhibition and, to my surprise, was one of the 40 artists selected. 

CW: You are now beginning Sustaining Your Practice, so considering the curation of your work, alongside developing further pieces. Has having work in an art publication and online platforms effected your relationship with your practice and how it is presented? And Has it given you more confidence to pursue opportunities as an artist?

GL: I began SYP in June and took the decision to begin putting my work forward for suitable opportunities. I have been incredibly lucky so far. The interest in my work has given me more confidence in myself as an artist. It has also made me realise how important it is to encourage people to reflect on environmental issues and how many people are receptive to this encouragement. I suspect that much of the interest in my work stems from the fact that people are really beginning to understand how important it is that we all do our bit for the environment in whatever way we can. 

Geraldine Leahy, Ghost Plastic, acrylic and gouache on canvas board
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Posted by author: Clare Wilson
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