Neil Dunne is a painter and printmaker based in Dublin. Having graduated from NCAD in 2014 and having been awarded the post-graduate scholarship from 2015-17, Neil has gone on to produce expressionist works on the subject of the urban environment which have been exhibited nationally and internationally.

Neil Dunne in his Studio

Where did you spend lockdown?

Lockdown was spent at home in my apartment. I’m lucky that my spot is pretty central and around my family and mates so we were all close by.

Did you have access to a studio during this time? If not, how did you continue to create work?

Unfortunately Pallas had to shut up shop during lockdown. I had a week or so before it got really serious but after that it I moved everything back to my house. I have a pretty big attic in my apartment so I got all drawing materials back home and worked from there.

Having a home studio certainly helped me creatively, I drew quite a bit outside as well (when the weather was good). It’s nice to know I can adapt my processes and creating to different spaces.

Can you take me through your art making process? 

I started exploring a lot of different art movements over the last couple of months. It gave me really nice starting points for some new works, and I found a new way of approaching and presenting the pieces. Drawing became integral to my practice, its durability and the fact I could create in small spaces or outdoors meant I could really bring it anywhere with me. 
I found my work reverted to some earlier replications of urban spaces and there have been some direct references to my earlier pieces in this current body of work, I love to render them with abstracted forms and a variety of textures when I can. I feel a subtle change amongst some of my newer works that have been undoubtedly formed and accelerated over the quarantine. I think it’s exciting to look at older works and having the time to do that was really beneficial to my creative process. 

Drawing Created During Quarantine 2020, Neil Dunne

Did you experiment with any new materials or methodologies?

Absolutely. In a strange way it was really nice to reset everything. Outside of the pandemic it was a rewarding period of time for those developments in my practice, I’m sure a lot of creatives feel the same way – It felt like starting from scratch. I started using gouache and charcoal quite a bit – it was a nice departure from my normal work and introduced some fresh colours and themes. I also developed work that responded instantly to the pandemic, I was creating pretty much everyday to a strict schedule so I built up a nice body of work.

It’s the first time since college I’ve had that amount of time for research which has defiantly influenced some new methodologies and ways of thinking around my art. I feel that conflict is one of the hardest things to get over as a creative, juggling multiple projects, work and commissions normally means getting any decent body of research done is put on the long finger.

Given the limitations and restrictions of the last few months, did your art making process change at all? If so, do you think this will continue to change how you will make art going forward?

Having a couple of months with those restrictions has certainly influenced a fresh approach to my work. As I mentioned above, I did quite a lot of research over that time and really engaged with some new artists and art forms. I also took some solid time to look back over my portfolio from the last few years, some gems really stood out to me and helped me recuperate some ideas and styles that I had forgotten about.

The methodologies behind a lot of the work have matured; I think there are some really nice fundamental forms and colours that have stayed with me through my work and I’m finding new ways to adapt them and polish up how they are presented. Its exciting!

Works Created in Neil’s Dublin Studio

Do you have any upcoming projects?

I’m working on a solo show, which is set to go ahead in late September of this year. It was originally organised for June of 2020 but the on-going restrictions meant we thought it best to move the show out a bit. The show is the culmination of almost two years work so there are quite a few intricacies to figure out, there are so many developments and stylistic differences I feel there are almost two or three shows in the whole body of work but I’m excited to consolidate it all and see how people respond.

I spent some time revisiting older works through a series of new commissions that I got which stemmed from placing a piece from my grad show into Portobello square – I happened to come across it in storage and completely forgot I had even made it, I thought it should live out its days in public given all galleries and museums were closed at the time. It’s really humbling that people are so involved with the arts during times like these, I guess it stands testament to the function and positive impact on society that art can have particularly during times of insecurity.

All photographs were provided by Neil Dunne. To see more of Neil’s work visit his website and Instagram.