Spotlight

Spotlight Irish artist Serena Caulfield

Championed by Eamonn Maxwell
The Wick - Serena Caulfield, A Distance Between Us, 2022, 70cm x100cm
Above  Serena Caulfield, A Distance Between Us, 2022, 70cm x100cm
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The Wick - Zurich Portrait Prize exhibition Photo: Abe Neihum courtesy National Gallery of Ireland
Above  Zurich Portrait Prize exhibition Photo: Abe Neihum courtesy National Gallery of Ireland
Interview
Serena Caulfield
25 January 2023
Interview
Serena Caulfield
25 January 2023
Curator Eamonn Maxwell has been an advisor and passionate advocate for emerging artists in the visual arts for more than 20 years. In addition to creating the Emerging Artists Programme during his tenure at the University of the Arts London, he continues to mentor artists to this day. He first met mentee and Irish contemporary artist Serena Caulfield when he was delivering a workshop in 2017.

Caulfield recalls: “Eamonn has consistently mentored and encouraged me since we met in 2017, which has been a tremendous help to my practice and my career. He has become a great friend too, and one whose advice and experience I greatly respect and admire.”
The feeling is mutual for Maxwell, who adds: “We immediately hit it off and have been close friends since. In her work she explores family histories, mythology, and the influence of her constant adventuring. Serena is primarily a painter and uses vivid colours in her work, and her works latterly feature animals that have a particular resonance to her – racehorses, family pets or creatures remembered from paintings that hung in her childhood home. Her work ethic is astonishing, and she will create new bodies of work in a very quick time. In her own words, ‘she likes to paint quickly and think slowly’. For me, Serena is one of the most exciting artists working at the moment, making paintings that are energetic, passionate, and full of potential, a bit like Serena herself.”

Specialising in painting and drawing, Caulfield likes to combine different painting processes as well as entangle stories, histories and memories in her beautiful mashed-up allegories. She says: “Myths were the maps of communities, intimately dialoguing with their environment, and I like to think my paintings work similarly.

“I am an artist of a time with no time. My sources range from classical artworks to children’s drawing books, aural histories to local myths. Disobeying a linear art history while reclaiming it somehow in the present, I repurpose art history to play with its power, both visually and conceptually, imbuing the anachronisms of the past with the attitudes of the present.”

She has exhibited regionally and nationally in Ireland including group shows at the National Gallery of Ireland and Crawford Art Gallery.

She says: “I was really proud to have a portrait of my father shortlisted for the Zurich Portrait Prize 2021 at the National Gallery of Ireland and then at Crawford Art Gallery in Cork. My Dad was very proud too, and told everyone that he met that we’d ‘won’ the prize! It made me laugh a lot and I smile when I think of it now. He had a small bit of dementia due to Parkinson’s disease, but I totally went with our story. He passed away very recently. Happy memories, in a time that was tough for us all.”

In 2023, you’ll be seeing a lot more of her work too – she is currently working towards three solo exhibitions at Wexford Arts Centre, Ballina Arts Centre, and Hang Tough Contemporary, Ireland’s newest commercial gallery, plus a number of group shows.

About the champion

The Wick - Portrait of Eamonn Maxwell, courtesy of Eamonn Maxwell

After studying fine art at Camberwell College of Arts, Eamonn Maxwell became a contemporary art curator, advisor, and mentor, working with organisations including the Arts Council of Ireland and other collections. He has curated numerous exhibitions across the world, including the Irish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2011, and exhibitions by leading international and Irish artists during his seven-year stint as director of Lismore Castle Arts.

“Serena is one of the most exciting artists working at the moment, making paintings that are energetic, passionate, and full of potential, a bit like Serena herself.”

Place of Birth

Wexford, Ireland.

Education

BA from Gorey School of Art, and Wexford Campus School of Art and Design, Ireland (2004-7) and an MA from the Norwich University of the Arts (2008-9).

Awards, Accolades

I have been awarded an Arts Council of Ireland Visual Arts Bursary, the Platform 31 Artist Award, Artlinks Visual Arts Bursary, and was shortlisted for the Zurich Portrait Prize 2021 at the National Gallery of Ireland.

Recent exhibitions

BEEP Painting Biennial, Wales, ‘GENERATION 2022: New Irish Painting’ at Butler Gallery, Kilkenny, and the Zurich Portrait Prize 2021 at the National Gallery of Ireland and Crawford Art Gallery.

Spiritual guides, Mentors

I’ve been lucky enough to have had many mentors and guides since beginning at art school. My most influential was Angus Fairhurst, with whom I had a chance encounter in my early days at Gorey School of Art. He sort of became my mentor, out of genuine interest and his generosity and kindness.

I have recently been mentored in the studio by Sinéad Ní Mhaonaigh and had curatorial input from Catherine Bowe, Marysia Wieckiewicz-Carroll and Cliodhna Shaffrey, in preparation for my exhibitions, through a pilot scheme called MAKE/curate, with thanks to Wexford Arts Centre and Wexford County Council Arts Department.

Advice

Don’t think too much, just act. Get in the studio and make work – even if it’s bad. Be disciplined about showing up. Invest in mentors, look for advice, ask questions and be curious always. You can’t go too far wrong!

Angus Fairhurst told me that as an artist I would ‘have to get used to and expect at least 90% rejection’ but if I could get over that bit, I would have the most rewarding career. How right he was! It was possibly the best piece of advice I could ever have been given as a young artist. He never would have known how much he’d impact me in my creative life.


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