The Backwater Artists Group in Co Cork, Ireland are celebrating their 25th anniversary with the exhibition Silver on at CIT Wandesford Quay Gallery through 20 June. I was at the opening and spoke with Tracy Fitzgerald about her experience of sharing a studio and how the city of Cork influences her paintings.
When did you join Backwater Artists Group?
When I won an award as part of my degree show; it was sponsored by Crawford College of Art and Design. It was a fantastic start as it meant you weren’t making a decision about what will I do now, you were straight into working in the studio and continuing your practice, and still involved with the college. So it was a real I guess, stepping-stone, you still had the support of the college so it was great.
What are the positives about being part of a studio?
Being involved with both the Backwater Artist Group and Artfetch gives me a sense of community. In BAG there is a mixture of emerging and established artists, working in a variety of mediums, in the same location. With Artfetch I get an international community of emerging artists and a team of gallery experts working on my behalf.
The selection process for the annual exhibition is interesting because we all got to visit each others studios and that is always a great treat and you got to vote on other artist’s work. It is democratic and it gives insight into what other people are working on and get into in their studios.
Your work features strong architectural elements and Cork has a diverse range of architecture in a compact area and small place, do you draw on this for you paintings?
Definitely the surroundings would influence, I’m trying to think of paintings I have done of Cork, I could count maybe five. It’s not necessarily the buildings of the location itself but it is the style of the building or the style of the interior. So it doesn’t matter where it is, but having said that my route into town brings me down the marina and past the old Ford Factory and the Old Mill and there are a lot of modernist buildings on the way in which I love, then you hit the Victorian terraces and the Elysian tower on your right.
Actually Ballymun in Dublin comes up a lot in my work. I didn’t even know it until after I painted it, I saw the photo again and it was tilted. So I’ve painted Ballymun a good few times but we don’t have that high rise living here, the nearest we had was there used to be flats out in Blackpool, where my grandmother used to live and I used to pass it a lot. I don’t know it has rubbed off on me subconsciously maybe.
Which place in Cork inspires you the most?
Is it bad to say a bar? I guess I made the decision to go back to Art College in The Oval bar down opposite the brewery. There is a sculpture in there by James Horan, I think it is The Centurion, and after a few gin and tonics he told me to go back to Art College. I thought that I would be sculpting but I ended up being a painter.
The Crawford College of Art and Design degree show opens next week, do you have any advice by for this year’s graduates?
Just do it, it is stressful coming through a degree. You are going to be battered and bruised but if you can get over the ego, the voice that’s telling you can’t do it. It’s funny because there are a lot of avenues open to you, you could go down the curation route or marketing route or teaching. You can go on to masters it is all there for you, but really I would recommend try everything see what you enjoy the most and don’t question yourself.
Tracy Fitzgerald’s work also features in The AIB Éigse Open Submission in Carlow Arts Festival on through this weekend.
See her work now on Artfetch.