'We found we had a lot in common, and a similar vision'

Dani Gill, CĂșirt director; Finbar247, street artist

A work by Finbar 247

A work by Finbar 247

Dani Gill and Finbar247 have both made strong impressions on the Galway arts world in recent years - Gill as director of the Cúirt International Festival of Literature, and Finbar247 as a graffiti and visual artist who has transformed many drab city walls into vibrant, colourful spaces.

This Saturday, at the Galway Arts Centre, the duo officially launch their individual websites - www.danigill.com and www.finbar247.com - to showcase their work and upcoming projects across a range of areas. The launch event is entitled Vision and, over an afternoon coffee in Kai restaurant, Dani and Finbar talked about their plans for the websites.

I first asked them to share brief overviews of their artistic paths up to now. “I’ve been a book-lover all my life, I joined the library when I was five and was a ferocious reader,” Dani began. “When I came to Galway I was very involved in the arts in college. I came out of college determined to get involved in this sector and I did straight away, I didn’t do an MA or anything, I just started to look for experience. I worked with the Volvo Ocean Race and other things like that and then started working with Galway Arts Centre, which is where my journeys in theatre and literature began.”

“From a young age I was obsessed with letters and drawing and then writing on everything from the paper to the desk to the walls,” Finbar tells me. “I always needed to create bigger work; it was a natural feeling for me. I had a keen interest in painting but I liked the discipline of graphic art. I studied visual arts and communication at Limerick School of Art and Design, and afterwards travelled a lot and learned how the graffiti subculture worked outside of Ireland, and that really influenced my work.”

Finbar first began painting graffiti in 2002. His travels have taken him to France, Germany, Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Switzerland and Spain, where, with local street artists, he worked to turn cities into colourful, inspirational place to live and visit. He returned to his hometown determined to turn Galway into a walking outdoor exhibition.

'You’re taking an old unpainted grubby wall and turning it into a piece of art, it’s a transformation'

“Before the Internet took over, each country would have different styles and approaches to the painting techniques, letters, etc.” he says. “When I travelled I saw different artists’ approaches to the process and that was a huge influence on me, you develop a lot faster when working with other artists. That’s the approach I still have; go abroad, learn and then bring what you learn back.”

Does he ever have difficulty getting permission from the urban wall owners to adorn their property with his art? “There is a demand out there for my work,” he replies. “You’re taking an old unpainted grubby wall and turning it into a piece of art, it’s a transformation. Obviously you have to be sensitive to public space, and if you’re putting something in there it has to fit with the environment, but people are quite keen to get work done.

"That’s something I’d like to open up on my website as well, if there are walls around the city people would like to have work done on they can let me know. I’ve also done a lot of work with local businesses like The Secret Garden and Urban Grind cafés and I recently completed doing the Galway2020 space with an inter-generational group, who work-shopped concepts for two days and then painted the space.”

Dani tells me how she and Finbar first teamed up; “We met for the first time here in Kai. I had been looking for someone for the youth programme for Cúirt and I’d heard about Finbar. He was suggested to me as someone suitable so we met. When we started to talk we found we had a lot in common, and a similar vision. Finbar was talking about type and that was something I had an interest in for years. Obviously I was into poetry and we started to talk about poetry and it went from there. Since then we’ve had an epic collaborative year together, working on things like the Cúirt Poetry Walls and more. We have developed a strong friendship in that time and Vision refers to our shared belief in having a vision and looking toward the future.”

'I’ve been putting together a collection of poems called After Love and hope to have that published next year'

Dani Gill by Boyd

“We wanted to do the same thing but by working together it makes more sense, bringing poetry to the public and making it more accessible,” Finbar adds. “I wanted to create work that people could reflect on themselves through poetry and art mixed together. I knew I wanted to paint large scale walls around the city but I needed help to enable the process, to make them more like paintings than murals. I’d seen it done in Europe and wanted to do it here and thanks to Dani we got the ball rolling and have hopefully opened it up to more people as well.”

Dani outlines her vision for her website; “I’ve been doing Cúirt for six and a half years and I’ve also worked with Decadent Theatre Company and did educational projects. I’ve taught creative writing to teens and children which is a big interest of mine. Within Cuirt outreach is a very strong component and the youth programme has developed 100 per cent every year. Danigill.com is about creating my own platform to show what I have done, and what I can do and want to do over the next few years.

"The three main headings on it will be project management, curation, and education. As regards education, I am teaching creative writing summer camps this year in the museum. It’s the start of a new phase in my career where I am giving myself more room to grow. In terms of my own writing I’ve been putting together a collection of poems called After Love and hope to have that published next year.”

The Vision logo is an orange ball, Dani explains its significance; “It comes from the idea that creativity involves pulling things into your orbit, like planets, the orange ball is a ball of energy, feeding things and drawing them in, connecting ideas like satellites. For me curation is about connecting ideas, pulling things together in a way that is very visual for other people to enjoy.”

And what can browsers expect from Finbar’s website? “It will be a curated selection of my work and cover the span from doing work on the street to my personal practices as a visual artist. I’m going to try and do more prints and make more work available to the general public which is something I have not done before.

"My website will also be about creating pieces and giving people the chance to try it out. When I was younger if you were interested in art there was nowhere for you to start so I’d like to create the opportunity for people to try it out. I want to encourage volunteers from the public to take part in his installations and projects and there will be a contact method on the site specifically for this purpose.”

Vision takes place at Galway Arts Centre, 47, Dominick Street at noon this Saturday. Tea, coffee and Kai cake will be available.

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