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Taking art from stage to canvas

Aisling’s work will be on view in the RDS from August 3-7. To see some of her work log onto aislingdrennan.blogspot.com. Photograph John KellyHAVING travelled the world with Riverdance as a teenager Lisdoonvarna’s own Aisling Drennan has since switched her focus to visual art.
She has justfinished a degree in fine art and things are rather busy for her these days. “Two of my pieces were selected for the graduate arts awards that run alongside the Dublin horseshow from the third to the seventh of August. I’ve been featured on the cover of the Galway Arts Festival programme and on the poster. Through that I started doing some work with Macnas. That was great, because your degree is so intense and this is the other end of the spectrum. It’s really, really good to do something different.
“Because I have a background in performance they put me into the parade as well, which was great craic. I’m also on a programme called Selected, there’s nine of us from different backgrounds and we go to see everything in the Arts Festival and then review it,” she says.
She would like to go onto further study, ideally in New York. “There’s a few courses that I’m looking at, but I haven’t really had time to look into it and I’m considering trying to get sponsorship or something like that, because it is quite expensive. My work would be very much based on the New York school styles of art. It’d be where abstract-expressionist would have formed initially as a movement, people like Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock.”
She spent years with Riverdance and got to see the world at a very young age. But she always wanted to study fine art and finally got around to doing it.
“I grew up with my mam painting and that was a huge influence on me. I started touring with Riverdance when I was 16 and then I came back, did my Leaving Cert and went again, but I always had the objective of going to study fine art at some point. I was lucky enough that I was able to defer my course for six years. I was very determined to do it and I did do it and I continued to go back and forth to Riverdance while doing my thesis, my audiovisual work and everything, it was quite intense at the time. It was good though, I’m delighted I was able to do it.”
While dance and painting mightn’t seem that similar as art forms, there are plenty of links according to Aisling. “They still kind of correlate. They have the same kind of discourse. Dancing is very subjective, art is very subjective. The dancing is very physical, but so is the way I paint, it’s quite intense. Historically a lot of artists have worked with dancers, there’s a big crossover.”
While painting may be in her blood, a cursory look at the paintings of both Aisling and her mother tells you that they have very different styles. “Mum is very realistic, landscape based. I’d be on the other side of the spectrum, high-end contemporary art. But it’s great to have the diversity of opinions if we go to an exhibition or something like that. You get a good discussion about the work.”
Travelling to many of the world’s major art hubs meant she could look at different styles and she found out what suited her. “I was travelling internationally so I was able to see these huge, huge, amazing contemporary pieces everywhere I went, in major cities like London, New York, Milan, Tokyo, all these places. Although I’d grown up with a traditional realist style, I was exposed to a different side of things and I took a leaning to it.”
She says she likes to mix abstract expressionism with contemporary graphics. Aisling also likes to work on a large canvas and to keep a good bit of spontaneity about what she’s doing. “I work large scale, I’ve always worked large scale. My approach wouldn’t be concept based, it wouldn’t really be a cerebral point of view, it’d very much be instinct really when starting off. It’s that looseness, the spontaneity and the physicality of applying the paint to the canvas that I love. It’s not very conceptual starting off, it’s kind of a feel for what’s on the canvas and the physicality of applying the paint to the canvas.”
She is very passionate about painting and says she can lose herself in the work once she starts. “When I’m painting full time, I’d probably spend about six hours a day doing it. It’s pretty full on but you get very immersed in what you’re doing, which is great because you take off into your own little world around what you’re doing. It sustains you and you have to be sustained by your work. You have to understand what you’re doing and you have to have conviction in what you’re doing. It’s you, it’s your work, it’s self expression.”

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