Our Emerging Visual Artist in Residence Riley Waite has written a blog about how he’s is getting on during his residency at An Táin Arts Centre, read all about it below.

Month 1: A reunion with Dundalk and getting into my creative groove

Starting my artist residency at An Táin Art Centre in my hometown, Dundalk, Ireland, has been a whirlwind of rediscovery and artistic immersion. Having grown up in this town, returning to familiar streets and sights has been a nostalgic journey, albeit one with a fresh perspective.

I usually come back and forth to Dundalk on a yearly basis since my move away in 2010, because I have family based in Dundalk. And I’ve never had a sense of nostalgia and amazement as this trip in particular. I’m thinking it has partly to do with how the city itself is developing, with new murals up every year, and more arts funding and arts related events happening more frequently, or perhaps I feel different this time around, as if I’ve grown. I feel more connected to the culture and open to new experiences than I have been in the past. And in just the first couple of weeks alone, I’ve met so many new people and I have grown a sense of community that I have been lacking in my home in Portland, Oregon.

Settling into An Táin Art Centre was a breeze, with the studio quickly becoming my haven for daily artistic exploration. The first week or two was a little slow, as I was getting the studio set up to just how I like it. I painted and cleaned the walls and concrete floors and ordered my paint materials, but while adapting to the rhythm of life in Dundalk, I found my stride within the residency, painting every day and allowing my surroundings to seep into my work naturally. I’ve been going for periodic hikes which have inspired me to paint the landscapes around me. After surveying the size of the gallery space, I am setting a goal for myself to create 12 mid-size oil paintings for a solo exhibition opening in 2 months. That’s about two paintings finished every week, so I’m already behind but I think it can be done!

After the first week of getting set up in the studio and having all of my supplies arrive, I started to paint directly on loose canvas hanging from the gallery walls. I tried not to worry too much about what I was painting in these initial paintings, I just wanted to get started and get the ball rolling, otherwise I would have taken forever to start. I’m trying to use this time of the residency to experiment and have fun. After painting on loose canvas, I realize that it won’t look very professional hanging like that in the gallery space, so I decide to wrap the loose canvas on stretcher bars. However, to save costs, I’ll have to make my own from loose wood planks, which I bought at Woodies in Dundalk. It’s more work but it will save hundreds of euros and potentially look better. More handmade.

The studio gallery space itself is modest but definitely does the job. There are no windows, but the lighting is decent and there’s plenty of space. Things are slightly unorganized but there is everything I need once I do a bit of searching. And everyone has been very helpful and open to my questions. The gallery is open everyday and so is the residency studio, however, there aren’t that many visitors, at least this first month. I’ve had one or two people wander in the studio and I’ve been as helpful as I can with their questions. It’s nice to hear people’s initial opinions on my work.

Whilst painting Monday through Friday 9:00 to 5:00 p.m., I’ve been taking the time to try and meet new people and connect with old friends. I took a short weekend trip to London with a friend to visit all of the art galleries and museums, which was very nourishing, but tiring, given the scope. And on my third week I went to the local pub, Mo Chara, with all of the staff of An Táin Arts Centre for a meet and greet over drinks which was definitely a highlight of this month. The people of the residency and artists of Bó studios are all friendly and welcoming.

As I wrap up this first month of my residency, I’m struck by the melding of my past and present in each stroke of my brush. The art I create here isn’t just a reflection of Dundalk’s charm; it’s an expression of my evolving relationship with this town. I’m constantly thinking about what I see in the town in front of me, and what I know of and grew up with. With the coming months, I’m excited to delve deeper into this connection, letting it guide my artistic evolution.

Follow his progress at #antainartists and @rileywaiteart on Instagram.