Frame 61

Noel Hensey

Frame 61
 Noel Hensey

Background: I am an artist based in Co. Kildare, Ireland. My practice is concerned with the production and maintenance of ‘openness’/’spaciousness’, which could be defined as the ground where you can no longer distinguish between self and other. More specifically, it is a concern with mental openness over physical openness. The practice is multi-disciplinary and includes; photography, installation, sculpture, sound and video.

I can’t remember any moment when I first made art; it was something I always did. I received a formal art education at primary and secondary school level. Upon leaving secondary school I didn’t think it a career in Fine Art was possible so I undertook the B.Sc Technology and Design course at the University of Ulster. In 1997, during a gap year in the course I experienced some personal problems and started making art again as a way to exercise these problems. I have been practicing artist since. Since then, I have undertaking a Post Graduate Diploma and Masters in Fine Art both at Chelsea College of Arts, London. 

Mundane household objects: A writer friend of mine describes art as ‘a shell of an act of change’. I use mundane household objects because if art is act of change what greater change is there that the mundane becoming art.

The use of found objects in my practice is inspired by Marcel Duchamp’s model of ‘found’ or ‘readymade’ art, that is ordinary manufactured objects that the artist has selected and modified. I am interested in the perceptive dynamics of encountering found objects and situations whereby a viewer’s habitual semantic/judgmental processes are slowed down, as issues such as ownership prove difficult to define. 

An Oak Tree: The Michael Craig Martin’s ‘An Oak Tree’ reverence was made by the curator Chris Wite-Vassilak in his exhibition essay about a work I made called ‘Sound Garden’.

‘Sound Garden’ is a site-specific mixed-media installation. It is inspired by traditional Japanese Rock Gardens (Karesansui); speakers in this case represent the rocks. The sounds of the speakers in turn represent tradition elements found in gardens, such as fountains, bridges etc. It contains three speakers; one large and two small, the large representing a fountain, the sound of which is created by mixing songs of chronologically dead musicians together, for example a David Bowie track is mixed into an Whitney Huston track etc., so like a fountain a continual flow of expression is omitted. The two small represent a bridge and play a looped sample that pans back and forth from one speaker to another continuously. Like ‘An Oak Tree’ a transformation takes place, in this case all phenomena e.g. physical matter, thought etc. are reduced to sound. 

Studio/routine: As I don’t have a physical studio at the moment I work out of a café affiliated to a local arts centre. Although my day is split between artistic production and administration, that is searching and applying for opportunities, social networking etc. I try to prioritize the production.

If I’m not in the café I like to operate an open studio, this takes the form of carrying a bag containing a camera and notebook with me at all times. The open studio work is formulated through; drawing, photography, and the collection of found imagery and objects. This initial material is stored in both digital and physical archives, it is from these archives that material is filtered into more finished work. The majority of my ideas come from simple act of observation, I find that taking a long walk or practicing mediation in the evenings conducive to good observation. When I can at night I attend openings in Dublin with artist friends, if not I spend time looking at art on the Internet.

Art Heroes/Heroines: Marcel Duchamp is my main art hero. I am inspired by his renouncement of ‘retinal art’ for ‘art of the mind’, which is most evident in his model of ‘readymade’ or ‘found’ art. He selected work on the basis of ‘visual indifference’ as he states ‘it was always the idea that came first, not the visual example’ and that ‘readymades were a form of denying the possibility of defining art.’

A contemporary proponent of the readymade I like is the multi-disciplinary Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco. Orozco absorbs Duchamp's precedent of artistic production but extends it further by focusing on the space that surrounds the work. What is clear in Orozco’s work is that ‘the aesthetic act takes place in an encounter, not in an object’.

Titles: I have a Word Document that I constantly update with titles; these are usually appropriated from music titles and terminology. I like to live with a work for a period to gain a deeper understanding and more insight before titling it. My main focus in titling a work is to add another layer of understanding to the work, in that way the title becomes a work in itself.

Humour/ice-breaker: Humour is a good way to get artistic ideas across but it is an often-misunderstood property in art, as the Buddhist teacher Sogyal Rinpoche states ‘Humour isn’t ha, ha, ha, humour is finding space where there was no space before.’

What's next: More recently I have become interested in the theme of sound as creator and signifier of openness/spaciousness. As Roland Barthes states in his essay écoute ‘By the perception of degrees of remoteness and of regular return of phonic stimulus…for the human being the appreciation of space is a matter of sound.’ I intend to explore this statement by making more sound based work.

Future shows: Later this year I am partaking in a group exhibition in Ormston House, Limerick curated by Abir Boukhari (AllArtNow, Damascus). Founded in 2005, AllArtNow was the first independent space for contemporary art in Syria. The space aimed to create greater opportunities for emerging artists and to create a bridge between Syria and the rest of the world.

After a recent submission, Bloc Projects, Sheffield expressed an interest in working together at a later date. Established in 2002, Bloc Projects provides a platform for early-mid career artists, encouraging experimentation, collaboration across disciplines and critical dialogue among artists, audiences and partners in Sheffield and further afield.

Artist website

Publishing date of this interview 08/03/16