By Peter McDermott
Lisa McCleary, a 26-year-old artist from County Wicklow, will have her first U.S. solo show on Monday, April 29, to Friday, May 3, in New York City.
“Edging” will be held at Gallery MC, a multidisciplinary non-profit gallery space at 549 West 52nd St., 8th Floor, Manhattan. There is a drinks reception to mark it on Thursday, May 2, from 6-9 p.m.
“I am very excited to showcase a selection of new works from my collection,” McCleary said.
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The Echo asked the artist about her first American solo show and her work more generally.
Tell us something about your background in Ireland.
I grew up in the seaside town of Greystones, Co. Wicklow. My father Dr. Barry McCleary is the director of Megazyme International Ltd., a biotechnology company based in Bray, and my mother Angela Kennedy is the ex-chairman of An Bord Bia [the Irish Food Board]. I was educated at Holy Child Killiney Secondary School, where I spent a lot of my time enjoying art class with the other students. I continued my creative education when I attended the Sallynoggin College of Further Education Art Portfolio Course in County Dublin. Having the opportunity to spend a year working on my art practice full time, allowed me to recognize that it was what I really wanted to pursue as a career.
You have a BFA Honors Degree from UNSW Art & Design Sydney. Did you go to Australia specifically to study?
In 2011, my mother made the move to Sydney and I followed shortly after. I was excited by the prospect of engaging with the Sydney art world and thought it would be a great opportunity to learn in a different environment and have a new-culture influence my art practice. I was accepted into the University of New South Wales Art & Design, Sydney, and spent the next four years working towards my Bachelor of Fine Art Honors Degree. I have a lot of fantastic memories at that school; it is where my love of oil painting began. I started to exhibit my work around Sydney, and before I completed my degree I was offered my first solo exhibition, titled “#foreveralone,” at Palmer Art Projects, a contemporary art gallery in Woollahra, Sydney. In 2016, I was selected for a second Solo Exhibition at Palmer Art Projects, titled “Opened 1m Ago,” where I showcased a series of paintings that consider human intimacy online, screen culture and the mediation of the body through a digital lens. The themes of this Exhibition are still integral to my multidisciplinary practice today.
What brought you to New York?
It was a dream of mine to experience life as an artist in New York, especially after developing and refining my creative practice during my time in Sydney. For me, I think that a change of environment is a great way to grow and learn. I was accepted into the Master of Fine Arts Program at Parsons, the New School. The program is located in the heart of Manhattan, just off Fifth Avenue and provides MFA students with their own studio. It is here where my engagement with different materials and my move towards abstraction began.
“Naofa Sacred” (2018), 22.5 x 13, oil on aluminum.
Tell us a bit about the materials you use and what they mean for your practice?
My material practice delves into elements of painting, sculpture and tapestry. My work addresses haptic sensations and the representation and embodiment of touch. I create a space in which desire, abjection and the digital and real body are in play.
I place focus on the pleasure of flesh, and the way that pleasure translates into our desire for our communication devices. This has lead me towards aluminium as a surface on which to paint. I appreciate the cold industrial feel of the material and its thin, lightweight nature, and how that counterbalances the illusionistic painting techniques I employ in my work.
My current series centers on the haptic screen as a surface of relation, desire and mediation. Much like aluminum, the skin takes a lot of wear and tear. I think that conflating the flesh and industrial materials can create possibilities of some kind of mechanical anthropomorphic being. My practice considers mediated corporeality; the experience of consuming the tangible, filtered through the medium of the screen. While there may be representations of touch, there may actually be nothing to feel. My new series of tapestries and woven blankets invite the viewer to engage with my work in an alternative way, instead of focusing on the screen, they are enticed to consider their tactile sense through the seduction of texture and something palpable.
What are your impressions of New York so far?
I think New York is a special place for the creatively inclined. There is an overabundance of opportunities here for artists to exhibit and to maintain a practice, even outside of commercial galleries. Artists in New York have a great sense of community; we all work together and support one another.
What are some of your achievements while in the U.S.?
I have had a busy few years while in the U.S. I have been afforded the opportunity to showcase my work nationally including exhibitions in Washington, Ohio and Connecticut and all throughout New York State. I was recently selected as a winner of the “Show Your World” juried art competition, curated by RE: ARTISTE in New York, and a finalist in the Young Painters Competition, at Miami University in Ohio, juried by New York art critic Barry Schwabsky. In 2018, I was selected as a fellow of the Art & Law Program in Manhattan, lead by art attorney Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento. In 2019, I have been awarded a position at both the Trestle Artist Residency in Brooklyn and the Vermont Studio Center Residency, for which I received their VSC Grant to attend. This month one of my paintings will be exhibited in “Saturated: An Eye For Color,” an exhibition at the Barrett Art Center in Poughkeepsie, juried by art curator Michael Rooks. I am very fortunate to have been awarded with many opportunities that support my art practice while living in the U.S. I am currently in Vermont preparing the final pieces for my upcoming solo show later this month.
How did this first solo exhibition in the States come about?
I was previously selected for two group exhibitions at their space, including “Art on 52nd St.,” a showcase of work by international artists in 2018
The gallery offered me my first solo show and I have been spending the last few months preparing a series of new paintings and tapestries for the event. I never could have imagined as a young child painting at my art desk in my home in Greystones, that I would one day have my own solo exhibition in New York City; it is a very exciting dream that has become a reality.