A. Muller, Auryn
I’m from a small village in North Westmeath. I didn’t take art in school or anything so I came to it a little bit later. That was a battle in itself for some years as I felt there was some aspect of me that’s wasn’t being fed and it took me some time to break down that barrier a bit and step into my more creative self. I am at the core a photographer but along the way I also trained in performance, more from an acting space.
Most honest space >>Watch video>>
I moved to Iceland for three years and lived in Sweden for one. Just before that I had been at a portfolio review where I basically said, “C’mon lads, level with me here”. They told me my work was a little bit on the surface and it was maybe more National Geographic – that it wasn’t in that more contemporary art space. They were also amazed that I asked for honest feedback because I think they usually get people in front of them saying, “This is what I’m doing, this is how I’m going to do it”. I don’t think there’s space to grow creatively when you can’t have a more honest interchange with somebody about what they see in your work . After that I said, “OK, I’m going to challenge myself now”.
I have had a costume chest for years but it’s always been underused. I put this frock on from it, and I went down to the local lake and actually put myself in the lake. That was 2015 and where it all began with my self portraiture. This work with the dresses has been continually evolving from there. I had this black Mexican dress from the 60s or 70s, then later I found a similar matching dress in white – same era, same generation, same feel. The material is very special. It’s heavy, it’s rigid, but it still flows really nicely. You can run around, dive into position and walk through brambles, it’s not going to get trashed. It’s very hard wearing and because it’s second-hand, there’s something that happens when you put it on, a personality that comes with it.
I’d go out in the morning and I would just put the dress on, hop in the car often not knowing where I was going and just arrive somewhere. It becomes a dialogue between me, the nature and the weather. It’s a very present process and there’s often a magic moment that happens at some point when you stay in that space long enough, that really present-flow state.
I work with a timer, I have ten seconds, I hit the button and run and I just dive into position – whatever my body does, whatever the dress does, whatever the weather does, and sometimes you get a winner. It can take some time to warm up but then you’re in a flow with it and it just happens by itself almost. That’s the most honest space you can be in when you’re creating.
It was a very different vibe for me in Iceland. I found it very expressive and non judgemental. It was a very free space and I felt my practice developed a lot there. I don’t know whether it was that I felt I could do what I wanted without worrying about judgement, that I could maybe just explore more and let go there.
Displaced >>Watch video>>
Now that I’m back in Ireland, I still feel a little displaced, still trying to find my feet in terms of where I sit and where I’m going to base myself. I actually panic attacked when I was collecting my luggage in the airport. I didn’t have a plan and I had just recently been through a relationship collapse. It’s been a bit of a process to figure all that out.
It took me a while before I lifted the camera and it certainly took me a while before I put on the dress and went walking down the road where there’d be cars passing me by. In Iceland, they and I didn’t give a toss about that but here it was much more difficult. I was thinking, “OK, now you’re standing out like a sore thumb”.
Collaborative projects >>Watch video>>
When I got back here, everything was shut down because of the pandemic. You couldn’t go anywhere, couldn’t talk to anyone. I went online quite a lot and through Facebook and stuff like that. I connected to a lot of different collaborative projects.
The quiet time and the isolation actually pushed me into these application processes. I even started to be somewhat successful with my images internationally at that point, especially the work that I had been making in Iceland.
I found this one collaboration project, a project between a maker and a creator. I don’t even remember when I signed up for it. I remember suddenly getting an email saying, “OK, now here are the projects you can select from.” For one of the projects you had to be all dressed in white doing gestural poses within the natural landscape. It was a perfect match and perfect timing, I had just recently found the white dress but had not yet put it on.
I just did it. It was for 30 days. It was quite a hefty project to take on. Every day you had to take one image. I was like, “Oh man, can I do it?”. That project for me was amazing though, it provided the kick up the backside that I needed.
Artists don’t do well with stagnant because we’re constantly emotive and being innovative, dynamic and creating things from scratch. I think that stagnant space is very difficult for us to navigate. I needed to reach out and look for a collaboration. If that project hadn’t existed for me, it would have taken me months longer to get going.
The work of the artist >>Watch video>>
As creatives, I feel that we’re somewhat different from the mainstream, maybe on some levels we’re more sensitive or connected to ourselves or there’s a more authentic expression flowing out of us, I guess we could be more tapped into ourselves.
I certainly use a lot of my work as a catharsis but I do find it’s double edged. My work can also spin me out as well, it often becomes kind of obsessive. It’s about finding that balance and that balance is very different for all of us, as each of our flows is very unique also.
It’s important to allow ourselves the time to learn our practice, to learn our voice and our expression and to stay honest and true to it. Even if you’re living in a rural area like where I’m from, it might be difficult to openly step out into that space and to just let yourself be that creative person or that version of yourself within that space. I definitely feel that if I hold that part of me in, it can be worse for me. If you don’t honour the expression, if you don’t honour the voice that wants to come out, you’re putting a block down and then you’re keeping something in that really just wants to come out. I think mental-health wise that’s really tricky.
The work that artists produce resonates with people because we understand life and all its complexities on a broader spectrum and maybe not even consciously. I suspect this is why so often universal themes emerge through most of our work. Other people may not be able to frame it or express it, but for us I think it naturally gets embedded into the work as a result of being in that present creative flow state. What was the quote I read? Something like, “The work of the artist is healing for the soul of the artist first and once it comes out and gets presented to an audience, it’s healing for the audience thereafter”.
What’s next >>Watch video>>
I was in Greece in August last year for a performance workshop, just weeks after the forest fires. Before I left I had sent an email to some friends asking if anybody I knew was connected to the communities where the fires impacted. A guy got back to me and connected me with a lady in a village in one of the worst affected areas. Then next thing I knew I was there. I got funding from Westmeath County Council’s Arts Office here because they had their annual grant available at the time. I didn’t know I had got it ‘til I got back, but while I was there I took four days to go to North Evia to just check out what was left of the impact of the forest fires. I could not stop seeing my white dress within the scene so of course it was the first thing I had packed.
The work kinda fell together and developed into a new space there. I knew I was creating a story, about the impacts of COVID on the collective, climate change and my own personal struggles.
Now I have merged some of those images from within the devastation together with images from the lush green landscapes here and tied them together with a poem about the death and rebirth cycles within our own lives and within nature. It’s called Auryn for now. I’m trying to figure what’s next with that. I would like to make a book and then also do an installation embedded in nature, maybe large prints on a walking trail that people can go on.
I’m also still shooting on that project in Greece, and I’ve been lucky enough to have secured an Agility Award from the Arts Council in their last round, so I’ll be going back after the summer. I have to wait ‘til it cools and I’ll be much more comfortable and less pink lobster in that heavy dress. And since it’s all about the death and rebirth process for me, I’m excited where it’s going to take me next. I suspect something quite huge in me has shifted since I was last there. We shall see!
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