Artist Takeover-Nathalie Caleyron DonnellyBy The Black Box
Exhibition details here-https://www.blackboxbelfast.com/event/online-exhibition-nathalie-caleyron-donnelly
This November we have been so thrilled to have Nathalie Caleyron Donnelly back as their exhibition was cut short due to the venue closing in March 2020. She originally from France but has lived in North Belfast for over 30 years. She discovered printmaking through a woodcut workshop in Seacourt Print Workshop (Bangor) 5 years ago
Thank you, Nathalie, for being one of our online exhibiting artist and sharing your beautiful work with us. And here is a mini interview/blog from them!
What’s your background?
I grew up in the centre of France in the 80s and moved here in my early 20s.
I have always been interested in art, but art A level was not an option (not just literally) when / where I grew up. So it was very much… study first, get a job, and then you can do art.
So I did.
I studied law and Human Rights.
I kept on drawing, painting, through bursts of creativity and periods of drought, until a weekend course in relief printmaking in Seacourt Print Workshop 5 years ago. This was ‘love at first sight‘.
From the very start, I loved how I could translate my sketches into prints, loved the hypnotic carving of the plate and, the entire process of printmaking really, from putting on my apron right up to the inky mess left behind.
Having been on my own up to that point, I loved the workshop experience and the exchanging with others element too.
On the other parts of my life…
I live in North Belfast with my husband and daughter, and a cat we share with our neighbour (joint custody). I have now lived in Belfast longer than I ever lived in France, and I work part-time as a trade union organiser with UNISON, working mostly with migrant workers.
My parents are still in France, which is a big source of worry in the current situation, obviously.
I love my walks up Cavehill and on the shore at Greenisland, even if I wish my daily walk could be on a deserted beach in Donegal.
Are there key themes in your work?
Art is almost self therapy for me. My little universe features throughout. Apart from a few commissioned pieces, my pictures are my ‘happy places’: memories, friends, favourite objects, places I love, everyday life, etc…
I sometimes wish my art was more political, more ‘engaged’. But it is not the way it works for me. Activism and politics are part of life and work, while art is my escape from it all.
How has your practice developed or changed over time?
The theme for my art has remained pretty constant, but technique wise I have gone through various phases. For many years I used mostly acrylic paints. As much as I loved acrylics on card or paper, I did not enjoy painting with acrylics on canvas.
I think this is partly how I came to a dead end with this.
Then I discovered digital drawing, which occupied me for the next few years until that relief print workshop in Seacourt ❤.
In terms of print, lockdown has forced me to explore and adapt a bit. I have switched to a lighter type of paper that I have really enjoyed working on, and I was also forced to experiment with brushes, as I only had two rollers in the house for example.
What work or processes do you most enjoy doing?
I love every part of lino printmaking. I love the translating drawings onto lino plates, that first cut in the lino, the carving itself and then, going to the workshop. I love the noise of the roller on sticky ink (!) and the magic of having the different plates come together and register (or not…).
The whole process is addictive!
The fact that I enjoy the technique so much, however, tends to make me reluctant to use anything else, and a bit lazy about trying other techniques. I like what I can do with drypoint for example, but don’t enjoy the process as much, so I am inclined to shy away from it. I want to try collograph but every time I sit down to start something, I reach for the lino.
This will probably fade a bit eventually, and then I’ll be ready to explore again.
But not just yet!
Who or what are your biggest influences?
My early interests in art in general were pretty typical: Paul Klee, Matisse, George Rouault, Gaugin. I was particularly fond of the ‘Ecole de Pont-Aven’ and fauvism.
On a personal level, my friend Kristina changed the way I looked at art. We met during my gap year here, and from introducing me to land art and Tory island painters, to going off on sketching expeditions (bus station, botanic gardens’ old palm house, north coast, etc), she pretty much set me off on a whole new journey!
Now I mostly look at illustration (I can never tire of children book pictures!), folk art and prints, of course.
I am still too new to the printmakers’ world to be able to talk about influences, and I feel that I am very much on a discovery journey, soaking up art from people around the workshop and the local Instagram art scene (and awaiting every new Pressing Matters magazine with trepidation!)
Have you had any responses to your work that were particularly memorable, or not what you expected?
Yes! Two stories here.
One is a lovely coincidence. A friend of mine asked me to do a print of her study. I had it in the Seacourt members’ Christmas show last year, and a man bought it as a present for his father. When the dad took it home and looked at the title ‘Vidya’s study’, he said « oh… I used to know someone called Vidya ». So he dug up the number and called her and… It was the right person! They hadn’t spoken in nearly 20 years.
The other one is a bit ‘different’…
My mother has always been my number one fan. But since I started printmaking, I got her polite ‘hmm, yes nice’, until eventually she admitted that she just doesn’t like them. She liked my more abstract and colourful paintings or pastel pieces. So regularly I’ll get comments like « oh, you’re still doing ‘that’. »
Sorry mum, I don’t think this ‘phase’ is likely to be over any time soon
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Just go for it!
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