Eleanor Swan

Born in: 1959, Dublin, Ireland
Lives in: Newbridge, Ireland
Media: Sculpture, Installation, Ceramics
Describe your work in 3 words: Sincere, thoughtful, happy

Just Listen - Ceramics

"After working in clay for so many years I am beginning to realise that my art is a form of storytelling. There is great freedom in that and it allows me to respond to the world around me in so many different ways."

What themes does your work involve?
My themes can be varied according to the particular project I am working towards, but in general they have a political narrative or are a social comment on issues that exist in our world today.
Describe your creative process.
If I make a piece of sculpture and it has meaning for me, if I possess its reason for being and can justify the thought process behind it, then I have succeeded in creating a piece of art. I begin with an open mind, I rarely make notes or drawings but when I am in the process of making, in my head I have an idea of a sequence of moves I would like to try. There is a a kind of rush when you are pulling and pushing all these angles together to articulate something and you have to hold your nerve. Its almost a game of control , trying to get it to work but then there is a moment when it begins to breath and develops a presence of its own. Its thrilling, its difficult to say how I know a work is finished, but I always know and love that moment when I down tools and stand back.
What influences your work? What inspires you? Why do you make art?
'Life' influences and inspires my work! I am not good with words and I agonise when asked to write something. But making art and the making process allows me to express myself in a deeper more meaningful way and gives me great joy.
What is good art? What makes a piece of art great?
Art is a very personal thing. No two people see a work of art in the same way but if a painting, sculpture, ceramic bowl etc can reach your soul and stir an emotional response then that is more important than anything. A favourite quote of mine is from Ann Hamilton 'The Body and the Object': "A work of art should interest the eye, excite the brain, move the mind to reflection, involve the heart and come at us from an unexpected angle and stop us short in wonder."
What is the role of the artist today?
I don't think anyone chooses to be an artist like you choose to be an accountant or a scientist. An artist is a way of being, a way of life. My earliest memories of being creative go back to the age of six. While I was always being creative in one form or another, I trained and worked as a nurse for 25 years before leaving the profession to go to art college, from that moment on I felt I could finally be 'me'. I think art it hugely underestimated for the value it has to offer in our everyday lives. It teaches us to see think differently and provides us with a way to express ourselves without constraints and rigid rules......and allows great freedom of thoughts.


This interview was published by Circle Foundation of the Arts. © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist