INTERVIEW: AOIFE DILLON (PAINTER + ILLUSTRATOR)

FFO:  BOLD PAINTINGS THAT EXPLORE THE BEAUTY CONCERNING THE FRAGILITY AND NAIVETY OF YOUTH!

Who are you and where are you currently based?

My name is Aoife Dillon and I’m based in Luton at the moment but I’m moving to Dublin later this year to study art.

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All works were created by Aoife Dillon

What attracted you to want to go to Dublin to study art?

I was really unsure at first about uni and if you actually need a degree to be an artist so it was 50/50 whether or not I carried on doing what I was doing and be self-taught, or get a degree. My family are Irish so they mentioned looking at Dublin and I just loved the atmosphere of the place. The studios were cool, the work was amazing and the city’s great; it was the only place I wanted to apply to and I knew I could see myself there.

What’s your practice? What themes does your work explore?

My main practice is painting and I almost always paint portraits. In between big projects, I’ll mess around with illustration/drawing but painting is where I focus.

The themes I explore through my work change all the time, they change as I do- as I grow and evolve so does my focus on what I want to visually communicate, it’s a fluid process! Like turning 20 this year made me reflect massively on what youth is to me and all the recklessness, rebellion and chaos that comes with being a young person and trying to figure out the world. I had the need to document and celebrate youth culture while I’m living it. At the heart of my work though there’s the constant theme of exploring the mind. I’m drawn to painting people candidly as opposed to looking at the viewer because then it becomes posed and orchestrated, I like my work to capture a moment like you’re a fly on the wall. I think that way it’s more honest and there’s more of a focus on emotion, what’s going through the persons’ head, their subconscious- it makes you want to delve into their mind a little bit.

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All works were created by Aoife Dillon

Why do you think you almost always seem to paint portraits? What do you like about painting people?

At first, I loved the challenge of getting a likeness and mixing the perfect skin tone, it became kind of addictive to see each painting get more detailed and more realistic. I’m so fascinated by how our minds work and how complex they are so it soon became about conveying the internal world and for me, the face is the best way to explore that. The quote “There are as many different ‘real worlds’ as there are people” by Carl Rogers stuck with me because it made me realise that reality is just your perception of it, so I think painting different people allows me to paint different ways of looking at the world.

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All works were created by Aoife Dillon

How do you approach the people you paint? Are they strangers are friends? How does your choice of subject affect the overall painting experience?

I choose people to paint that fit the mood of the painting and they’re mostly strangers, I only recently started painting people I know but I’m more cautious painting friends. I can mess around with things like hair colour and clothes but they have to have the vibe I’m looking for. I look at people I paint like characters and even though they’re strangers I relate to them because I’m using them to convey a little part of myself. Who I choose to paint can really influence the painting as well- in the past, I’ve used pastel pink or floral elements on paintings of harsh, rugged looking men to soften them up and create a contrast between the tough and delicate sides of them. If I used the same techniques on a portrait of a girl it would exaggerate her femininity and completely change the tone of the piece, so things like that definitely come under consideration and are modified depending on the subject.

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All works were created by Aoife Dillon

What got you interested in your artistic practice?

For me, there was no light bulb moment where I was like ‘I’m gonna get into art!’ I’ve just always been into it, I really can’t remember a time where I wasn’t drawing. I think as I got older it became more and more clear to me that it was my passion and the only thing I wanted to pursue. I painted my first proper portrait when I was 17 and it took me hours and hours because I didn’t have a clue where to start, but I loved it and I kicked myself for not picking up a paintbrush sooner.

What does painting as a medium seem to offer you over illustration/drawing?

With painting, I can get the detail elements of realism that I love and it gives me a bigger canvas to experiment with in terms of composition and colour and things like that. Also because for me painting is such a long process sometimes I’ll change my mind 5 hours in and take the piece in a completely new direction. I love being able to go with it and have that time in a painting where nothing is set in stone and you can play around with it.

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All works were created by Aoife Dillon

Who are you inspired by?

So many people inspire me! Artists like Jen Mann, Adam Lupton, Martine Johanna and Dean Christensen for their contemporary portraits but I love really honest confessional art like the work of Tracy Emin, or Warhol and the boldness of pop art.

Last year I went to New York for a month to stay in an art collective in Bushwick, Brooklyn and the street art there was unreal. I was so inspired by the Brooklyn art scene and Brooklyn in general- the atmosphere, the musicians, the artists, the rooftops. And film photography massively inspires my work, my dad was really into film photography when I was growing up and I loved how candid and authentic the pictures were and the whole excitement of film; back then you couldn’t stop and edit or redo a picture and I think that’s probably where my fascination with just capturing a moment comes from. I love Daragh Soden’s ‘Young Dubliners’ series and I follow so many amazing photographers on Instagram. Really I’d say anything that makes me feel something, whether that’s a book, an album, a person or an experience, offers me something in terms of inspiration. A lot of the time it seeps into my art, even if I don’t consciously realize it until I look back months later.

What are your future aspirations?

I guess short term it’s moving to Dublin and getting a degree. I don’t have a strict life plan; I’m definitely a go with your gut kind of person so for me I just want to keep working hard and taking opportunities as they come. I don’t mind how I get there, as long as I end up in my own art studio, creating for a living.

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All works were created by Aoife Dillon

What do you hope to achieve whilst studying your degree? What goals do you want to accomplish in the next three years as an art student?

I want to fully develop my style and learn everything I can, try techniques I never knew existed. I do want to keep selling my art, working on creative projects, and exhibit outside of uni so that by the end of it I’ve set a good foundation for being an artist full time, however long that’s gonna take.

What advice would you recommend to young creatives today?

Believing in your art is so important! I think some people don’t really get it when you have a creative career goal which can be so discouraging, so I’d say ignore them and do it anyway. We overcomplicate things a lot but it’s not as complex as it has to be – if you love something, do it. Your mindset is everything and if you have faith in your work you’re opening yourself up to SO many opportunities you wouldn’t even have considered, trust the process! And always have a good playlist, obvs.

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All works were created by Aoife Dillon

What are 5 ESSENTIAL songs albums that every young creative needs to add to their playlist?

Ahh, that’s so hard to choose haha. I’m gonna go with Common people- Pulp, Heroin- The Velvet Underground, Slaves album Are You Satisfied and I love sticking something really chill on when I paint so Intro- The XX and Alt J’s album An Awesome Wave.

YOU CAN KEEP UP WITH AOIFE’S WORK VIA HER WEBSITE OR VIA INSTAGRAM!

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