Artist Interviews

Q&A With Aisling Drennan

Aisling Drennan is known for her Abstract Expressionist style and vibrant palette. Aisling creates dynamic oil paintings that tread the balance between structure and chaos. With a process that is led by constant layering, each of Aisling’s paintings are textural constructions, formed of gestural brushwork and mark-making. The energetic and sporadic quality of Aisling’s abstract canvases, paired with her suggestive titles, make for pieces of art that often hint at an underlying narrative.

By Rise Art | 09 Nov 2020

Aisling Drennan creates dynamic Abstract Expressionist paintings that tread the balance between structure and chaos. Thick with layering, each of her paintings are textural constructions built up with gestural mark-making. The energetic quality of the artist's brushwork, paired with her suggestive titles, make for pieces of art that often hint at an underlying narrative.


How would you describe your creative process?
Painting demands a particular type of concentration and that is the most absorbing thing for me. A close second is the sheer physicality of paint as a medium; there is something very indulgent, sexy even about mixing large swathes of oil paint. My process is quite ritualistic really, I always begin with studies in my visual diary and see what emerges. These initial studies inform each body of work but the constant within my practice is the malleable qualities of paint and its mark making abilities. It's a very empirical process that sometimes drives me mad! I'm intrigued by the idea of letting the paint do the work and palette-wise all you need to pay attention to is light over dark – Sean Scully talks about this in his Wall of Light series. I have learned not to labour my decision making in the studio (or I would never get a painting finished!). Sometimes this goes catastrophically wrong but I believe failing gloriously is part of the process; it's how I learn to trust my decision making. There's a realisation that a lot of finer work is derived from failings.
In your work we see a lot of unique mark-making, each feels like a protagonist in the abstract world it resides. What is the significance of your marks and what led to this approach?
Thank you! I like my paint marks to be bold characters of their own making! Mark-making is continually intriguing to me. I spent a good chunk of my Masters degree at Central Saint Martins just making marks, learning how to better load my brush with paint and just being playful really. Playfulness plays a big part in my practice – to be playful is to be curious and being curious about paint and painting has consistently held my interest. My curiosity about mark-making led me to contradictory visual conversations and playing with opposites on canvas, such as construct versus deconstruct and hard lines versus soft lines. I like the paint boundaries these relationships build because I'm interested in solid structure against gestural marks.

Le Cirque by Aisling Drennan

How do you go about choosing your colour palette?
Colour wise I'm having an ongoing love affair with blue in all its tones, hues and variants and like to play with colour matching, for example, put french ultramarine against a cadmium red background and the violet tones in the ultramarine will pop right out! I'm comfortable with blue like it has a calmness for me whereas painting with green is a real challenge, or orange, yikes, I can't bare orange on my palette! I'm not sure if other artists feel inclined (or have an inclination) or distaste for certain colours but its something very true to how I select colours for my work. I think this fascination with blue has something to do with growing up in the west coast of Ireland very close to the Atlantic ocean with skies that can change from cerulean to prussian within a couple of hours – how dramatic and exciting!

Content Blue by Aisling Drennan

What are the key sources of your inspiration, do you have a process of getting inspired? 
I'm far too impatient to sit and wait for inspiration! I'm a 'do-er' meaning I get stuck in, I feel my way into a painting until something clicks and creative flow starts to unfold. If it fails, I'll still have learned something.
Do you have a life philosophy?
I wouldn't say I have a specific philosophy but I had a great tutor in my undergrad who passed on a set of rules to me that he had set his painting practice against for years: 
  1. Just keep painting 
  2. Be Selective 
  3. Stick to your Guns
  4. DIR (Do it Right!)

Seeking Common Sense by Aisling Drennan 

What’s next?
Currently my painting 'Leap, 2019' is on show at the Royal Ulster Academy's annual exhibit which is quite exciting! And last July I won an arts bursary award from the Women's Irish Network in conjunction with the UK Irish embassy in support of a solo exhibition for 2021. So right now I'm busy prepping and planning for that exhibition.



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