Eoin Barry: the 061

Presented by Limerick Printmakers, The 061 is an exhibition of new work by visual artist Eoin Barry. Barry is the recipient of the 2013 and 2014 Limerick Printmakers Bursary Award, an accolade which is given to individual graduates of LSAD’s ‘Printmaking and Contemporary Practice’ degree each year.  As a visual artist from Limerick, Barry’s work is concerned with social and societal issues.

Why did you decide to become a visual artist?

When I went to college in Limerick School of Art and Design that was the ‘official’ decision. I had a strong inclination towards art growing up and had great support from my peers, whose approval and encouragement played an integral role in me pursuing my passion. The more I studied I began to realise how versatile an artist can be and the how our role in society has changed drastically from the traditional concept of an artist. I found myself taking on roles such as a coordinator, facilitator, educator, public speaker, writer, photographer, designer, painter and printer – the list is endless. These roles keep what I do exciting and challenging. One day I’m bent down on Gerald Griffin Street painting an ESB box, and the next week I could be in a secondary school delivering a workshop around issues such as child labour. The versatility of the profession is something I really get a kick out of.

Can you explain the concept behind the 061 exhibition?

The 061 is an area code – one that you would dial as a prefix if you were to ring someone via mobile or telephone. Area codes were assigned to geographical locations based on a hierarchy system, assigning the codes according to areas of telecommunication importance. Limerick has a long history of place names – from historic such as The Treaty City or PigTown to the more recently designated title such as the City of Culture. In Irish we have various versions from Cathair Luimnigh to Luimneach. And now through various visual means Limerick has a new title, a numerical sequence called ‘The 061’. This method has been used widely by various figures in popular culture. Rap superstar Eminem refers to his area of Detroit in the film 8 mile as ‘The 313’. Recently a bunch of Gaeilgeoir’s came together on Twitter to verbalise the number and concluded with the rhyming scheme of ‘‘Is as a náid, a sé, a haon dom!’ The 061 is where I’m from.

What do you hope to achieve from this exhibition?

The exhibition is the achievement. This body of work was created over 2 years and attempts to reflect some of the work that I do on the street and with various communities across the city. I refer to what I do as a social practice and the majority of the projects I do focus on people. Unfortunately I can’t display people in the gallery (although that could be a pretty cool idea) and so I have created prints and objects that somehow relate to the ‘other’ work which can be difficult to translate into a gallery context. If you go in to see the show you will recognize many of the objects and images – they are all derived from the city and some are even taken directly from the streets and displayed in ways that they were never intended to.

What has been your most successful project?

I carried out a workshop in a school in West Limerick called ‘How much does this bag really cost?’ It was a multi-disciplinary workshop aimed at looking at issues surrounding labour and value. The students watched a documentary entitled ‘Behind the Swoosh’ which is a documentary investigating the conditions of Nike factories in Indonesia. Following this, the students were asked to discuss some of the issues raised by the film. I then showed the students how to stitch – very badly I might add. Earlier I had ripped the stitching out of bags and the students then were asked to stitch a canvas bag back together. After this the students assembled a silk-screen press and printed the bags in Irish and English with the text ‘How much does this bag really cost?’. Once the product was complete the students were asked to allocate a price to the bag based on the labour that they put into creating it. Once a price was decided the students had to sell the bags with the decision of keeping the profits for themselves or donating the profits to charity (they donated the profits to charity).

Is there any advice you would give to any visual artists starting out?

Get involved – if you’re in college use that time to volunteer and enter as many exhibitions as possible. This way you will begin to understand the structures that are in place and how to utilise them when you graduate. The most rewarding element of my practice is workshops. For some it might be exhibitions or writing so find what area you get the most satisfaction from and focus on that. Being part of an arts organisation is also a key element to the progression of any artist’s practice so get involved with an organisation where you are surrounded by like-minded people. I was lucky to be awarded a bursary from Limerick Printmakers, so I have access to facilities and people who have much more experience than me and every day you can avail of their advice and opinions with regards to something you might be working on. The Make A Move Festival is another example of an organisation that has allowed me to develop my practice. The urban art element of the festival has allowed me to deliver workshops to communities that I otherwise may not have been able to develop a link with. Limerick is full of organisations and festivals that you can affiliate with depending on your interests, so utilise those opportunities as much as you can. So yeah, just Get Involved!

Article by: Laura McNamara

Photograph by: Tarmo Tulit