Artist Profile: Zoe McSparron

Zoe McSparron is an artist and recent graduate from the BA Fine Art course at Ulster University, Zoe is currently based in Derry/Londonderry and her practice primarily specialises in painting, consisting of both works on canvas and on paper. The parallel relationship between place and self becomes a key theme throughout her work. Zoe chatted to The Jumble Magazine about graduating in lock down, her local art scene, and finding inspiration in experience.

I would describe my art as vibrant, playful and ambiguous; I like to use painting as a mode to share my passions, excitements and feelings with others in a way that I think can be even more powerful than storytelling. 

“I am always looking for new and unique experiences; for different places to see and explore.”

Even during an experience, my mind is racing with countless possible ideas about how this could be evoked through my art. I get so excited by the idea of sharing these experiences with people.

I’m intrigued by how we can install ourselves in different places and how a place can affect our personal and emotional consciousness. Some places are familiar and comfortable to us, and others are new and foreign. Ironically, some places can be a combination of both. It is those contrasting and confusing feelings associated with an experience of comfort yet dis-belonging that I am focused on at the moment.

I hope to evoke the feelings related to each experience in consideration through my work, as I have always been very interested in the power of viewing a work of art.

I hope to create a particular experience for the viewer – may it be a similar experience to what I am visually reflecting upon, or one which is entirely personal to them. Somewhat connecting subjectively with the works, mentally and physically. I aim to do this through establishing a playful relationship between the ambiguous and idiosyncratic compositions, alongside a play of colour and paint density.

My work is more than often derived from a personal experience or the feelings associated with an experience. They become a sort of visual insight to my perception of a place. Through a deconstruction and abstraction of personal imagery and sketches, I am able to detach myself from the realistic structure of the image or place itself; exposing the forms, lines, shadows and shapes, allowing the function of the paint, colour, and new found composition, to reflect my emotional consciousness associated with the personal experience.

The lock down has significantly impacted my practice. I’m a 2020 graduate (that unfortunate bunch). Which meant we had to pack up and leave our lovely bright and airy Belfast School of art studios back in March. This was truly heartbreaking for all of us and significantly impacted my motivation to keep going and create. I tried to create in small amounts; little and often. That’s all I could manage for a while. My main focus was not to let the energy of final year dissolve; I wanted to maintain some sort of momentum, however minimal that may be. I am lucky enough to have a decent space to work in at home which I have been so grateful for.

Despite how hard this has been, I have had to look at the positives too; it has allowed me to simplify my outlook on the world and life, and really appreciate the small things. The lock down has inspired me to create, and consider aspects of my own home and how I am feeling throughout this.

Northern Ireland has a unique art scene which is filled with extremely driven and determined artists from all genres and disciplines. I feel it is quite hard to pursue a career as an artist in NI, but this makes artists here so much more hardworking and resilient. I think these traits become evident throughout the exhibitions and performances which take place all over NI. I find this particularly inspiring and motivating. The NI art scene is getting bigger, better and bolder every day. Belfast and Derry/Londonderry both have so much potential for further artistic growth and I am excited to see and be a part of what comes next.

You can find more of Zoe’s art on Instagram or at zoemcsparron.co.uk

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