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Derval Freeman



I graduated from Limerick School of Art and Design back in 1996 and throughout the years I have been based in several different locations including Co. Clare near my home and Limerick city. I am currently based in Co. Wicklow where I paint full time. 

After my first solo exhibition in Limerick 2007 titled ‘Urban Trail’, which explored my city surroundings where I lived for a number of years, I moved back near my home in east Co. Clare to a more familiar rural setting. Soon after the move I took up a short residency in Cill Rialaig artist retreat which overlooked Ballinskelligs on the far coast of Co. Kerry. It was around a time in my personal life where a lot of significant changes had been taking place. Experiencing the wonderfully isolated surroundings of the retreat prompted a growing passion inside for the Irish landscape. 


My passion for nature and exploring forests and the open landscape has significantly grown in the past number of years. Being a mother from a young age, I prioritized my time to my son since graduating from college. He is now all grown up and I feel very lucky to have such a wonderful son who is very talented and creative. Today I am able to devote the majority of my time into my painting and you could say I have only just begun. I am full of energy and excited for the future ahead in my art and whatever it may bring. I had my first Wicklow solo exhibition titled ‘Solace’ last year at Signal Arts Centre in Bray 2017 and I continue to explore and investigate new possibilities in my work. 

Making art is an integral part of who I am, it allows me to achieve a sense of belonging in the world. Painting is a way for me to investigate and resolve my place in areas of the time and space of which I occupy.  I see my paintings as a collection of pages from the visual diary of my thoughts, feelings and inspirations. I paint textured abstract landscapes, drawing inspiration from my surrounding environment of forestry’s, mountains and nature in general. 


I am sometimes drawn to areas within the landscape that give a sense of fragility, which can often reflect and recall the fragility within humanity itself. In nature I look at the contrast between living and fallen trees, the distant thinning tree-line silhouettes and the gaps between where only tree-stumps sometimes remain. Being out in the landscape often evokes a wonder that drifts between the relevance of humanity and the purpose of existence, something I often become preoccupied by. I often isolate myself in nature as it can open a ‘series of dialogue’ between nature and I, which can recall a sense of bond between humanity and nature itself. When I am in my studio this ‘dialogue’ can emerge when I paint as I tie them with my inspirations into my painting, where the narrative emerges. 


I have adapted cold wax technique into my recent paintings to achieve a thick heavy impasto effect on the surface by multiplying layers of oil paint mixed with cold wax in various consistencies. I also paint in thin layers of glaze or matt washes to achieve transparencies of colour, creating a sense of depth and space in the work. There are lots of layers worked up on the surface, scraping some off and rework them again until I have reached a place of recognition. 

Often when I am out exploring I photograph subjects that would take my interest and I look at colour, texture and composition. I love how the light and colour changes in different weather conditions. When it rains for example, the moisture enhances the vibrancy of colour and there is a wonderful scent in the air from the pine trees and the soft forest bed of fallen pine needles over time. On occasion I pick up pieces of pine needles, dead dried out leaves and small bits of twigs where I incorporate them into my paintings back in the studio. This makes them become like collected and archived souvenirs, living once again and forever in my art. 

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