Bono’s artist niece, Leah Hewson, is a solo sellout success

Leah Hewson: 'My uncle told me that hard work now pays off later.' Pictures: Claire Nash

Talent seems to run in the family as Bono’s niece has a near sellout on the opening night of her solo art exhibition.

Artist Leah Hewson won a six-month residency in the prestigious Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) gallery in Dublin that culminated in a two-week solo exhibition, which opened last Wednesday night.

“My uncle told me that hard work now pays off later,” Leah told the Irish Examiner.

From dropping out of university to interning for Turner Prize-nominated Irish artist Sean Scully and sleeping on a mattress in New York for several months, the 30-year-old’s path to success has not been an overnight journey.

“I’ve two older sisters who I admire so I went to UCD because I wanted to follow in their footsteps,” said Leah, before explaining her decision to drop out of university at age 19.

“I was just following this farcical path where my priority was to fit in. I felt like I couldn’t compete and that I was inadequate.

“I ended up failing my exams. I was waiting for the angry lecture from my parents but they were more concerned and supportive.”

One of the 17 artworks on display for Leah Hewson’s solo show at the RHA this week.

Her dad Norman (cofounder of food tech firm Bizimply) suggested she do a portfolio course.

“It went from being the worst year of my life to the best year of my life,” Leah said of getting a place in art college.

She ended up graduating with a first-class honours degree in fine art from Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design, and Technology in 2010.

Leah waitressed for a number of years while also working as an artist and holding exhibitions.

“It’s tricky to find a balance and I realised I didn’t want to be doing this (waitressing) forever, it was a good job but it wasn’t for me,” she said.

Leah began working in the set-decorating department of the Irish co-produced TV series Vikings. She worked solidly with the series for two years before deciding to save her earnings and move to New York in 2015 to intern with Sean Scully for three months.

“The biggest thing for me was the realisation that it’s not going to happen overnight,” said Leah.

“Sean is 71 now and it’s taken a whole lifetime so to see that journey, I realised I’m OK with that.”

She returned home to Ireland and went back to work on Vikings while also applying for the RHA residency in 2016.

Her opening night showed 17 of her contemporary paintings — nearly all of which sold within the first hour.


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