Best years of our lives: Crawford artists recall their childhood ahead of Summer exhibition

As children become the focus of the summer exhibition at the Crawford, some of the participating artists tell Ellie O'Byrne about their own childhoods.

Best years of our lives: Crawford artists recall their childhood ahead of Summer exhibition

As children become the focus of the summer exhibition at the Crawford, some of the participating artists tell Ellie O'Byrne about their own childhoods.

Alice Maher

“Between nine and 11 is a time of great power; you’re still very athletic and all-powerful, and your imagination is your whole life. Everything is done with great vehemence and energy, and it’s before the whole social thing starts to come down on top of you and control the way you behave.

"You’re free. I was born in 1956, so I came into my powerful childhood in the ‘60s. But the ‘60s in Tipperary wasn’t like the ‘60s in California. I had three brothers and a sister.

Alice Maher. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Alice Maher. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

"It was a rural childhood; I spent a lot of time outdoors unsupervised, wandering about in fields, old ruins and things. There was great freedom to imagine, and to engage with nature. But you worked too, maybe on the farm helping your father collecting cattle or picking turnips: there were jobs, even at that age.

“I drew all the time, on everything I could lay my hands on, including my schoolbooks. But I never thought of it as art. My brothers and sisters and parents would play games together at night, but I’d be in the corner drawing; it’s like I was always kind of an observer, and that’s what an artist is in a way, isn’t it?”

Will Sliney

“I grew up in Ballycotton with a younger brother and a younger sister. I’ve fond memories of my childhood. It was a nice small school and I had close friends right the way through. It was a mix of seaside living with watching all the cartoons from America.”

“I’m 36 now so my childhood was when all of those huge ‘80s and ‘90s cartoons took off; I remember Masters Of The Universe and He-man. Essentially, they were creating those cartoons as long-form ads to sell toys, so it was the era of all those action figures.”

Will Sliney. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Will Sliney. Picture: Denis Minihane.

“I’ve such a nostalgic tie to childhood that it’s become my career, so it’s really paid off for me in the long run. I remember playing with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys and telling myself I’d never stop playing with them, at an age where you were probably moving past that phase, but I never really left it behind.”

“When I was a kid, I really wanted Castle Grayskull and my dad couldn’t get it, so he built me a huge version of it out of wood. So when we built our house in Ballycotton, we called it Grayskull.”

Debbie Godsell

“I grew up in Glenbrook, about ten miles from Cork City along the harbour. I had two brothers, my elder brother Andrew and my little brother, Ed. My dad was in the Merchant Navy, so he was away for eight to ten months at a time, so I suppose we were really brought up by my mother.”

“We were a Church of Ireland family, so I didn’t go to school locally, which meant I didn’t have many friends locally, so I spent a lot of time on my own, but that wasn’t miserable, it was very happy.

Debbie Godsell
Debbie Godsell

"I had a massive inner landscape, an interior world. We had woods next to our house, and the typical ‘benign neglect’ childhood where you’d be gone all day and back for tea.”

“I always knew that art was what I wanted to do. I was drawing from when I can remember and lived very much in my own head. I believed in fairies and I was probably the last person in the whole school to stop believing in Santa. I really believed in magic: a lot of the work that I make now makes reference to other worlds.”

Vera Klute

“I grew up in Germany in the ‘80s, with one older sister; I only came to Ireland when I was 20. We lived in a village in the middle of Germany, in the Cologne area. We were outside a lot. I was eight when the wall came down, but I grew up in the West and I don’t think the magnitude of it hit me; we got a few kids from East Germany in school, I think that’s the only thing I really noticed.”

“I was quite a serious child. I always liked art, but didn’t consider myself very good at it. I had trouble staying inside the lines. I was a very serious and worried child, and quite responsible.

Vera Klute
Vera Klute

"I struggled with the fact that adults expect you to be irresponsible and I wasn’t; it was very frustrating. I was the opposite of a daydreamer and more grown up than I should have been.”

“The art I make now is fed from my own subconscious; there can be a lot of childhood memories naturally feeding into the subconscious because they’re the most formative experiences, so things that I struggled with as a child that I still struggle with as an adult feed into my work.”

Patrick Redmond

“I grew up in Gorey in Co Wexford, just me and my brother, two years younger, and my parents. I was born in 1976 so my childhood was the early ‘80s, really. My father painted a bit and I was around him a lot. He had a workshop and used to make things out of wood and I used to watch him, and I think that had a big impact on me becoming an artist. He could pretty much make or do anything.”

“The first drawing I remember doing was when I was about five. It was a drawing of a lobster from a book. I actually found the book I did it from recently, in the shed. For me, painting and drawing were an escape from everyday things.”

Patrick Redmond. Picture: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision.
Patrick Redmond. Picture: Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision.

“I have a book about Picasso at home that my father bought, and it’s the first thing I ever drew on; it’s just scribbles all over the inside of the book. Scribbling and tearing things must have been irritating for my parents, but I went on to make stuff recently from books and catalogues. Creation comes a lot from destruction and mistakes.”

Seen, Not Heard at the Crawford in Cork is accompanied by an upstairs playspace, Seen And Heard, with events suitable for all ages taking place until October

  • five things for kids to do at Crawford

    Explore the moon with Dowtcha PuppetsCardboard Cork Drop in and build a cardboard box town:Fantasmagoria animationCork Film Festival Family Films in Crawford Art GalleryWill Sliney Superheroes takeover

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