Why the creator of stunning Cork hurling mural had to quit the game he loved 

Dublin-based painter and graffiti artist ACHES tells Colm O’Connor about his GAA background and how he produced a towering mural of a hurler on a Cork City building.
Why the creator of stunning Cork hurling mural had to quit the game he loved 

Work on a gable wall mural of a hurler in action, at South Terrace/ Anglesea Street, Cork. The work by Dublin artist 'ACHES' is part of the new art initiative Ardú. The massive mural is expected to be completed early next week. Picture: Larry Cummins

Q: Given this is your first time in the Irish Examiner sports section perhaps it might be good to tell us about yourself?

A. I'm an artist from Dublin that goes by the name Aches. I started painting walls in 2007 and since 2015 I have been painting large-scale work in Ireland and abroad. I also work in the studio focusing on smaller pieces on canvas and have shown work in multiple galleries across Europe and in the USA. My work focuses around the digital age and its influence on us as a society. I use red, green and blue as my primary colour palette, also known as RGB, which are the three primary colours of the additive colour theory, which are the three colours that make up LED screens. As humans we see colours in red, green and blue values. When all three colours are added together they create white and when the values of each colour is tweaked, it produces every colour that is visible to the human eye.

Q: We have to ask if you have any Cork or GAA connections!?

A. I played Gaelic football and hurling for years, and although I gave up football when I was 16, I continued playing hurling up until three years ago. After a few injuries with my painting hand I had to make the decision to give up playing the sport to keep my hands safe. Over the lockdown, I have been going down to my local park for a puck around more regularly than I had since I stopped playing, and it's given me an urge to get back to it, so I'll see what happens there.

Q: So how did this hurling mural come about?

A. I've had the idea to paint a mural of someone playing hurling for quite a while. I've always thought about the movement of a player and how it would lend to my style of painting. Layering three seperate images of the same puc was great to help create a sense of movement in the piece. When the organisers at Ardú (a street art festival in Cork which celebrated the city’s traditions, history, resolution, and art) asked me to paint in Cork I knew I would paint a hurler, because of the county’s rich history in the sport. I also thought it was a great image to remind people of our strong cultural routes in the game and give a sense of pride and resilience during the current lockdown.

 The hurling mural by graffiti artist ACHES on the terrace wall of a house on the corner of Anglesea Street and the South Terrace, Cork. The work is part of the Ardú festival supported by the Cork City Council Arts. Picture Dan Linehan
The hurling mural by graffiti artist ACHES on the terrace wall of a house on the corner of Anglesea Street and the South Terrace, Cork. The work is part of the Ardú festival supported by the Cork City Council Arts. Picture Dan Linehan

I knew from the start I wanted to make this piece about the sport, rather than a specific player, so I asked a friend to help me out. He kindly obliged and we went to the park, where I took over 700 photos of him messing around with a sliotar.

Q: How difficult is a project like this and what sort of research do you have to do?

A. Projects like this can often vary. I was lucky to be invited by the crowd at Ardú who were amazing to work with, they had everything sorted out and regardless of the weather delays or impending lockdown mid mural, they still managed to keep everything running smoothly. On my side, the main things I need to be on top of is prep, this includes gathering source imagery, which I take myself. After creating the design I then need to put together a paint order, which can often be difficult when painting murals at this scale, especially when the image you're painting is full of shading, and no areas of one specific block colour. Working without a team like Ardú makes things a lot tougher, as one of the hardest parts is finding a wall and liaising with the landlord and the council regarding the wall and the numerous safety measurements that have to be put into place. Whether that's lift hire or cordoning off pathways, this can often be a longer process than the design or painting itself.

Q: Can you talk us through the process from start to finish on this one?

A. The process for me is all about prep. I like to take my own source material, so this starts off with a photoshoot, usually with a friend of mine. I then edit the shoot down to three images that work well together. From there I design the final piece and mock it up on the wall for placement. When the design is signed off I put a paint order together and send it off to the paint shop. With this wall I was lucky that Ardú had arranged for the wall to be prepped and primed black for me so I could skip this timely step.

I then mark the wall up with what's called a doodle grid, this step can often be very confusing for the public. A doodle grid is very literal, I doodle shapes on the wall and use them as reference points for sketching up the image. As I usually paint three seperate images on a wall I sketch each image in a different colour, red, green and blue. After the sketch is up I work on filling it in and then buff out any remaining doodle from the grid, and that's it. I would get down from the lift every now and then to look at the progress, depending on what part I was painting. The time between getting down to look varied quite a bit, but usually it wouldn't be more than once an hour.

Q: People love to know the facts and figures of a job like this. Can you hit us with some numbers?

A: The dimensions of the wall were approximately 14.5 metres wide by 19 metres high.

I used roughly 205 cans of spray paint. The piece took 10 days to paint and I had to take two days off during this as the winds were too high to be on the lift as any winds over 45km/h are deemed unsafe to work in an elevated boom lift.

Q: What has the feedback been like?

A. The feedback has been great so far. As I was painting the mural I had numerous chats with passers by who were super friendly, often offering to buy me a coffee or some lunch and even in one instance a bottle of whiskey. I was also looked after well by the local businesses, Twenty Sandwich Bar and Cupcake Cottage who kept me fed and watered for the duration of my stay. After finishing the mural the feedback online has been great too, with multiple online resources sharing the image, which is great. It has also been photographed by a lot of people so far who have uploaded their own images of the wall online. Hopefully when the 5k limit lifts even more people can enjoy the piece.

Q: Have you done other sporting work or anything else planned?

A. No I haven't painted any other sporting figures, and I don't like to plan too far ahead.

Q: What is next on the agenda for you?

A: Things start to wind down this time of the year on the mural scene, especially in Ireland, due to weather and dwindling daylight. This will give me a lot more free time to focus on studio work and hopefully I can get a few paintings done on canvas over the next 3-4 months. Next year I have a few murals lined up internationally so hopefully things are better by then regarding the pandemic. I missed travelling this year so it would be great to get back to it next year.

For more details go to: www.aches.ie You can follow on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter: @achesdub

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