Noel Hensey

Noel Hensey


“I’m interested in the perceptive dynamics of encountering found objects and situations whereby the viewer’s habitual semantic/judgmental processes are slowed or stopped.”

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Tell us about your background, where did you grow up and where did you study art?

I grew up in Co. Kildare, in the east of Ireland. I received a formal art education at primary and secondary school level. Upon leaving secondary school I undertook a B.Sc Technology and Design course at the University of Ulster. After a number of years working, unfulfilled, in technological and design orientated positions I started applying for Fine Art MA courses in the U.K..

Like the scene in the film ‘Shawshank Redemption’ where the central character spends ‘only’ seven years writing letters to the state senate before receiving funds for the prison library, getting accepted in Chelsea College of Arts only took four years. Studying at Chelsea was an incredible experience, it has first class facilitates, staff and most importantly students. Whilst at Chelsea, I undertook both a Post Graduate Diploma and Masters in Fine Art.

What is your artwork about? Tell us about your subject matter.

My art practice is concerned with ’openness’, more precisely; it is a concern with mental openness over physical openness. The main motivation for the practice is to liberate any obscuration’s (cognitive or emotional) to this openness. The main theme within the work is the perceptive dynamics of encountering found objects and situations whereby the viewer’s habitual semantic/judgmental processes are slowed or stopped.

My practice is multi-disciplinary and includes; photography, installation, sculpture, sound and video. The practice is inspired by Buddhist practices and philosophies, and by concept and pop art and minimalism.

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How has your practice change over time?

The first work I made were expressionistic hand-drawings and assemblages of my experiences of cannabis psychosis, depression and suicidal thoughts. I found that making art about these experiences allowed me to stay in the moment, process and ultimately extricate them. As my practice developed I used this understanding to explore what else I could transform. A writer friend of mine describes art as ‘a shell of an act of change’. I started using mundane/everyday objects and situations in my work because if art is act of change what greater change is there that the mundane/everyday becoming art.

I also started to employ this logic into my artistic process as well, such as, using appropriation and combining and interchanging mediums. Apart from the theoretical and process changes in my practice the work has become more expansive, that is making large scale sculpture and installations, thanks to technological, spatial and financial opportunities.

Can you tell us about your approach to a new project? How do you find a starting point?

New projects usually start out with a moment of pure perception, as stated above, where my habitual semantic/judgmental processes are slowed or stopped.

These moments are then formulated through drawing, photography and the collection of found imagery and objects. This initial material is stored in both digital and physical archives. It is from these archives that material is filtered into more finished work using a number of methods that try to best reflect the theoretical framework of the practice.

These methods include: assemblage; appropriation (specifically re-interpretation and re-contextualisation); using a combination of optical hardware and software along with traditional mediums, interchanging mediums and site-specific work.

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Name some artists you're inspired by, and why?

My main inspiration is Marcel Duchamp. For me he is the most original of artists, starting out his career exploring a number of painterly art movements before abandoning them for his own creation of ‘readymade’ art. He selected work on the basis of ‘visual indifference’ as he states ‘it was always the idea that came first, not the visual example’ and that ‘readymades were a form of denying the possibility of defining art.’

Another thing I find inspirational about Duchamp is that he didn’t stand still with his art thinking and continually developed new forms and terminology. One such term is ‘infrathin’, that is ‘a movement between two physical states, a transition expressing both difference and connection, a void empty and full’. 

A contemporary proponent of the ‘infrathin’ that inspires me is the multi-disciplinary Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco. Orozco absorbs Duchamp's precedent of artistic production but extends it further by focusing on the space that surrounds the work. What is clear in Orozco’s work is that the aesthetic act takes place in an encounter, not in an object.

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you or effected your work?

Whilst out walking along a river one day, I had a realization that when my mind was whole, it was full of nothingness. Later in the walk, I spray-painted the statement ‘Everything is nothing, nothing is everything’ on a broken weir.

Returning to document the statement the following day, I found a number of round hay-bails had been pushed into the river near the statement. (Please see image above) This found scene was the first time I had encountered the middle ground between what I consider art and life.

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Tell us about your studio and your routine?

I don’t have a studio. I work, using a laptop and notebook, in a café associated with a local arts centre. Although my day is split between artistic production and administration, that is, searching and applying for opportunities, promoting work on Social Media etc. I try to prioritize the production aspect.

If I’m not in café working, I like to operate an open studio, this takes the form of carrying a bag containing a camera and notebook with me at all times. The majority of my ideas come when I’m relaxed, I find that taking a long walk, reading or practicing meditation conducive to this state, basically anything that helps in gathering one’s mind.

When I can at night I attend exhibition openings in Dublin with artist friends, if not I spend time looking at art on the Internet.

Do you have any news, projects or shows coming up?

I am currently showing work as part of ‘Cairde Visual’ at ‘The Model’ in Co. Sligo, Ireland. ‘Cairde Visual’ is a annual open submission exhibition featuring work from both Irish and international artists across a broad range of media.

I also have been asked by the curator duo Moor Prendergast to participate in an ‘Artists Car Boot Mart’. The event will take place in ‘Russborough House’, Co Wicklow, Ireland and will feature the very best of Ireland’s contemporary artists selling affordable artworks and collectibles directly to the public.

Recently, I have had work selected for 'Murze Magazine', Issue seven, entitled 'Assemblage'.

Sonya Derviz

Sonya Derviz