I am a multi-disciplinary visual artist and musician. I work with fabric when making flags, textile sculptures, and costumes, but I also make drawings, collages, paintings, zines, and short stories. Both of my grannies knit Aran jumpers for a living, working for factories in Donegal, and my dad spent some time working in the textile factory in Kilcar, before emigrating to America, so I suppose textiles are in my blood.
I was born in The Bronx, New York, in 1990. We moved to Ireland in 1997, first to Donegal where my parents are from, and then to Meath. I moved to Dublin for college and have been here since. I graduated from NCAD in 2013. My undergrad was in Fashion Design, where I acquired technical skills like sewing, pattern-cutting and illustration. During my time in the Fashion Department, I went to London to do an internship with Gareth Pugh, which confirmed my intuition that the fashion industry was not for me. Instead, I wanted to make sculptures out of fabric, rather than rapidly making garments to reflect seasonal trends.
I avoided computers and technology as much as I could, during my time in NCAD, preferring to work with my hands. A few years later, I enrolled in a Springboard MA course in Creative Digital Media in TU Dublin. There were modules in critical theory, interactive technologies, and graphic design, which I got a lot from. I did the course to get away from working in the service industry, as my main income was from waitressing (and teaching music). I still much prefer working with my hands in an analogue way as opposed to looking at a screen, and this is reflected in my art and music practices. I play the fiddle, bouzouki, dabble with analogue synthesizers, and I collect tape cassettes and vinyl records.
Over the past ten years, I have moved around different studios in Dublin, including Talbot Studios, Monster Truck, Hendrons Studios, A4 Sounds, and also sheds in gardens in rented homes, and spare rooms in friend’s houses. The studios I most enjoy are ones where like-minded people are milling around, talking about the various projects they are working on, as opposed to the solitary studio, where you are on your own.
Since 2019, I have been building a fictional world called Grand Land and making civic paraphernalia for it. I made a series of flags to represent the inhabitants of Grand Land, some of which were shown in VISUAL Carlow last summer. When making them, I was thinking about ideas of emigration and movement from one place to another. The larger tapestries depict a sequence of revolutionary events in Grand Land’s history. I was looking at the Asafo flags from Ghana, John Hargrave and The Kindred of the Kibbo Kift’s clothing logos and flags, and also artists who have made flags, in particular The American Flag (c. 1974), The Black German Flag (1974) and The World Flag (1991) by James Lee Byars, and The Gates (2005) by Christo and Jeanne-Claude. I was also interested in the professional and industrial clothing designs of Varvara Fyodorovna Stepanova. Closer to home, I was greatly inspired by The Artists’ Campaign to Repeal the Eighth Amendment and the flags and banners they made for protests and demonstrations. For me, the only function of art is to ignite social change; anything outside that is decoration.
I have taken a short break from Grand Land. My dad passed away during the summer and I am still catching up with myself after that. I still have a few projects on the go, some music gigs here and there, a series of cat illustrations as revolutionary leaders, and I made a nice big Palestinian flag and hope to make some more. I’m moving into a new studio in December and plan on getting back to Grand Land then.
Sinéad Kennedy is a visual artist, designer, and musician based in Dublin.