Thursday, May 03, 2007

Frank Kiely - an Irish artist in London

The Luas Picture 2006
53.5 x 78cm £250 unframed
copyright Frank Kiely

Frank Kiely is an Irish born Artist. He graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2002 and in 2006 became an Associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Print-makers. His work takes everyday streetlife as its subject. His prints tend to use graphic linework in black on white and he then picks out part of the subject matter in colour to to accentuate specific aspects of the scene or to tell a story.

After graduating from the Royal College of Art in 2002 Frank exhibited widely in Britain, Europe and USA. As a result his work is now in various private and corporate collections including BP International, Boyle Civic Collection, Clifford Chance, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, Guardian/PMPA Insurance, the Royal College of Art and the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers.

You can see Frank's screenprints at the Annual Exhibition of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers at the Bankside Gallery. Frank won the Print Quarterly Prize at this year's exhibition for Ox (see below).

Screenprint, 69 x 57.5 cm, £900 (only 2 left)

copyright Frank Kiely

Frank Kiely lives and works in London and I met Frank when visiting the Bankside Gallery and was greatly intrigued by his prints. This is an interview I did with him.

How did you get started with fine art printing and why?
Prior to Art College I did a portfolio preparation course which included a range of art subjects including printing. We did linocut, woodcut and screenprinting. I remember hating screenprint back then; it was time consuming and the fumes made me feel very sick.

In my second year at the Galway Mayo Institute of Technology I began to to use printmaking as my preferred medium after being required to do some for an assessment. I then applied printmaking to collages & paintings I'd been struggling with in the studio. My collage works still appeared like collages but were now set together on one flat plane. I started to spend my evenings and weekends printing in the print room amazed at what effects I could get. This was the beginning of my love affair with printmaking.
Flower Girl at Covent Garden
Screenprint, edition of 5, 53.5cm x 70cm, £900

copyright Frank Kiely

Why do you print in preference to any other form of visual artwork; what sort of prints do you produce and why do you prefer this method?
When I used to paint I wanted to achieve seamless areas of flat colour. Screenprint is now my favorite image-making technique.

Screenprint is a technique where you build up areas of flat colour in layers to create your image. In the early stages of making an image I first make rough sketches, then I take some photographs. I collage all this together and draw it all up into stencils ready for printing. I love how it all comes together as I print colour after colour until I have a clean crisp finished screenprint.
What are the main influences on your work?
My daily experience of life is a big influence on my work. Everything from art, music and books to conversations etc. I'm a huge fan of many pop artists (Hockney, Paolozzi, Caulfield and others) and I also like impressionism, my favorite being Degas. I love collage based work from Dadaists to recent practitioners like Wangechi Mutu. Currently I have gained a renewed interest in the lithographs of Toulouse Lautrec. I've also recently discovered the work of Erland Hudson. I find her drawings so enjoyable with their range of mark making and in terms of composition.
What do you most enjoy about producing a print?
Everything - so much happens during printing.

Lots of my decisions happen at the printing stage. Since beginning to print, I've built up a wealth of tricks to help me achieve what I want under most circumstances. I usually like to print using large screens and large beds. The machines I use are quite impressive and demand some physical strength.

My favorite part of printing is probably mixing up the colours. I have great fun relating my colours to whimsical references other than the usual, cobalt, burnt umber, cyan, colour names. Sometimes my colours are references to childhood sweets, like bonbon yellow, choc a mint green and raspberry yoghurt. I think I must have a bit of that disorder (synaesthesia) where colour stimulates a sense of taste in your brain.
Which was the theme you enjoyed doing most so far?
I'm one of those people who really enjoys what I'm working on at the moment best. I guess it's connected to my 'don’t look back' philosophy. However, I greatly enjoyed all the work I made in the past at the time I did it, from my work on school to my current city work. I think at the moment I get particular enjoyment from my Gulliver's Travels work. I think Swift was a genius as the worlds he invented are an enjoyable commentary on the human condition.
What were the pros and cons of going to the Royal College of Art?
The RCA had its ups and downs and I do believe in the soundbite “The RCA experience” - you've got to do it to know what it’s really like. I met many interesting people there who've subsequently become close friends and mentors to me. I made a great connection to John Hewitt, one of my lecturers, and his ideas and imagery. We had many talks on 'what is art?' in the context of the 9/11 attacks. Eileen Cooper, another lecturer, always gave sound advice about future careers and, since leaving the RCA, I've found her advice extremely helpful. Alan Smith, one of the senior technicians in the printmaking department, gave me help and guidance in etching which will be with me forever. He taught me how to love and respect this technique of the masters.
What happens next? What are your aims? How do you see your work progressing?
Last year I was elected an Associate of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers and the 2007 Annual Exhibition will be my second RE exhibition.

In February 2008 Andrew Turnbull and I have a show at the Mark Jason Gallery. We both graduated from the RCA in 2002 and since then we've both been selected for many of the same exhibitions and some of our work is represented in the same collections. One of our big fans is Diarmuid Gavan, who will open the exhibition for us.

Current plans also include finding a gallery in Ireland that would like to host this show. I'm very keen to show all my Gulliver’s travels images together - and I also plan to produce more of these.

I will continue to broaden my audiences by exhibiting worldwide wherever I get the opportunity. I married recently and my wife graduates this year so we plan to do some traveling which might involve taking up a residency in a different city. I'm very attracted by the British school in Rome and hope to be selected to do a project there. I'm also interested in exhibiting in Japan. I'd love to show my work in Japan at the same time as soaking up everything Japanese. I'm very curious as to how this would affect my imagery.
Sounds to me as I may have just found a fifth artist who wants to know more about Japanese prints! ;)



  1. Hi Katherine,
    thanks a lot for this interesting post. Will you have the chance for more interviews in future ?
    all the best

  2. Hi Katherine
    I forgot to say that your side menu doesn`t show up properly in IE 7.0,with Firefox it´s o.k. With IE it´s dropped to the very bottom below the last post on the page.

  3. What an interesting interview, and I enjoyed looking at his work too. I hadn't come across him before. Thanks!

  4. Thanks Martin. Yes, I do interviews perdiocally. They tend to be with people I've met face to face or people I've grown to know over time - sometimes through visiting their blogs. I've got a bit of a backlog at the moment of people lined up for interviews so I'm not making any commitments to do any more right now.

    Thanks for the comment about IE - I don't use it unless I really, really (really!!!!) have to and hadn't realised there was a problem. I can't see why the template is doing what it'd doing and I'm trying to work it out at present.

  5. Great interview, thanks Katherine. So often you blog about something I have just started exploring myself. Printmaking is my latest craze - it could be nipped in the bud though, for lack of access to equipment.


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