Tara Kearns is from Sheriff Street in Dublin’s North Inner City and her path as an emerging artist is often shaped by her experiences as an activist and storyteller within her community. In a country where visual art is culturally disregarded and economically underfunded, working independently and creatively is often deemed too precarious a career path for someone who is not a from a privileged background. For many people, making art can seem like an unsustainable luxury. Naturally enough, families of emerging artists become anxious for the financial hardship that their children will inevitably face. Much maligned but rarely addressed exclusionary artworld etiquette also plays a part, adding new layers and hidden rules to the already challenging endeavour of making a living from art.
Tara has addressed these challenges both pragmatically and conceptually since she began her art college education at IADT, Dún Laoghaire, graduating in 2019. In the mix of meeting people from all over and through sharing experiences and ideas, Tara observed that her own community was rich in stories and sentiment seldom expressed with the esteem it deserved. Sheriff Street has had a bad name and is more synonymous with negative reports in the media than it is with the celebration of the triumph of individuals or the community as a whole. The neighbourhood has also been affected by gentrification and abrasive development after decades of neglect and demonisation.
Coming from a place of compassion, Tara works with her subjects to paint portraits that depict them in the way they would like to be represented to the world. Historically, portrait paintings have memorialised the rich and powerful and as a genre it is associated art historically, with the celebration of status. In this exhibition, Tara considers the genre anew, and instead presents a richness of character and the wealth of experience that exists in the people who she paints.
Tara on the Leaders' Project
'As a portrait artist I have been given the opportunity to paint many different types of people, I have always found the ones who are less conventional make the best paintings. It is easy to capture someone who authentic and unapologetic about who they are.
In the past portraiture was used as a means of dictating to contemporises what sort of society they lived and who was deemed to be important the important figures of that time. Traditionally it was generally those of great wealth and status that this right was reserved for which has left similar theme of face throughout art history galleries.
It is important the achievements of these leaders are documented and celebrated as it shows will pave the way for future generations to do the same. Unfortunately, it was during the height of the pandemic when I began this project, which made me anxious I couldn’t meet people in person due the 5km limit at the time. I was worried this would affect the outcome of the work overall. Instead Zoom calls were arranged and many took time out of their busy schedules to meet me for a chat which allowed me to get a sense of their personalities. Although each person had their own unique story to tell a common theme amongst them was pride and resilience and optimism. Despite any stigma or setbacks these people encountered they went on to achieve more than most which was very inspiring to hear.
It was humbling to paint people who had achieved so much more than myself and a privilege to document these remarkable stories and achievements through paint.'