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Irish artist Marie Varley searches the country for the very best in Irish design to bring to you here on HeadStuff. This week she spoke with Gráinne Nagle a.k.a. Nounua, a visual artist from Cork. She has recently returned home from Barcelona where she had been perfecting her art. Marie has been a huge fan of her colourful geometric prints for a long time and was delighted to have the chance to interview her for this week’s feature. Read on as they discuss printmaking, the creative differences between Barcelona and Cork and plans for the future.
Where did your love of geometry stem from?
I’m not quite sure where it stemmed from to be honest, but I would say my background in graphic design was a big influence. I’m naturally drawn to geometric shapes or patterns because of the sense of ‘order’ and structure they create. Their simplistic yet bold forms means that they can be used in both a minimal or repetitive manner.
You work with various methods of printing including screenprint and risograph. What is it about print that lends itself so well to your work?
Process is a big part of my work, so I feel the process itself of making a screen print somehow becomes part of the final piece itself. I like the fact that screen printing is so physical, and that each layer is printed individually. It also means I can create perfect geometrical shapes, of course.
Where does the name Nounua come from?
While I was living in Spain, I constantly had problems with my name Gráinne. Nobody could pronounce it, let alone remember it! So I just thought, maybe it would be easier to use something else. Since I was basically venturing into something new by leaving my full time job, I decided on putting ‘new’ in Catalan and ‘new’ in Irish together – hence Nounua! Although, I’ve had a few people ask me how to pronounce it in the last while, so I’m not sure it was the best alternative.
How did your creative life in Barcelona compare to life back in Cork? Are the design scenes comparable or completely different?
It’s very different. Unfortunately one of the main problems I have is that I don’t have easy access to materials or resources, so this can be frustrating. I’m not sure I’m the best judge when it comes to the design scene in Cork since I’m not based in the city, so I’m a little out of touch with what’s going on, but I get the feeling there’s a more vibrant scene happening in Dublin. I guess Cork and Barcelona are not really comparable though, just because of the sheer difference in size of the population.
I love that there is such a sense of curiousity and playfulness about your work. Is the creative process as enjoyable for you as it seems to be?
Yes! Definitely. Sometimes maybe too much! If I’m creating something, usually more often than not, something else will occur to me that I may not have thought of before, maybe a different way of doing something, or another idea for something completely different. This can be great of course, but it can also be a distraction – which is not good if I need to get something finished!
Who or what are your design inspirations?
That’s a tough question. I’m inspired by too many people to mention, so I think the best way to describe what inspires me are the things that I’m drawn to naturally, if that makes any sense. So basically for example any medium – be it art, design or fashion – that has clean lines, maybe some sort of structure, things that are bold or stand out. Colour is also important for me, but at the same time I’m a huge fan of anything monochromatic.
Do you have any exciting projects or collaborations on the horizon?
Last year I did a collaboration with Syndicut London, and the lounge pants are available now online with my print. I will hopefully have one or two collaborations coming up this year as well, but they’re not yet 100% finalised. I’ll be showing some new screen prints with ‘Look Up Prints‘ at the Hepworth Print fair in March, and I’d love to try and put a show together somewhere.
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