First Fortnight has set about challenging mental health awareness through the creative arts for the past 5 years now, we caught up with Friz to talk about her 2nd street piece for the festival, and to find out what it’s like to tie in with such an important subject.
For this piece you braved the rain and the cold weather, how was painting so late in December?
You can get a nice sunny day, even in December and you can wrap up for the cold to a certain extent. The first morning at this wall, however, there was sleet and it rained on and off pretty consistently both days. Because it was fairly cold it meant that the wall didn’t dry much in between either. My fiancé Gerry was assisting me on the project and we resorted to toweling down a couple of square feet at a time, with Gerry on the level above me holding a towel flush against the wall while I painted to stop the wet sections above from dripping down. Bill Vaughn from Mental Health Ireland was a great man for supplying towels and making our life as easy as possible to just get the mural finished.
In Letterkenny the piece is at Create-A-Link, you collaborated with the group around the idea. Tell us more about this and the concept behind your FF15 piece?
The mural is actually painted on the main street above Ruth’s chemist who generously donated the wall space after Bill had inquired about using it. The evening before painting we headed to Letterkenny to meet up with Peadar McDaid, who facilitates Create-A-Link, and checked out their workspace. It’s a great facility and Peadar talked me through previous projects they had done, the general day to day of the space and the people who come through there. My understanding is that it’s not a course involving art therapy, but an art course that by it’s very nature is therapeutic. Peadar had already had a discussion with the artists in the group about possible themes for the mural. They came up with: ‘Masks’, ‘Peeling back the layers’, ‘Not being heard’, ‘Don’t hide away’, ‘Love yourself’, ‘Want to be a better person’ and ‘Be happy’. Based on this I came prepared with a sketch when I met with the group the following morning and I was delighted that they were all really happy with the concept. In my piece there is a girl wearing a smiling mask, the string holding it on is falling loose and it’s about to come off. Surrounding her is a canine figure, a nod to the personification of depression as the ‘black dog’, and in it are the phrases: ‘I’m Fine’.’I’m Inside’, ‘Talk to Me’, ‘I Want To Be Better’.
This is your second FF piece, did it differ much from last time your approach?
Yeah, great to be asked to be involved again. This wall was a much bigger undertaking, it involved scaffolding, Gerry was assisting me and it was larger in general. I also collaborated with the Create-A-Link group for the content of the mural, where as last time I created an image myself, inspired from a girl I had met during the previous year. Location-wise, the first wall was slap bang in the middle of Temple Bar, lots of foot fall and it’s a space where there is a lot of existing street art and graffiti pieces. Letterkenny is pretty virginal in comparison for mural artwork.
How did you find tying in with such an important subject?
It was great to work with the group and get a thumbs up from them regarding the content of the mural. Mental well being is important and affects everyone, but at the same time there are things I have not personally experienced that I wanted to convey truthfully and respectfully. Interpreting that correctly was my main goal. The morning of the meet up with the group, if they had any changes to suggest I had left the design flexible enough to accommodate input at that stage.
What’s your thoughts on connecting your street art and socially important issues?
It’s new for me. I know some artists who’s work would most often convey a very strong political or social message. My own work is usually more ambiguous.
You love those colours together?
Love them. Hot and cold clash so nicely together, and there are lovely aqua/teal shades in the 94 range. I keep coming back to them. In this mural as well the colour took on a more emotional meaning too, hot colours being viewed as ‘happy’ and cold colours being viewed as ‘sad’.
It’s a New Year, any resolutions?
Any interesting walls coming up?
I’m in the process of completing a wall in East Belfast that I started before Christmas. It’s a continuation of an existing Hicks piece that he did a couple of years ago. Interesting to work around another artist’s work, being respectful to what already exists while still putting your own stamp on the new work.
Here is a link to the official First Fortnight 2015 documentary. Big up to DMC, Aidan and Wissame for trekking the whole way to Letterkenny to film the wall.
First Fortnight website: http://firstfortnight.ie/