Sean Lynch: in the studio
Sean Lynch represented Ireland at 2015’s Venice Biennale with his installation Adventure: Capital. The piece, which combined video, sculpture and graphic prints to trace a journey around Ireland and Britain, is typical of Lynch’s multimedia practice. Much of his work concerns forgotten histories and tends to be the result of years of research. Adventure: Capital is currently on tour in Ireland. Lynch’s new exhibition, The Weight of the World, at Phoenix Exeter and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, is informed by the museum’s artefacts, such as their recent acquisition of a hoard of Roman coins.
I get up at 7am. I’ll often have a thought or idea pop up as I’m trying to get to sleep, and the work I make often requires speaking to other people – you can’t always find answers just by googling things. So the first thing I do is plan who I need to call that day.
My studio is 20 paces from my front door. I live with my wife and baby daughter on the outskirts of Askeaton in Limerick, by the Shannon estuary. We live in what would have been the lighthouse keeper’s home and his office next door is now the studio. There’s room for storage, and a black and white darkroom. I share the studio with my wife, Michele Horrigan, who’s also an artist. We studied together in Frankfurt in the mid-2000s.
I imagine I’m tidy but I’m not sure Michele would agree. Seamus Heaney once said something about how you don’t want your studio to be too nice, because you’d never get anything done.
We have an open door policy. We run an artist residency in the town and artists come from all over the world. Often they’ll be using the studio, too. It’s a friendly place.
I used to listen to Punk tapes while I worked, and Fugazi and Mogwai, and a really good local band called The Poke. But but I got a bit sick of it. Now it’s a pretty quiet space.
Lunch gives me a chance to socialise with other local artists. It’s part of our rhythm. We talk about our work and help each other out. The other day, they were helping me shoot a video and we had to pop a bottle of champagne as part of it, so we were left with an open bottle at 11.30am. That disappeared over lunch.
I use my walls as workspace. When I’m working on pieces that involve slide projections, the walls are covered in photos to help me sequence them. But when I’m making sculptures – which usually happens on site – the walls are bare. The studio has to be flexible, so that it can used for anything.
People are always coming in and out of the studio. They’re not assistants, exactly: one friend helps with woodwork, another is a whiz on the computer and is great at video-editing. We have a communal way of working. I like to give over control: it’s not about being a genius, it’s about a meeting of minds and a meeting of different skills.
I often revisit old pieces. They might need to be reformatted for an exhibition, or I might have learned a new piece of information through exhibiting them. In 2010, I made a piece about the DeLorean motor car factory being shut down, and whenever it’s exhibited people tell me they knew someone that worked there. It would be boring if an artwork knew exactly what it was. It’s much more exciting for it to change over time, so that its personality develops in the way ours do.
I work on multiple pieces at once. Sometimes I’ll be researching something for years, but sometimes I’ll make works in just a day or two.
I feed my inspiration by discovering untold stories. I’m interested in the role of history – especially forgotten history – in our lives. One of my projects is about two brothers from Oxford who carved monkeys onto the city’s museums. I wanted to encourage people to look up and see how they changed the cityscape.
When I get artist’s block, I get on with the practical stuff. Making work is a long term process, so it’s not necessarily about producing art every day. If I can’t get my ideas going, I can work on publications for my exhibitions, or some of the organisational tasks.
I‘ve also found it to be true that you don’t always have to start with a good idea: the bad ones can turn out to be much more interesting – and I’m pretty good at those.
I write notes on my hand. I’ve started using my mobile to take pictures of things I want to remember, too, but I like the idea that I can write a note on my hand and look at it later in the day – sometimes it doesn’t make sense at first, but then the memory will come.
I never really finish work. The studio door is always open, so if there’s some little thing I didn’t finish during the day I’ll pop back in at 11pm, after we’ve put my daughter to bed.
To relax, I watch Keith Lemon on TV. I like any kind of trash television. I play snooker, too, though badly.
I get about six hours of sleep. Although since we’ve had our baby, I’m ready for a power nap at any time of day.