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U ARE ALIVE mural by Aches and Maser on Camden Street, Dublin

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Aches and the creative explosion of Irish graffiti art

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4 min read

Aches and the creative explosion of Irish graffiti art

4 min read

Aches and the creative explosion of Irish graffiti art

Graffiti artist Aches is one of the first real superstars of the burgeoning graffiti and street art explosion across Ireland’s cities and towns, an exciting creative movement where the drab sprawl of urban concrete streets are transformed from blank canvases into exquisite works of stirring beauty.

A truly public artform, graffiti art is inclusive, accessible, easy to participate in and enjoy. As Aches himself argues, “It’s an artform for everyone, a great way for the ordinary person to view art”.

Within this movement, a vibrant community of urban street artists, graffiti artists and muralists have become increasingly visible and influential on the visual arts landscape in Ireland, creating large statement pieces that capture the pulse of the nation while inspiring a whole generation of young artistic hopefuls. Creative Ireland have proudly supported two such projects in the last 12 months; Waterford Walls, an artist collective based in the South-east whose goal is to transform Waterford into Ireland’s largest and most accessible outdoor gallery through rejuvenating urban space, and Seek Arts Dundalk, an urban arts festival aimed at refocusing the perception of Dundalk as a cultural focal point. 

Having worked with both projects, Aches has also designed and created original artworks across Europe and the United States and opened his own solo exhibition at Atelier Maser in 2019, as well as creating some of the most visible street art pieces across Dublin in recent years. He tells us about his beginnings as an artist, his inspirations and his advice for young artists in Ireland today. 

Above: Mural created by Aches at Dundalk Seek Arts Festival, 2019

I had an interest in art from an early age.

“My father was a great painter but unfortunately had given up that hobby before I was born, we did however have two of his paintings hanging up in the house as I grew up. I always drew as a kid, mostly copying cartoons or comics up until I went to secondary school at 12. When I got in to secondary school I started to notice graffiti a lot more and a few years in to school I met some people who did graffiti. They brought me out to paint my first piece in 2007 and since then I’ve been hooked. Roughly around 2010 I started to paint more characters with my pieces but this didn’t really take off until 2015. After painting some characters and portraits beside my graffiti pieces I then decided to paint the portraits on their own, my first murals” 

"It's an art form for everyone, with artists who are doing new things never been seen before."

Above: Savita mural, created by Aches at The Bernard Shaw, Dublin in 2019

When I was a kid it was always just in sketchbooks and random pages, I still have some.

“When I started painting graffiti I started to paint spots in quiet areas, places out of the way where you wouldn’t be bothered by people. These places were often in laneways or on walls that were hidden at the back of fields that people didn’t use. As I got older I started to paint more in the city, spots like Windmill Lane and the Bernard Shaw which were great at the time. Good spots are becoming very scarce in Dublin unfortunately.” 

Above: U ARE ALIVE mural by Aches and Maser on Camden Street, Dublin

This street art movement is a great way for the ordinary everyday person to view art.

“They don’t need to know anything about the history of art and they don’t need to pay to view it either. It’s an art form for everyone, with artists who are doing new things never been seen before. It also creates character in a city, unlike dull grey walls.

It has been an honour to represent Ireland at multiple mural festivals and graffiti jams. Unfortunately due to the nature of Ireland not having many tall buildings (and the ones that are tall you would never get permission to paint) a lot of Irish artists don’t have a portfolio of large scale murals, something which is required to paint at these festivals.”  

Above: Dolores O'Riordan mural by Aches in Limerick, 2019

The street art scene in Ireland, although it’s been around for a long time, has recently seen a large increase in interest.

“It’s a small community and the majority of artists know each other and help each other out. If I was being honest though, there are a lot more cons than pros in Ireland at the minute if you want to be painting large scale murals. There are plenty of derelict buildings laying dormant in the city that need a bit of love, painting a mural is probably the easiest way to inject a little bit of life into these buildings without having to do any major construction work. If these buildings aren’t going to be refurbished any time soon they may as well look nice for the people having to view them on a daily basis. If you look at any capital city in Europe you will see a flourishing mural scene, painted by local and internationally renowned artists. As well as painting large scale murals, if you are painting on a smaller format, indoor studios are few and far between.

My only real advice is just to keep yourself busy and invest in yourself, both with time and money.

“Be proactive, don’t wait for people to offer you walls and mural jobs. Go out and paint walls off your own bat, build up a good body of work and use this to your advantage. Paint as much as you can. Don’t cater for other people’s tastes, paint what you want to paint. And most importantly, enjoy it.” 

Image credit: @achesdub 

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