Introducing Coalesce Artists: Emma Sheridan

Ahead of the festival, we spoke to Emma Sheridan about the links between art and mental health.

Ahead of the festival, we spoke to Emma Sheridan about the links between art and mental health. Emma Sheridan is an artist and designer who channels turmoil into striking art. Emma will be participating in Coalesce: A Retrospective this January. Coalesce is a First Fortnight online group exhibition which opens on 9th January and runs until 28th February 2021. Coalesce celebrates the 10th anniversary of First Fortnight by bringing together the work of 11 diverse artists who have all been involved with the festival over the years.   Emma originally studied fashion design in NCAD and worked as a designer in London for years. However, she realised that “…the process of harnessing my creativity into a job was stifling it and this was not making me happy”. Over the years her style has changed and reflects her personal journey and growth. Describing her changing creative process, she explains that “I now listen to my heart more about what drives my passion and this has led me into focussing more on my love of painting and drawing. I work on abstract and figurative pieces in a very expressive way. I am particularly interested in energy at the moment, the relationship between our physical experiences and our psyche, between us and nature. I am still teasing out where I see my art going, it’s a really exciting journey”.     Emma has been involved with First Fortnight since 2016, when she met David Keegan, one of the founders, at her first solo show “Friendly Giants”. Emma is very open about how her own  mental health journey has impacted on her art and creative process. She explains that her art “…at the time was self expressive of my experiences of living with my own challenges with mental health. I ended up designing the poster and programme artwork for that year’s festival. It was an incredible sense of finding something that fit at a time when my own world was very challenging. I will be forever grateful for our stars coming into alignment that year, it was a catalyst for a lot of change and growth for me”.   For Emma, art and creative expression has allowed her to explore inner self, “I think art has a way of tapping into parts of us we don’t always have the opportunity to look at”. She also feels that “…for me art has helped me turn something that felt terrifying into something I am really happy I found”.   According to a recent study by Maynooth University, one in four in Irish adults are now dealing with mental illness due to the pandemic. January has always been a difficult month for many, however, the new restrictions mean even more people will be struggling this January. Now more than ever the arts and finding new interests to explore are vital for people’s well-being. When asked what it meant to be a part of a mental health festival during the pandemic, she responded that “The stigma is still very much there with mental health and it can make the challenge of getting help all the more difficult. This festival creates a sense of community, of acceptance, of family even and that is essential. It has been a very lonely year for us all so something waiting there in January feels like the hug we are all very much missing right now”. More information about Coalesce can be found here. This piece was written by Edel Carmody. Photograph by Ruth Maria Murphy.

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