The amount of creative people who arrive in Liverpool and never leave is staggering. Something in the water? Perhaps… but it’s more likely that the artistic souls who flow in and out of our community get carried away with the tide. It’s turning, too. By Paul Fitzgerald. 

In a long forgotten building on the outskirts of town, sits a disused recording studio. This is where Eimear Kavanagh works. A calm, quiet space, imbued with the ghosts of creativity and songs once sung. It’s in this place that the eclectic selection of works that make up her ‘Curious Minds’ exhibition were created.

Creativity is connection. The bonds we form, the links we make between places, people, objects and our place in the world. When Eimear decided to escape North London to find a new place to be, her journey brought her to Liverpool. It is here she found a creative community, built on connection, collaboration and the power of synchronicity. She finds inspiration in these invisible threads, “the strongest ties” as Nietzsche called them. The village of Liverpool, enabling and energising the creative process. Individually, the influences of these pieces can come at an instant, a brief moment, a snatched idea – or from the result of a long thought process and the telling of a tale. Fashion, music, architecture, nature and escapism all play their part.

These are the stories from the world she sees as she moves through the city. Her commissions have taken her from Ireland to India and, soon, to Iceland. Powered by strong black coffee, and thoughts of a #LiverpoolLessOrdinary, Eimear Kavanagh occasionally dreams of crisps and electric blankets…

Art is a personal process. You open yourself up to the interpretation of others. Their vision of the meaning behind your ideas and thoughts. Some artists find this difficult. How did you feel, in the run up to the ‘Curious Minds’ exhibition?
It’s weird. I love what I create because it comes from the heart and I only chose the work I’m proud to show so I don’t worry about people not liking it.  But I do wonder if they’ll understand it or how can I possibly explain it. Sometimes, time has passed since the making and I can’t remember exactly the strong emotions attached to it. I like it when people ask questions and also when they make their own interpretation, and find something else in it that I didn’t. The build up and the logistics of setting up a solo show can be stressful, so in that respect I’m happy it’s up and people are continuing to enjoy it. But I got so much help from my community.

Community is a powerful influence, too. You’re based in Liverpool, having left North London where you grew up. What’s so special about this place?
I  was desperate to get out of London – it’s exciting but it’s just not for me to live. I spent the nineties in Yorkshire and so a huge part of me always wanted to come back up north. I wanted to try somewhere new so I picked Liverpool pretty much based on its reputation. I didn’t personally know the city or anyone in it, but I’d visited Wirral a few times and loved it. It’s so invigorating to just make a move like that and start over again. So much is special about Liverpool, but in terms of community…. many of my friends are artists, musicians, film makers, speakers, creative thinkers, writers, photographers…. I am in awe of all my friends’ talents and feel surrounded by people who both understand me and inspire me. Then there are the people who do all the amazing things behind the scenes, without taking any praise or recognition. They give birth to great ideas, find the venues and gather all the people together. Everything just falls into place here, new collaborations form effortlessly. We’re all working away so hard, but the friendship and appreciation keeps us energised.

That friendship and support is the glue that holds it all together…
… yes, totally, and it’s kept me in work all year! It’s a real ‘word by mouth’ city: I like that about living and working here because a lot is based on reputation and trust which just brings nicer things all round. We can all look out for each other when we’re old too, picking up the milk for the person with the sore legs.

Some of us are nearer to that point than others! Collaboration matters too, doesn’t it? I’m thinking of your recent poster design for the big end of year Michael Head show at Grand Central Hall. That’s a beautiful piece…
… thank you, the hands and hours that go into it! The people who took me into Grand Central Hall to see the building. The printers who had to put up with my mad requests of resizing little ‘Mick Heads’ for a couple weeks, the photographer who battled with getting the high quality image of the finished artwork without the shine on the magazine cut outs, the graphic designer who selected the typography to so fit perfectly in tune with my art, and of course the record label who commissioned me and gave me all the exposure on social media. Then people like you, who are interested in interviewing me about it. We’re talking just one artwork here – it’s mad when you think about it. It’s the passion and the willingness from everyone involved, all brought together by the music. It’s all Mick’s fault!

Always the music. There’s a real synchronicity to a lot of this as well. Carl Jung talked of ‘meaningful coincidences’. We gravitate towards each other around certain events… a natural coming together. It’s particularly strong with Violette, which often seems more like a family than a record label…
… I’m all up for that. Synchronised happenings, Violette and their good values, all that they do and attract. Small team, but they make a lot of people very happy. I have so much to be thankful for.

Like a lot of people, they’ve been really supportive of your current exhibition. It’s a real eclectic mix, you pull influence from so many places… what drives the decision to include some pieces over others?
I had a collection of artwork accumulating for five years and it was just time to put them out. There were around thirty pieces that I wanted to show and they all fitted in exactly. The artworks are kind of all different, but somehow they work well next to each other. I wanted the title to pull it all together. It’s basically a collection of things or ideas that I am drawn to, that I see around me or think about. I know that sounds quite vague, but I want people become curious when they see them all together. There are subtle running themes within them which touch upon the experience of city living, human emotions, escapism, nature and making a connection with the things we commonly disconnect from.

It could be that we need those connections now more than ever?
I think you’ve just got my driving force behind my art! Creativity to me is like being a child again, it brings the wonder back into my life. I can make a painting to be whatever I want it to be and real life isn’t always like that.

Sometimes, living in the city, it’s easy to forget the big stuff, nature, escape…
… that’s so true and the big stuff is often the most simplest. Cities give excitement but also distraction. I crave so much to be more around nature and be less busy. A lot of the time it’s difficult to explore within my personal art practice because I’m working on commission deadlines. Artists residencies are a blessing for creative practice and I believe important to indulge in from time to time. My next one will be
in Stöðvarfjörður in Iceland, where I will be living for a month in the quiet surrounds of a tiny fishing village on the east coast. I have no plans for this time and I love that I don’t know what it will bring for me.

That sounds beautiful. A real escape. One more before we go: what did you last dream of?
Last night I dreamed that I was with a friend (one who I’ve not met yet) and we were in the house I grew up in. Nobody lived there but all our belongings were still in there. We went into the bedroom that I used to share with my sister and it was like a sauna. I saw that an electric blanket had been left on and I spent a few seconds thanking God that there was no fire. Apart from opening the wardrobe and finding a large packet of Lays crisps, that’s about all I can remember. I looked up the significance of ‘electric blanket’ and it said “… to see an electric blanket indicates that you need to conserve your energy and get some much needed rest”. Yup.

‘Curious Minds’
Naked Lunch Cafe, Smithdown Road, Liverpool
Until November 30th 2018

Portrait photography by Barrie Dunbavin