I work in charcoal because carbon, its main ingredient, lends itself to a wide variety of light and dark effects. The generous range of this medium enables me to create convincing illusions of volume and depth. These visual gymnastics are what people refer to when they admire how the subject matter “looks real”. Although there is something seductive in the art of making things appear round or far away, for me the real artistry is intuitively knowing where to tone down and where to illuminate, and how to interweave these qualities in a composition so that the presence of each makes the other more magical and compelling. The interplay of light and shadow on form is what has always most captured my imagination as an artist, and in its embrace a building or a person or any other subject can transcend its own properties and join the dazzling poetry of visual experience.


In the drawing Emissaries, I imagined a woman in a dark interior approaching a portal that permits the passage of light and movement from beyond. The butterflies spilling into her shadowy introverted space are emissaries from a radiant and better place. I asked myself how I could convey a sense of boundless possibilities, as she closes her eyes and breathes in this experience. With charcoal and some touches of colour, I tried to answer the question.

To see videographer Liana Voia’s interview about the piece Emissaries, on the occasion of the Fine Arts Faculty Biennial 11 exhibition, click here.



All images and texts © Frank Mulvey 2016, except where otherwise credited.

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