Catalogue Essay for ‘Artefact and Error’ Exhibition
Galway Arts Festival 2009

Viewing art in a hospital is usually by accident. It is not the public’s primary reason for visiting and despite the move away from the predominance of idyllic pastoral scenes lining walls on the one hand, or entirely blank walls on the other - our encounter with original and serious art in hospitals still comes by accident. It can be a fortuitous, chance transaction, which can have deep and long-lasting effects. What occurs in the space between Sweeney’s work and the public who encounter it will be of particular note.

At first, the viewer may be drawn to the dramatic contrasts of blood reds, clinical lime greens and tones of grey and black, which in themselves could be seen to reflect the hospital setting and at first may appear as abstract blocks of colour. However, on closer inspection and by delving a bit further by reading the titles of the work (which are neither wholly descriptive nor fully abstract), we realise that Sweeney is doing one of two things in each work – evoking the sense of an object through colour, texture and contrasts; or directly reflecting a glimpse of reality by recreating it on the picture plane. This is where a multitude of themes become apparent through the prints. The idea of recreating either memories or observations is another in a set of dualisms that can be seen to pervade Sweeney’s work – the artist moves between abstract and figurative, colour and monotone, memory and reality.

‘Error’ in Sweeney’s work is a positive. Chance is of utmost importance in the process of printmaking for Sweeney. It is harnessed and celebrated. The artist mixes and contrasts fleeting memories, textures and images through the printing process leaving the final image in the hands of the press. Notably, the artist leaves an expanse of silent, white breathing space at the edge of many of the works - serving to make the chaotic shriek louder.

In one particularly dynamic print, Sweeney has recalled and recreated a piece of graffiti where the name ‘Aquinas’ had been scratched into a wall of a derelict house in the Black Valley. Aquinas, thought to be the greatest theologian and philosopher of the Catholic Church, was also considered a model teacher for those studying for the priesthood. Why it appears on the wall is a mystery, but what Sweeney has vividly evoked is its maker’s desire to create a mark in public, to make something imperfect and thus unique. In this and many of these works, Sweeney’s aesthetic is a raw one of the scrap yard, and at moments – the gutter.

Recording observations of the rawness of the real world is important to Sweeney. Her ongoing examination of new and unconquered territory is continuously channelled into her printmaking practice and is achieved with characteristic energy and enthusiasm for the world around her and the process of printmaking itself.

By: Jean Tormey,
Tate Modern, London, UK


Press Release for 'Quick! Cops' Exhibition

Galleri Ingela S, Stockholm, Sweden-September 2010

"A dark night. Two kids are lost in their creation; paint cans hissing as they spray graffiti furiously on a wall. Suddenly, the sound of footsteps. They panic. The chase is on; over walls and fences, desperate to escape..."

"Quick! Cops!" is a collection of paintings by Irish artist Tracy Sweeney. For her debut exhibition in Sweden, Sweeney has replicated walls and surfaces from the city of Stockholm and its suburbs- covered with graffiti, flaking paint, stickers and posters. Some paintings are quiet, others frenetic, reflecting the feel of the city and how time, decay and the destruction wrought by people leave their marks on the walls that surround them.

Sweeney is intrigued by politics and celebrity and uses stenciling and graffiti to introduce current events and icons to her work; stickers of Obama and posters of Lady Gaga hint at contemporary happenings. The exhibition title allows the viewer to imagine the scene and the type of quick thrill and vandalism it describes is evident in Sweeney's work, making it exciting both to paint and to view. 

September 2010
'Quick! Cops! September 2010

‘Det är mörk natt. Två ungdomar har förlorat sig i kreativiteten av sin graffiti. Färgburkarna fräser medans de målar frenetiskt på väggen. Plötsligt hör de fotsteg. De får panik. Jakten börjar, över murar och staket, ett desparat försök att rymma….’ 

‘Quick! Cops!’ är en samling målningar av den irländska konstnären Tracy Sweeney. Till sin första svenska utställning har Sweeney återgett väggar och ytor från Stockholms stad och förorter. Täckta med graffiti, flagande värg, klistermärken och affischer är färgerna och markeringarna i målningarna dynamiska och samtida.Somliga målningar är lugna, andra frenetiska, vilket reflekterar känslan av staden och det sätt som tid, förfall och människors förstörelse lämnar sina spår på väggarna. 

Sweeney är också intresserad av politiska händelser och kändisvärlden; hon använder sig av schabloner och graffiti för att få fram en del av samtida debatter och ikoner i sitt arbete. Aktuella händelser skymtar genom klistermärken med Barack Obama eller Lady Gagas affischer. Titeln ‘Quick! Cops!’ ger betraktaren möjlighet att föreställa sig scenen som beskrivs ovan. Den här typen av snabb vandalism och spänning är tydlig i Sweeneys arbete, något som gör det spännande att måla och spännande att se. 

Tracy Sweeney har en konstexamen från Galway Mayo Institute of Technology i Galway, Irland 2005. Sedan dess har hon ställt ut på Irland, i Storbritannien, Sverige och Kina. Hennes grafiska blad och målningar utgör en del av stora företags- och statssamlingar i både Sverige och Irland. Ett urval av hennes verk har blivit accepterade för svenska Grafik Triennale årgång 2010. Hon har vunnit många priser och är representerad av konstgallerier i Sverige och utomlands.