Featured Artist: Aga Szot | Cassandra Voices

Featured Artist: Aga Szot & The Icon Factory



A decade has passed since my individual and community artistic adventure began in Dublin. I very often hear about how lucky I am to have my own live painting studio, interactive installation in the middle of Temple Bar, but I know luck had very little to do with it.

Ten years ago I walked those streets of Temple Bar and no one could have imagined it would be possible to walk those lanes. It was a NO GO area and even Dubliners did not walk there. They were identified as dark spaces, and with anti-social behaviour, public toilets and worse. There was no reason why people would choose to walk there.

Now our art projects attract hundreds every day into the area, and are included in national tour guides, indicated as one of the most popular attractions in the area: an art centre which invites artists to participate in the project with its educational and civilised mission. We made this space safer and a better place for all.

That involved less luck than a lot of hard work, determination, passion, love and seeing the possibility of creating impossibly. It was an idea and vision to create something out of nothing. That is what makes creativity so special. We did the impossible.

As a young artist, graduating from a university with a Fine Arts degree I dreamed about white walls in beautiful galleries and my work being exhibited there. It turned out white walls were not my destiny.

I ask myself ‘WHY’ the dark abandoned streets where no one would like to be? No white walls and lighted shop windows. Unconsciously, I decided to be inspired and say ‘YES’. After seeing what we did I now understand better why that was.

Art is an action for me. I experience creativity as a development of new ideas in my charity and individual work. It is also an activity which makes a difference. I like my art and social engagement to be part of a transformation, sometimes physical, sometimes behavioural.  I pay strong attention in my work to connecting with the simple fact that art is part of our humanity, something which adds to us as humans.

The purpose of art is to make us experience something: a feeling, an insight, a sense of connection to something greater than ourselves – that mystery that we are.

This is what I need from art, and why the world would be impoverished without art and artists of all kinds.

The visual images I create work towards an analysis of human relationships at different points of development in our life cycles. At any given time in the process of my work the individual paintings will be linked by a common interest, a thread of analysis that is stretched across a series of works. Taken together they pose particular questions – focus on particular phases of life, and draw attention to how relationships develop.

Often my artworks contain scripts; short commentaries, antonyms or dictionary definitions. These are sometimes provocative additions to re-stimulate the viewer towards the analysis of a scene.

The technique I use (oil, ink, collage) allows me to pose questions in each painting. Each painting asks the viewer to visually punctuate the image by inserting his or her own points or marks in the unfinished sentence that is the painting – the life depicted there.
My paintings are both figurative and abstract, highly contemporary and visually arresting in my use of colour and black ink. They are intended to carry my ideas but are also open to many interpretations as well.

Aga Szot Art Studio – Live Painting Studio Installation

The motivation to create this installation came from some fundamental ideas I share with many artists and cultural commentators on the function and role of art for us humans. It also came from some specific ideas I had about the particular location in which it is set, that is Temple Bar, here in Dublin.

Firstly I share the view with many others that art is vital for the soul. In creating or sharing an experience of art we learn a lot about ourselves and our world. Through art we connect with our inner selves and with each other. We form cultural bonds across a common human community dissolving inner and outer boundaries, boundaries of self and other, of race, place and time.

I firmly believe that we need art in public spaces – not just finished art, but venues that de-mystify the artistic process, that offer non-artists the chance to share in that process. Many pop-up projects have existed in the city offering a brief chance for pedestrians to encounter artists at work. This installation, I feel, extends the opportunity for people to pause and interact with the creation of art – to reflect on this process and to experience what I’ve outlined as the benefits of encounters with art, that expansion of the self and soul, that breaking of boundaries, that chance to connect with things beyond ourselves.

Aga Szot Art Studio is an idea to create an art installation, which is at the same time an art studio where I can work on a regular basis and allow people to watch me painting; a place where people can see an artist’s work environment; where they can see a work developing and coming into being in front of them. It is a special experience, watching artists at work, witnessing the process of creation.

Watching an artist at work can, for both artist and audience, fixate us in ‘the amber of the moment’ and can offer a unique encounter, much more than a mere visual sight – an insightful experience.

The Icon Walk & The Icon Factory

By establishing an open-air cultural installation we have, for the most part, rescued the back lanes from petty criminality and improved the amenity of the entire Temple Bar area. The Icon Walk is a free open-air public art installation that promotes Irish culture and heritage.
We use art as an educational tool and promote culture. Practice and media we use help us to communicate and encourage citizens to think differently about their environments.

Our presence in the area has reduced crime through the use of Art/Culture and encourages a new role for artists in urban areas and society. The Icon Walk is affiliated with The Icon Factory, a not-for-profit artists’ gallery. The gallery promotes artists, provides training (internships), and experience to artists, and offers a chance for artists to display their work on The Icon Walk.

The Icon Walk has been credited with reducing crime in the area, increasing visitor satisfaction and has been praised as offering a new educational tool to the many student groups that visit the city. As several of its larger art works feature Irish writers, of all genres, The Icon Walk has been endorsed by the city’s UNESCO City of Literature office as an important site for the celebration of Irish literary talent and culture.

All Artworks present are by Aga Szot.

All photographs are published by kind courtesy of the Authors.


About Author

Artist, painter, art curator, culture animator, art teacher, humanitarian based in Dublin, Co-creator and artistic director of The Icon Walk & The Icon Factory. Owner of Aga Szot Art Studio. Through paintings, drawings, photography and charity work I share what is inside me with you. Phot. David Lowsley

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