Emma Hayes‘s interest in art began in her favourite place – her grandparents‘ house in Artane. Both now dead, she remembers her nana, Anne O‘Hara, an NCAD graduate who always had art materials at the ready. Her artist uncle, Chris O‘Hara, and Hayes herself keep art in the family.

Hayes thought the Leaving Cert “too technical” but her teacher, Miss Lally, went beyond coursework, encouraging a freer approach. “I painted a cherry blossom tree, a drip painting, turned it up and down to catch the drips, it was more abstract than anything.”

Getting a C in the Leaving didn‘t stop her, and her graduate NCAD show, Home Series, focuses on “personal attachments and anxieties based around home”. One work, Oh I Love Milk [OPW Collection] remembers the living room “seen from my grandfather‘s chair”. Another painting features an old, brown Artane wardrobe, in a dazzlingly colourful make over.

And Times That Have Been and Gone, “is what was once our playroom at home in Dunboyne”.

Sofa, cushions, curtains, lamp, table, rug, window blind and the blue sky outside are captured in what Hayes calls “gestural marks, confident, minimal brushstrokes, layering and overlapping shapes”. The painting within the painting on the left, an earlier work by Hayes, is of her nana‘s chair. Overall, her goal is “to create, through a balance of colour, an evocation of the absence and presence of people in my life”.

Hayes loves Howard Hodgkin, Richard Diebenkorn, Diana Copperwhite and discovered in Adam Alter‘s book Drunk Tank Pink how pink-painted cells calmed aggressive prisoners. Strong, bold red is her favourite colour and she is intrigued that “pink was once for boys”. Late 19th Century/ early 20th Century mothers were encouraged to dress boys in pink while blue was for girls – because that‘s what the Virgin Mary wore. By 1950, huge advertising campaigns pushed pink as an exclusively feminine colour.

Celebrating colour is what Emma Hayes is about. Even if she‘s feeling low? “Even then. I want to make people happy, influence them in a positive way.”

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