Art that will move you

PAPER ART Kingscourt artist Miriam Fitzgerald Juskova's latest exhibition runs online until June 22-26

The word "unique" is often used in art, seldom merited.

Admittedly every time an artist paints a bowl of fruit, they invest themselves in that painting and have created something which is in one sense unique. But many viewers might not value the nuance of this particular fruit bowl.

When Miriam Fitzgerald Juskova describes her artworks as "quite unique", it feels refreshingly appropriate. It's like nothing else in Irish galleries.

Miriam's work involves a technique called paper quilling, a craft with a history dating back to the Renaissance. The Kingscourt artist has approached quilling using maths and geometry as she says herself, "I found my own style".

Miriam credits her mother, a maths teacher back in their native Slovakia, for passing on her love of the subject. It impacts on her work through use of specific mathematical relationships, symmetry, or sequence. The end result is a series of abstract pieces which come to life in a way that few pieces hanging on a wall can.

Miriam Fitzgerald Juskova at a previous exhibition.

"People just freeze, and they try to understand," says Maria, delightedly explaining the typical reaction of the viewers when confronted by her 3-D geometric compositions. Then the viewer starts to comprehend what's in front of them, and begin to appreciate the complexity of detail and the level of artistry at play. At this stage, freezing is no longer an option, exploration is a must.

"Let's say there's something a strong yellow in the middle, you don't see it from the distance if you approach from the left, but as you come closer it starts appearing to you slowly. It's got movement. The colours and the depth of paper I use, the combination of those two factors create the movement.

"When it comes to exhibitions, what I like is people don't just come and stand they actually move left and right - they want to get in on the action," she says with a laugh. "So it's different from others."

Quite unique, you might say.

Temper by Miriam Fitzgerald Juskova.

Due to the pandemic, Miriam's latest exhibition, which runs from this Monday to Friday, June 22-26, is an online showcase run by Hambly & Hambly in Enniskillen's Dunbar House. A renowned gallery hosting international artists, Miriam's thrilled that they represent her, and display her work on their walls, but she notes that when it comes to online exhibitions, such as this 'Imagine' series, it's a particular drawback for her work.

"You get the detail of the work in online exhibitions, but you don't get the proper feeling unless you see it in person," she says.

Talk of maths might sound a little clinical, and while Miriam's work certainly does look well on a wall, it's much more than a graphic design. She insists it is art, and incorporates themes and emotions. While the work itself is visualised beforehand, and meticulously planned, she finds she invests meaning in the work "unconsciously". It reveals itself to her through compiling the work.

"As I work on it I realise what it is about. You look inside of yourself. Sometimes it's not necessarily at the start - but when I finish work I realise the connection with something that's going on in my life. It's interesting. Sometimes I don't necessarily know why it came to me, but as I am working on it, certain things start to be revealed to me."

Brave step

At the end of May 2019 Miriam took the brave step of giving up her job of 14 years, to devote herself full-time to art as a profession.

"It's kind of scary, especially nowadays, and it's kind of challenging. But it came to the point when I realised if I wanted to progress I needed to put more time into it. I was struggling with time between the job and - I have three kids - so being a mum.

It meant she could only work on her art at night-time.

"It just couldn't go on. I hit a wall and thought something has to give."

"I always wanted to be creative, an artist, but I suppose when you finish school, art's not a career really - everybody says, get a day job and everything."

Hope is Calling, by Miriam Fitzgerald Juskova.

She's happy she "took the chance" on art.

"I can see in this last year - if you have more time more opportunities open. You do work hard - it is 24/7 there are no days off, but you are doing something you enjoy."

She views her latest exhibition as another rung on the arts ladder, the first of which was a solo exhibition in Ardee two years ago, with other notable rungs coming with exhibitions in Solas in Ballinamore, and an international event in Switzerland.

"Each of them helps me to open the door to the next one," she says.

The next one of course is about to get underway in Enniskillen as part of the Imagine series, and can be viewed online until Friday, June 26. It features 25 of Miriam's works. She dropped some of the work up to the gallery in person just before Lockdown and found it an "amazing place".

"I was speechless," recalls Miriam. "I cried when in this place, it was very emotional. It has a really nice quality of international art. For me it's another step in my career, I felt if this quality of gallery approached me it's just so nice - you feel like you are getting some recognition."