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What lies beneath: This Is Temporary by Mimi Seery

This Is Temporary by Mimi Seery

mixed media courtesy of the artist


This Is Temporary by Mimi Seery

This Is Temporary by Mimi Seery

This Is Temporary by Mimi Seery

It began, in the 1980s, with surrealist cigarette advertisements. Three-year-old Mimi Seery was captivated.

"I would stare at these ads for hours, blown away by them, totally immersed in them." Her mother, "a philosopher and she has no idea," noticed, scanned the paper for the latest one, collected them and gave them to her daughter.

So began Seery's interest in a "surrealist train of thought. They were like gifts from heaven, some world outside of our own. I knew a person created them, but how was it possible?"

Originally from Glasnevin, when she graduated from IT Sligo in 2011, she was expected to do a Masters but Seery, a "chronic daydreamer", packed a rucksack and spent five years travelling around Asia.

Back home she studied graphic design in Ballyfermot - she was particularly interested in "how advertising uses psychology for persuasion" - then won a place on the ICAD Upstarts programme for Rising Creatives. Now, though she is "neither a designer nor an advertiser", she has created campaign concepts for charities for free: The Campaign to End Loneliness, Space Engagers for The Peter McVerry Trust, The Irish Heart Foundation. "I consider it my duty."

"Advertising provokes an emotional response to sell products; art provokes an emotional response to enlighten yourself. It's not in me to seduce people to buy a product they don't want or need. It adds to the stress of the collective whole."

On her travels, "even in the remotest of villages, there was the same bombardment of advertising". Seery now wants to diffuse insecurities created by advertisers, to subvert their efforts, "to provoke a response of self-realisation and enlightenment".

For Seery, inspiration can spring from anywhere. "Incredible insights can come from the dullest of places. But you must ask two fundamental questions: What do I want to say? And how do I say it?"

She has not abandoned painting but Seery engages with photography every day and her small sculptures feature neon signage, stock-market tickers and text art: ENLIGHTEN YOURSELF in neon; YOU HAVE VALUE in large silver letters and now This Is Temporary, a work created "to boost optimism and confidence".

Lockdown meant no access to her Dublin studio.

"It was springtime, a time of renewal and we were all indoors. No words to describe what we were feeling, but these words, 'This Is Temporary', are direct and easily understood." Those three bands, one with hand-crafted wooden letters, one with their light-deprived outline, one with the green, green grass, spell hope.

Lockdown meant this artwork was made in miniature at home with acrylic paint, wood and fake grass. The plan to film, on time lapse, the actual thing in situ, is on hold but meanwhile Seery's Miniature Museum of Public Art, launched on Instagram, and running from May 16-30, highlights the importance of public art for community wellbeing.

What Seery wants to say comes from detailed, conscious research. "How I want to say it comes from the subconscious."

Artists Jenny Holzer and Martha Rosler inspire her, as do TS Eliot and Iris Murdoch, "especially Murdoch's take on love: that we are all stars of our own show, that it's difficult to see the world from another's viewpoint".

"That's just the way our brains are built, it's completely focused on the self but when you love someone or something, they are called into existence. The realisation comes that the world isn't all about you."

Seery also draws on hypnagogia, that state just before falling asleep.

Brass, stone, marble, gilded monuments suggest permanence. Seery's This Is Temporary is another kind of artwork and all the more interesting because it's not intended to last. It offers hope. It tells us this crisis will pass. For once, we all want that grass to grow under our feet.

Website: mimiseery.com; Instagram: @mimiseery_art

Sunday Independent