Interview with Mr Everybody

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Mr Everybody Blurry Vision

Blurry Vision - Oil on wood by Mr Everybody.

Mr Everybody’s paintings exist in a hushed moment, taking place somewhere between imagination and reality. There his subjects encounter the kind of exhilarating, surreal liberation that we cling to when wrenched from a beautiful dream just a moment too soon.

We as an audience can only look on as voyeurs, witnesses to these peaceful and still scenes, watching as his protagonist is lifted up and floats away to something or somewhere beyond our grasp.

Mr Everybody, otherwise known as Shane O'Donovan, grew into art on the streets of Cork, Ireland. A street artist since his teenage years, the birth of his son inspired him to commit to his budding studio art practice and just a few years down the track we find him about to open his solo show ‘A Nice Place To Sleep’ at Beinart Gallery.

I feel I've learned more technically painting outdoors over the last 2 years than I have in 10 years from studying indoors in the studio. I really enjoy it and it forces you to make quick decisions so drastically, and also, in that process I might discover something I didn't know before —Mr. Everybody

Mr Everybody Take Me Home

Take Me Home - Oil on wood by Mr Everybody.

Indigo Rawson-Smith: So tell me about the name “Mr Everybody”. Where and when did that originate?

Mr Everybody: Well, going back to 2010/2011, in that time I was painting but using my own name quite a bit, I just wanted to separate my own personal kind of stuff with my art so I just said okay, why not take the idea of a tag in graffiti and transform it into something a little bit more formal in the art world? And I loved the idea of an alias. I threw about a few names and nothing really stuck or felt right. Around this time, I was watching a movie called Mr. Nobody and I was like “Oh, that's a cool name.” And then I said, “Well I can't use that exact name but maybe if I changed it, and keep the same idea.” So it led me to Mr Everybody. I thought it was kinda cool. It just kind of started from there and then eventually it just grew and I just let it stick, so that's where it originated.

Mr Everybody The Black Forest

The Black Forest - Oil on canvas by Mr Everybody.

IRS: Your signature balloon motif first appeared in the ‘Emerge’ series, but your current series really seems to have taken that motif and built a much more narrative world involving detailed sceneries and a sense of timeless location. Was that a conscious commitment to delve into creating this world that you have made? Is there a story to these misty, dreamy landscapes and the people in them?

ME: Well, the balloon motif started in 2015/early 2016. Basically it started off as little drawings! Ink and watercolor mainly, and I used balloons back then as more of a symbol to represent change and transition between life and death. Without going too deep into the philosophy of it, it was mainly just used as a symbol. Also, a lot of people can relate to balloons so I thought that would be perfect to use as a series of drawings. Then it evolved into bigger paintings and oil paintings. In the end it evolved from the Emerge series right up to where I'm currently at now, which is all of the narrative works that I'm doing that give more of a story to the viewer and make the world I want to create. Technically, the painting side of things is still a little bit lacking. What's more important to me is the story and the emotion. If a viewer can feel a little bit of an emotional pull or drag from the paintings then that's more important to me because the painting side can always get tuned up.

Mr Everybody The Dancer

The Dancer - Oil on panel by Mr Everybody.

IRS: Being based in Ireland you have access to so many beautiful landscapes and nature right on your doorstep. How much of your current work has been painted directly from life and how much of it is a world of your own?

ME: Yeah! Being based in Ireland I feel quite lucky, it has had a big impact on my approach to the work. I had a friend maybe 10 years ago who asked me once if I would ever paint landscapes and I said no, because they're boring for me to paint! Little did I know they are now the most interesting to me. I feel more of a pull towards painting my surroundings as I've got older and trying to use them in my pieces the best way I can. So yes, I would have done maybe 2 years of plein air painting now and it’s great! Maybe an 1 hour to 2 hours just painting in nature is a great stress reliever!

It's something that I really never thought I'd end up doing or enjoying. I feel I've learned more technically painting outdoors over the last 2 years than I have in 10 years from studying indoors in the studio. I really enjoy it and it forces you to make quick decisions so drastically, and also, in that process I might discover something I didn't know before, with techniques or little ideas. Then I could put them into final paintings. Being on an island, the weather here changes so much and so quickly that we could have four seasons in one day. You know, it can go from really nice, to really bad, to stormy fast. So whenever the weather changes drastically it's a perfect opportunity for me to get out and to take some snaps.

Mr Everybody Clay Castle

Clay Castle - Oil on wood by Mr Everybody.

IRS: The theme for your upcoming solo show with us is ‘A Nice Place to Sleep’. What does the theme mean to you and what are you hoping to share with the viewers through this body of work?

ME: Well, we've all had that dream where you can fly right? It's like that dream state that you're in at that time, it's something really beautiful and happy and freeing. I wanted the title to basically embody that idea ‘all-in-one’ in the series of paintings, so I just thought the name was quite fitting for what I wanted to say about the entire collection.

Mr Everybody November's Morning

November's Morning - Oil on canvas by Mr Everybody.

IRS: What is your creative process like in approaching a show of this size? Can you give us a bit of insight into how you work and create art?

ME: My creative process changes from time to time which is ok. I try to leave it to go in a natural way, and I'll not force it too much in any one direction. Mind you, it's good to have structure, but I can't push myself when I'm not feeling too motivated. I feel it's very dangerous for creativity to do that. I've had times where I've been extremely de-motivated and not creative for weeks, and it's like “Oh God! I need to be creative!” But after a while I’ve recognised that I can’t always be creative.

My process is strange because I feel with the current series of work I'm doing I need to be in a really heavy place emotionally to get the work that I want to do done. With this series, and the show from the very first day I said to myself “focus on one piece!” I try to keep it in some sort of a loose line. In that way I can have the next piece connected without all of the work looking the exact same. I don’t want them to look too similar, but instead to have similar moods and to be part of a bigger chain.

Mr Everybody Hollow

Hollow - Oil on panel by Mr Everybody.

IRS: Street art was your initial entry to the art world as a teenager, and it is an area in which you’re still active, along with your studio art. Did you find that much of your skill learnt in making street art transferred to your fine art work? And what was your learning process like otherwise in coming into your studio practice as a self taught artist?

ME: Yeah the street art was really good fun. I really, really enjoyed it when I was a teenager. A lot of friends that I grew up with in my local area dropped off, and would have been really heavily into crazy shit (drugs), so I was lucky that I had a creative go to. The street art side of stuff took me and distracted me from other things. I'd say it definitely paved a way to where I might be in regards to fine art now, with painting and studio work.

I think when I look at street art it's always something that I really enjoyed when I'm doing it, but I'd never have pursued a career in it. I want it to be separate. I want to use my studio work as a really personal way of expressing myself, whereas in street art it's all fun! It's still expressive and I've something to say when I take on jobs, but I also want to just enjoy it for the few pieces I do.

Mr Everybody Girl in a Field

Girl in a Field - Oil on panel by Mr Everybody.

IRS: In terms of working both in street art and having a studio practice, do you find that the differing scales of the works you’re making allow you to explore your style and artistic vision differently? Do you ever find it challenging to move between the two?

ME: I really enjoy working big and outside. I'm not fond of the crowds, I like to be a bit more of an introvert when I'm painting, but all in all it's great fun and a great challenge. Two years ago I worked on an outdoor mural forty-five foot tall, and a ten inch oil painting at the same time in my studio at night. That was a challenge! But for the most part I know what I can achieve in both so I know my limits.

Mr Everybody Lost at Sea

Lost at Sea - Oil on canvas by Mr Everybody.

IRS: Going from your Instagram presence, family and in particular your role as a father and your relationship with your son, are clearly very important to you as a person and as an artist. Can you tell me a bit about how your son and how your role as a father affects your work? Are there challenges involved in dedicating such long hours and so much attention to your quickly growing studio practice while having a (just as quickly growing) small human running about the place?

ME: Yeah, my family is extremely important to me. I love them very much and they play a big part in my role as an artist. When my son was born in 2016, that was really the kickstarter that I needed to pursue this as a career. I started putting up more stuff on social media trying to engage with other artists and galleries. It was tough at first ‘cause there are lots of different personalities in the art community and I'm very naive. But I met a great artist and now good friend, Dolldrums, and she guided me along. Scary thing, this art world! But having my family to share all these experiences has been amazing. Having my son growing up in this environment I think will be great in the future for him. All of my studios from the time he was born have been at home, so it was really important for me to be around him and to be creating, and at the same time it was almost kind of like the fuel to the fire in a way.

Mr Everybody Bella

Bella - Oil on panel by Mr Everybody.

IRS: Going on from your solo show with us, what’s next on the cards for you? Do you have any particular goals or aspirations you’re working towards or are you just seeing where the art takes you?

ME: Well, once the show is done I'm going to start focusing on painting a little bit deeper. Maybe spend a couple of weeks just learning some new techniques and trying some new ideas which I can't wait to start. And yep, of course setting a few goals for myself is necessary, I think it's always good for a person to have goals whether big or small. We'll see what happens from there but learning and continuing to paint is gonna be at the forefront of everything anyway.

Mr Everybody After The Storm

After the Storm - Oil on panel by Mr Everybody. 


This interview was written by Indigo Rawson-Smith for Beinart Gallery in July 2021.

Indigo Rawson-Smith wears many hats, most notably as a Gallery Assistant at Beinart Gallery, Jeweller for her brand Indigo Nox Jewellery, and as a devoted snack enthusiast.
Having spent a few years working in galleries and art spaces around London she relocated to Melbourne to undertake full-time study in jewellery design, becoming a member of the Beinart Gallery crew in early 2021.
In a year when we’ve all felt the touch of isolation and find ourselves forgetting how to speak to people outside of our COVID safe “bubbles” Indigo has been attempting to polish up her rusty social skills while interviewing a number of Beinart Gallery’s exhibiting artists.

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