ARTIST John Redmond’s new exhibition for Carlow Arts Festival is appropriately called Full Circle, given that it was in his home town of Carlow that he first exhibited his creative work.
“This is my first time to show any work in Carlow for 35 years,” John tells The Nationalist on the phone from Barcelona. He’d just flown there that morning on business for his job as creative director of the Brown Thomas chain. “I’m not at all nervous; in fact, I’m really looking forward to it.”
Plenty of his well-known friends and acquaintances are expected to attend the opening, but it’s his mother Nancy Redmond who will be the guest of honour. John credits her with his gift of being creative and for his sense of aesthetic.
“My mother is a huge inspiration to me, she introduced that creative world to me and developed my creativeness,” he reveals.
Growing up in Highfield, Carlow town with Nancy and his father Seán, who worked in the sugar factory, John always loved art. While he was still young, his paintings were hung in Hadden’s department store, while his love of interiors and design was fostered in his mother’s interiors shop, Redmond Wallpaper and Décor on Castle Street. He often helped her out in the shop, especially when he designed the shop windows, which was the first step in his career as a creative director. After he finished school in St Mary’s Academy CBS, he attended the College of Marketing and Design in Dublin, before securing a position in Arnott’s. Within two years, he moved to the Brown Thomas group and at the age of just 20 years’ old, became the company’s youngest display manager. He stayed with the company, moving up the career ladder and is now, as creative director, responsible for the overall look of their stores in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway.
Brown Thomas is also where he met his wife, Karen Higgins, who is a senior buyer with the group. Working with Karen in the same company doesn’t pose any difficulties to the couple, who’ve been married for some 25 years because, as John explains, they’re in two different departments. However, they do travel to work together and sometimes travel abroad together on business. His is a job that brings him into contact with Ireland’s and the world’s best fashion and interior designers, and even his dog Lulu is called after the famous Guinness heiress, socialite and designer.
After 35 years with Brown Thomas, he treasures his job and says several times during the interview how “lucky” he is.
“It’s a beautiful place to work, I’m so lucky and it’s family-owned. I’ve gotten to know them and they only want the best for their shop,” says John.
“I’ve always loved beautiful things and I don’t like to compromise. They don’t need to be expensive things, just good quality,” he continues, talking about his own home.
All the time that he was working, he was painting and even had a space at his home in Dublin converted into a studio.
John’s exhibition, which opens tomorrow, Wednesday, evening in Lennon’s @Visual, will be his third-only because he only started to sell his work about four years ago. He decided to exhibit here after an invite from family friend and restaurant owner Sinéad Byrne, who suggested that he hang his paintings in Lennon’s during the arts festival.
His impetus to sell his work came from the fact that because there were so many paintings at his home, they were taking up too much space. His artistic influences include abstract artists who focussed on geometrics, such as Wassily Kandinsky.
His first two exhibitions were sell-out successes, with fashion designers like Louise Kennedy and Helen Cody snapping up canvasses, while other works were bought by collectors in Ireland and beyond.
“I was overwhelmed with the response. People love it and my paintings have gone to nice homes. That’s great for any artist. It’s all come full circle for me to be exhibiting now back in Carlow. It’s where this all started,” he concludes.