Derval graduated from Limerick School of Art and Design in 1996 with a diploma in fine art painting. Since then she has had several different studio locations in the mid-west over the number of years, including Limerick city and Co. Clare. Now, on the opposite side of Ireland she is permanently based in Co. Wicklow.
After her second solo exhibition in 2007, titled ‘Urban Trail’, which explored her city surroundings while residing in Limerick city for a number of years, Derval moved back out to the countryside near her home in east Co. Clare. Soon after the move she took up a short residency in Cill Rialaig artist retreat which overlooked Ballinskelligs on the far coast of Co. Kerry. It was around a time in her personal life where a lot of significant changes were taking place. After her experience in the isolated rural surroundings of the Kerry artist retreat, she developed a growing passion for abstract landscape painting.
Her passion for nature, forestry’s and the Irish landscape has significantly grown in the past number of years. She had her first solo exhibition at Signal Arts Centre, Bray, Co. Wicklow, titled ‘Solace’ earlier in 2017. Currently Derval continues to paint full time in her new studio in Glen of the Downs, Co. Wicklow where she draws much inspiration.
Making art is an integral part of who I am, it allows me to achieve a sense of belonging in the world. Painting is a way for me to investigate and resolve my place in areas of the time and space of which I occupy.
I see my paintings as a collection of pages from the visual diary of my thoughts, feelings and inspirations. I paint textured abstract landscapes, drawing inspiration from my surrounding environment of forestry’s, mountains and nature in general.
I am sometimes drawn to areas within the landscape that give a sense of fragility, which can often reflect and recall the fragility within humanity itself. In nature I look at the contrast between living and fallen trees, the distant thinning tree-line silhouettes and the gaps between where only tree-stumps sometimes remain. Being out in the landscape often evokes a wonder that drifts between the relevance of humanity and the purpose of existence, something I often become preoccupied by. I often isolate myself in nature as it can open a ‘series of dialogue’ between nature and I, which can recall a sense of bond between humanity and nature itself. When I am in my studio this ‘dialogue’ can emerge when I paint as I tie them with my inspirations into my painting, where the narrative emerges.
I have adapted cold wax technique into my recent paintings to achieve a thick heavy impasto effect on the surface by multiplying layers of oil paint mixed with cold wax in various consistencies. I also paint in thin layers of glaze or mat washes to achieve transparencies of colour, creating a sense of depth and space in the work. There are lots of layers worked up on the surface, scraping some off and rework them again until I have reached a place of recognition.
Often when I am out exploring I photograph subjects that would take my interest and I look at colour, texture and composition. I love how the light and colour changes in different weather conditions. When it rains for example, the moisture enhances the vibrancy of colour and there is a wonderful scent in the air from the pine trees and the soft forest bed of fallen pine needles over time. On occasion I pick up pieces of pine needles, dead dried out leaves and small bits of twigs where I incorporate them into my paintings back in the studio. This makes them become like collected and archived souvenirs, living once again and forever in my art.