A four-year full-time degree in Visual Art opened doors for Paul from setting up an artist-led exhibition space to awards and exhibitions.
Paul Hallahan recently graduated from SETU with a BA (Hons) in Visual Art. While completing his studies he set up an art space in Waterford which he continued to run for another year before working in various art institutions and museums in Ireland before focussing fully on his art practice.
I have exhibited widely over the past number of years. In 2018 I won the Golden Fleece Award. In 2019 I had a two-person exhibition in the dlr Lexicon Gallery in February, this exhibition travelled to Cork, Waterford and Belfast throughout 2019. In October 2020 I had a solo exhibition in the Roscommon Arts Centre and in December of this year I exhibited in a two-person exhibition at The Complex (Dublin) titled “Everybody Knows."
Waterford as a place to live and study
It was a city that was full of live music at the time and I liked the idea of lifestyle within Waterford. The city was affordable and close to the sea and mountains. Studying in SETU allowed me to try out new ideas and engage with the local art community too.
During my time at SETU, I was part of a few students’ exhibitions around the city before I started working with the local arts office in opening an artist-led space called GOMA. I ran the gallery for three years and the faculty of SETU was such a huge support and help to me at this time. They introduced me to artists and curators from around Ireland and helped me with several exhibitions. I was also really happy to help exhibit some other students' work and faculty's work while I ran the gallery.
Visual Art at SETU
For visual art you have great studio spaces, the faculty is brilliant and very interested in art in general. They are always exhibiting themselves and this is vital in the education of art. The city is vibrant and affordable and is close to nature also.
Take the first year seriously, once you have set down some good foundations the rest will come. The first year is vital to how the rest of the course goes and while you may not always agree with what you are asked to do, it is the best idea to trust it and gain from it. You will be allowed to expand your practice as you go along, the foundation will be extremely important to the dexterity you will need to advance.
Also take advantage of the public transport to Cork, Limerick and Dublin to go see art in real life. It’s a city that has great access to a lot of great art, use it. Go check out the city's art collection too, it’s on your door step and it will illuminate why artists make art, it may not be to your taste, but you will learn from the artwork. Visual art is best taught through community and the class I was in worked extremely hard to make great work and bring it out into the world. This energy was vital to enabling me to think bigger and has been fundamental to me continuing my art practice.