Visual Artist and Musician Eva McCauley: The Power of Light and Air (Interview)

Also in this edition: NUA

Eva McCauley & InVisible

A painter’s paradise: Eva McCauley talks about how in Ireland, “the air is infused with moisture, and because of that, there is a luminosity to the light  that is very unique, and an incredible thing for a painter to experience.”

Technology has a way of bringing visual artists and musicians together. Art has become multimedia. Eva McCauley explores the mystical side of painting and print making with her installation works. Inspired by technology’s ability to create something new and her love for evocative spirit of the Irish landscape, she created haunting and beautiful artworks. These are hanging illustrations rendered in a way that light and occasional wind play tricks on them. If musicians like Loreena McKennitt, Moya Brennan, Enya and Connie Dover have talents that can transport you with their voices and melodies, then Eva McCauley is the visual counterpart of such power.

Hi Eva, welcome to The Celtic Music Fan artist of the week edition! Your prints are fascinating. Can you give us a brief background on the things that inspire your work…these are beautiful ‘ghostly’ creations of paintings printed on scrims of fabric (silk oraganza) and hung from the ceiling in multiple layers to create an installation.

My recent print media installation “In/Visible”  was exhibited in Cork, Ireland this past August/September at the beautiful Wandesford Quay Gallery . As you say, the images are larger-than-life faces printed on transparent silk-like fabric (42” X 96”),  making them appear almost ephemeral, wafting in the breeze as people walk by.

The images are originally created as hand-pulled prints (monotypes & lithographs)  and then are digitally captured, enlarged and printed on fabric (PolyVoile) using a wide format Agfa Aquajet printer. The faces came to me as a result of my experience living in a pre-famine stone cottage on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on the rugged southwestern coast of Ireland, where I was taking part in an artist residency in a very old village  called Cill Rialaig, which has become  an internationally renowned artist retreat, created by Noelle Campbell-Sharpe Although I wouldn’t consider myself to be superstitious, after  living and painting  in this  stone cottage  every day for a month,  I became aware of the invisible but tangible  presence of human beings, who may have lived in these stone dwellings in the past.

My show, called “In/Visible”, gave these “ghosts”, or apparitions,  a larger-than-life presence in the exhibition. The large faces were interspersed with large photographic images of the skies and water, so that they melded with each other, creating a multi-layered layered effect, so that the viewer could see through each ghostly image to what was behind.

 Your travels to Ireland inspired most of your artworks. What was the most memorable thing about your travels there.

As a a painter I was struck by the quality of the light. Since Ireland is an island, and it rains almost every day, the air is infused with moisture, and because of that, there is a luminosity to the light  that is very unique, and an incredible thing for a painter to experience. It really is  a painter’s paradise.  And the people in Ireland are the salt of the earth…incredibly kind, generous, always have time to talk and tell stories, in spite of the incredibly stress they are experiencing as a result of their tanking economy.

The other aspect of Ireland that influences my art is the music—I play traditional Irish music on the fiddle, mandolin and concertina, and when I’m in Ireland I become totally immersed in the local music session scene, and the local people who play the music have become great friends. I listen to the music continually when I paint, and it’s become an integral part of my work.

You have a strong affinity for things Irish/Scottish …. this is a strong influence in your art. Even your son Jacob is a world renowned Bodhran player. What was the earliest memory you have being exposed to the Celtic culture.

My father, Robert McCauley,  is the Irish side of my family. He plays the harmonica and Irish tin whistle by ear (and incredibly well!), and I grew up listening to him play. He took me to Ireland for the first time in 2002, and I was instantly smitten! Since then, I have been back to Ireland 4 times (and my son Jacob often flies over with me, and then takes off on his own travels in Ireland and Scotland) in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012 (for 6 week visits), and am looking forward to returning next summer for another artist residency in Cill Rialaig, Kerry. I then hope to return to the little village of Glendree (near Feakle) in East Clare for the music and to visit friends.

 You are presently the Founder & Director of Riverside Celtic College, Guelph, Ontario. What can students learn going to this place?

We offer classes in traditional Irish and Scottish music (Irish Fiddle, bodhran, Irish Flute, Scottish Smallpipes, Mandolin and Tenor Banjo, Guitar accompaniment, Tinwhistle, Introductory Violin and Celtic Song) as well as Irish Language and Irish Ceili & Set Dancing.  We also host  trad sessions for students, as well as traditional music concerts with musicians, (both internationally renowned and emerging), from all over the world. Often we’ll offer trad music workshops in conjunction with the concerts.

In 2012 we’ve had concerts with musicians like renowned fiddlers Tony Demarco & Patrick Ourceau, brilliant Galway fiddler Maeve Donnelly with guitarist Andy Hillhouse,  the amazing Irish flute player and singer Nuala Kennedy with fiddler Dana Lyn and guitarist Andy Hillhouse, and  look forward to upcoming concerts with the new trad trio Nua (fiddler James Law, guitarist Graeme McGillivray and bodhran player Jacob McCauley)  as well as a joint concert in December featuring Bua and North Atlantic Drift.

We have 52 mutual friends in facebook. And you are also very active in networking. But tell me, how effective is social network sites in terms of getting people to attend shows…especially in terms of those you invited within Ontario. 

I think that it’s a great way to get the word out, as more and more people are on Facebook.  And it’s an excellent way to keep people informed of what going on in one’s life and career, especially if you’re travelling, and touring around Ireland and having shows!

The Riverside Celtic Society is turning lots of heads these days. Can you tell us more about it?

I founded Riverside Celtic College in the village of Elora Ontario, in 2003, when I was first getting into learning how to play the fiddle. I was instantly addicted to the instrument, and traditional Irish  music, but was having trouble finding instructors to teach Irish fiddling.

I started the school, partly because I wanted to learn how to play, but also wanted to turn other people on to the music. I also found that after my trips to Ireland, I would come back to Ontario and crave the intimacy and richness of the Irish culture that I’d left behind me, and had a desire to create that same feeling of community in Ontario.

So, in addition to starting the school, my close friends and I started a traditional Irish pub session at the Shepherd’s Pub, in Elora, Ontario, Canada, that has been going for almost 13 years! Since then, the school has evolved into a really special and unique non-profit organization that seems to attract the most wonderful folks to its classes and events.

Riverside Celtic Society has recently received a major catalyst to its growth and evolution as an organization: we received a generous two year grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, which has proven to be a  very positive development, allowing us to offer  a new educational outreach series of  music/dance performances called the “Kitchen Party”, as well as hosting an exciting new concert series (including music  workshops),  called the RCC Traditional Music Concert Series “Live Trad at the Albion”.

We have also recently received generous donations from a group of former students, to create a a new traditional music scholarship, in memory of a dear former student who, sadly, passed away in June 2011, the Tom Kelly Music Scholarship.  Ar RCC, we’ve essentially put our energy towards creating a community of like-minded people,  who love the music and culture of Ireland and Scotland, and want to share that passion.

What albums are you listening to these days and what music would you recommend to us?

After spending time in East Clare this past summer, and going to the Feakle Festival (and spending time with my good friend Maeve Donnelly), I’ve been immersing myself in the music of Clare: “The Thing Itself” with Maeve Donnelly and Peadar O’Loughlin, “The Shores of Lough Graney” with Martin Hayes and P. Joe Hayes, the albums of Dennis Liddy and Michael Hynes “Waifs and Strays”, and “Spectacle Bridge”,  and I love John McEvoy’s album  “Traditional Irish Fiddle”, as well as the album “The Kilmore Fancy”, recorded with his sister, the brilliant Irish Flute player, Catherine McEvoy.

The most recent recording I’ve been excited about is the soon-to-be-launched EP of the new trad trio, NUA (full length CD to released in 2013), with fiddler James Law, guitarist Graeme McGillivray, and bodhran player, Jacob McCauley, which features some really exciting original music that, while grounded in traditional Scottish music, is really innovative and experimental in its approach.

Who is Eva McCauley as a mom and as a friend?

An artist and musician…equally addicted to both! 

Art samples:

Eva McCauley: Invisible

Eva McCauley:Invisible

Cill Rialaig Sky

Night Swimmers III




A addictive traditional brew is being served courtesy of  award-winning fiddle player James M Law, versatile & tasteful guitarist Graeme McGillivray and award-winning bodhrán player Jacob McCauley. Stylish, delicate at times and mostly energetic, Nua is a trio that’s sure to captivate and please listeners. I am a big fan of Jacob McCauley’s drumming style as he brings layers of expression to the bodhran. Graeme McGillivray’s wispy strums create an envelope of steady rhythm to the laser preciseness of James M Law’s fiddling.

NUA live in Guelph, April 2012. Original composition by NUA

NUA is an innovative new trad trio, bringing a fresh and unique sound to traditional music, creating their own distinctive flavour with both original and traditional compositions from Ireland and Scotland. Based in Toronto, Canada, NUA consists of three members: award-winning fiddle player James M Law, versatile & tasteful guitarist Graeme McGillivray and award-winning bodhrán player Jacob McCauley. The interaction between the three is what really makes the music shine, whether it be their soaring melodies or tasteful grooves. The trio is also well known for their exciting incorporation of odd time signatures and poly rhythms, which give the music an electrifying lift and spontaneity.

Each member adds their own distinctive sound and influence to the music. Although they are a trio with a sole melody player, the brilliant multi-tasking of each member is demonstrated countless times with perhaps a guitar-driven flat-picked melody, rhythmic fiddle playing, or melodic bodhrán playing to add to the mix. The ability for each member to take on multiple roles is one of the staples of NUA. This adds to a thrilling live experience, and a “you just don’t know what’s coming next” approach!

NUA is currently preparing for the release of their first E.P and their debut album to be released early 2013.

More of Nua here:


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