RISING STAR: Dawn Whalley

Hilary Copeland meets Holywood's enchanting escapist artist and gallery owner

Dawn Whalley's work has been described as enchanting and escapist, her quirky style influenced by dreams and childhood images. 

Working with oils on canvas, traditional nursery-room images are given a modern treatment with thick, bold strokes of intense and dense colour. 

Her background in sculpture feeds into her 2D work, with heavily textured paintwork  and over sized figures domineering the canvas.

Whalley is 26, comes from Belfast and co-owns the Whalley Gallery in Holywood with her husband Stephen.

Tell us a little about yourself - when did you first develop an interest in art? I developed my interest for art in High School. The first artist I studied at school was Marc Chagall. I knew then that I had a passion for art and that I was destined to go on to better things. I have been exhibiting my work in Holywood for over four years now and have built up a broad spectrum of clients all over Northern Ireland.

What shape has your career taken to get you where you are today?
I feel my passion for art has most definately shaped my career and opening the gallery in Holywood's High Street has given me even more confidence to produce more works of art and sculpture.

How would you describe your style of art?
My work is very expressive. I like to manipulate my paintings with different characters and moods to make a connection which the viewer. Also my method of painting is important. I use a lot of thick oil paint to create depth, layers and texture. My colours are bright and vibrant and all my artworks are humorous and quirky.

Describe some of your influences, from the art world and beyond.
So many artists influence me. It's a bit like music - you can like all sorts for different reasons. But mostly at the moment it would be the artists that are currently exhibited in the gallery, as I'm surrounded by their work on a daily basis. Artists like Jane Swanston, Jonny McEwen, Jack Pakenham, Lisa McCausland, Stephen Whalley, Graham Knuttel, Brain Ballard, Lisa Ballard and Kenny McKendry.

What do you think sets the Whalley Gallery apart from other artistic spaces?
In my opinion, the interior of the Whalley Gallery is one the most impressive interiors in Northern Ireland. Also the volume of artist work. We have over thirty artists' work on display spread over three floors. My husband and I are also finding that having our own work in the gallery helps when talking to clients about art in general.

You are still very early on in your career despite your successes. Do you have more dreams and goals you wish to fulfil at a later stage?
I hope to travel to the USA and Dubai next year for two more shows and then expand my work to a new gallery in Dublin. I'm also in the process of reproducing my work onto wall coverings and possibly children's wear through Ulsterweavers to be sold in the States and the Far East.