Art in the Age of Anxiety

Above the Fold interviewed Eve Woods, whose latest exhibition Smile was built as a response to fear, anxiety and reoccurring nightmares


Ghost (2017)

Smile took place in Pallas Projects from 26-29 April 2017. Dublin based visual Artist Eve Woods spent a year channelling trivial night terrors into content for her latest show. It’s evident that Eve toyed with the viewers perspective of a bright, beaming smile by creating exhibits that evoke discomfort in the eyes of the viewer.

After an episode of fear inducing nightmares that resulted in manifestations of stress, anxiety and “‘odontophobia”, Eve channeled this traumatic energy into her most recent body of work. Odontophobia describes the fear of losing teeth, a feeling which Eve used as stimulus for Smile. Eve claims that her nightmares developed into a vicious cycle of Googling, as she searched for the cause and solution to her nightmares.

The gallery is designed to guide in a clockwise motion, introducing the viewer to Rot ‘n’ mouth (2017), a sculpture that brings the ultimate phobia of losing teeth to life. The piece is propelled to eye level on a plinth facing Brace Yourself (2017) a second three dimensional painting displaying a host of pins, to prick fear into the viewer.

Rot ‘n’ Mouth (2017)

Eve’s paintings are fabricated using oils, acrylics and ink on canvas and board. Her work is ethereal and dreamlike, yet the physical sculpture simulates barren teeth to signify the lucidity evoked by her nightmares. Eve’s oeuvre is inspired by source materials and online imagery.

The exhibition portrays a cycle, a cycle of pieces, a cycle of feelings, a cycle of emotions and fear. But the exhibition also displays a cycle that our generation is only too familiar with. Online media has saturated our society, we’re bored, we delve into Instagram, scroll for a few minutes, compare ourselves to others, self-deprecate, then log out and start the cycle all over again.

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine conducted a study in 2016, proving that frequent users of social media displayed increased levels of depression whilst infrequent users seemed happier and more at ease (2016). The causes of which potentially stem from cyberbullying and trolling, to internet addiction and fear of wasting time online.

While Eve described her art practice and journey to Pallas Projects, I probed deeper into her inherent fears and anxieties.

Eve graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in Contemporary Art from Chluain Mhuire, Galway and the MA in Visual Arts Practices at the Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Dun Laoghaire. Eve juggled her studies and practice by working as a waitress in a café, which she later quit throwing herself into unknown territory, hoping that it would encourage her to pursue a career in the arts. 

Eve broached the topic of funding and opportunity for young people in the arts in Ireland, mentioning several past internships and voluntary positions prior to her current role at Pallas Projects. Because of this, Eve makes a firm point to pay each and every individual involved in her projects.

The workplace in Ireland can present a labyrinthine minefield for recent graduates and aspiring creatives. Funding opportunities and professional development are barely touched on at collegiate level, which can deter artists from pursuing their passion post-graduation.

On reflection, Eve seemed optimistic and hopeful owing her happiness and perhaps alleviation from stress, to quitting her day job. Her advice to hopeful artists who may be reading this, to get off your smartphone, put yourself out there –  yes, you can delay it but then you’ll end up at square one tied down by fear.

Brace Yourself (2017)

You can find out more about Eve and her practice as a visual artist in Dublin on her website and Instagram account.

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