ARTIST Mairead Holohan

Mairead Holohan - Headshot - Nua Collective - Artist
As an artist I am mainly drawn to paint the landscape around me. I am curious about how I can show what I feel when I look. I like to be spontaneous to trust in my skills and power of observation honed over a long time looking and drawing with a variety of media. 

My love for art started at an early age. I remember as the youngest with three older brothers being given sheets of paper and pencils to keep me quiet. 

I cannot remember anytime I did not make marks on paper. 

I still find if I don’t for a time I get a bit odd, some say even odder. Like many artists since time began I use my art to make sense of my world. 

At the age of 11 I discovered horses and there began a lifetime fascination with both art and horses. I still love horses and when I can think of nothing else to draw or paint I just paint horses from my head. It’s my happy place.

After I graduated from NCAD in 1979 I went to London where I worked at a myriad of jobs; I painted silk caftans for the Arab market; screen printed blinds to sell privately; managed an antique shop off Kensington church St West London as well as barmaid and waitress. 

In the mid 80’s I came back to Ireland and spent the next 10 years working with horses. A bad fall and extended period of rest brought me back to art and I have combined the two since. The horses are now reduced to what we call a paddock ornament that will probably outlive me!

Nowadays I make art that pleases me. To fund this I work part time as a tutor in KCAT, Callan and Kilkenny Carlow ETB as a community education tutor. This enables me to make my own art. I exhibit each year in Thomastown at the arts festival.

In recent years I have joined the pleinair group south east plein air painters and spend my summer Sundays painting in a variety of venues. I have been a finalist in the Royal Watercolour society’s Contemporary exhibition, showing in the Bankside Gallery in London.

‘Horses I’, Mairead Holohan, Inks, 2020

‘Tractor’, Mairead Holohan, Watercolour, 2020

As an artist I am mainly drawn to paint the landscape around me. I am curious about how I can show what I feel when I look. I like to be spontaneous to trust in my skills and power of observation honed over a long time looking and drawing with a variety of media. 

I am fascinated by old tractors and cars. Where I live these relics of a previous slower life are every where.

I also love to work Plein air. My work is inspired by the things I love. I like to work quickly with instinctive gestures, using my materials sympathetically without too much thought when I’m actually painting. 

My feelings about the work I am making today is increasingly informed by the need for an ecological ‘turn’. I have always been drawn to the ancient in the landscape. I am interested in the vestiges of ancient mans hand in landscape. I am drawn to old tractors sometimes still in use as they fit the small rocky fields of the uplands. I weep when I see farmers claiming land from nature, the last few areas where wild exists are quickly vanishing because of our greed for cheap food and safe leisure spaces. 

Mairead Holohan, Watercolour, 2020

When I drove up the lane to view the cottage I now live in, in the south Carlow hills I thought I was hallucinating. I was surrounded by stone walls that I could not see over, some wide enough to drive a car along. I got that same sense of ‘coming home’, sense of belonging that I get in Clare, which I considered my spiritual homeland.

We moved to rural Carlow in 2003 from Thomastown in search of a simpler life. My husband is an organic Gardner who works on the no dig principle, where the soil is not disturbed which allows the soil to regenerate and grow, unlike modern farming methods which focus on disturbing nature and poisoning both the soil and us in the process.

The world is in turmoil.
How can one person make a difference? 

How can Art make a difference?

‘Lighthouse’, Mairead Holohan, Watercolour, 2020

Art can be the seed, sown in a gentle but urgent manner. Children can be shown how to make art that is about being kind to the environment. It is about opening up a dialogue, creating a discussion without shame or blame. Asking questions and developing priorities. 

I am convinced that we all really need to examine the part we play in adding to the toxicity of the environment. If we can even minimise it at the very least we are living with a moral code. 

I have started buying safe non toxic materials and making my own. I have started introducing making inks in my Open studio workshop in KCAT. I am still working out what it means to me to be an artist. I make pretty representations of what I see, sometimes it strikes a chord but is it enough? 

In the past few years I have been exploring rural Ireland with a view to our past and seeing how it can be maintained. I have experimented with a variety of media as a response to my surroundings. Mainly painting but also in textiles . I am becoming more and more interested in where my materials come from. I am drawn to water based media and making my own pigments. I am trying to marry my love of my surroundings with a more ethical use of materials. 

I want to make art that inspires others to ‘do no harm’.

ARTWORKS BYMairead Holohan

ARTIST’S Accolades


  • Art in the Open Wexford 2020


  • Open selection Carlow Arts festival
  • Carlow Artist section Carlow Arts festival
  • Dunamaise open selection 2018
  • RWS Contemporary finalist 2017, Bankside Gallery, London


  • Dip Vis Comm NCAD
  • Hdip Community Arts and Education, NCADMA Education, WIT
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