Student Conversation - Avril Buttle

"I suppose without the experience of alternative education through the Access Office, I wouldn’t have as much patience when I‘m in mainstream schools."

On moving to NCAD

I did my portfolio in Gorey School of Art, applied for NCAD and Limerick, got both, but decided to go to Limerick to do fashion at the time. When I was in Limerick I started volunteering with Northside Learning Hub and realised that I preferred working with young people. So I transferred to NCAD and started Education.

On alternative education

When I was still in Limerick I worked with Moyross kids on floats for the Saint Patrick’s day parade as well as individual projects. Developmental education is something that really interests me and after my move up here, I got involved with outreach projects run by the NCAD Access Officer, Finola McTernan. I suppose without the experience of alternative education through the Access Office, I wouldn’t have as much patience when I‘m in mainstream schools.
My last academic assignment was an essay exploring the relationship between the art you produce in college compared to the art you teach in schools. I personally think that the more you bring your own contemporary practice into the school, the more accessible you make contemporary art to your students.

On designing education

I think the fundamental principles of art and design could be implemented in all subjects. That way kids are more aware of why they’re learning things and how they’re learning it, rather than learning it for the sake of repeating it verbatim in an academic exam.

On her studio work

We can pick anything we want to explore for studio practice. In third year I started thinking about the relationship between visual art and music and the visualisation of sound. I am a piano teacher, it’s my weekend job. I just thought it would be interesting to amalgamate and explore the relationship between the two. I took apart the piano and made 3D sculptures. I cast light on the sculptures and questioned the tone of the shadows. I made sounds and used mixed media and video as a form of play. I also recorded my students from different age groups and their struggle of trying to play the piano.

On exploring processes

I wasn’t really appreciating the piano in it’s true state. I remember talking to Michael Warren about how he makes his sculptures. He said that he would often for hours just throw off-cuts over and over and over onto the floor until they fell in a certain way that worked. So I tried it with the piano. I would just start throwing parts of it and listen to my music at the same time and just recording what was happening. I also started looking at Helen O’Leary a lot and basically just dismantling the piano and rebuilding it. I decided to incorporate wire and string into combining all the pieces together, so that I made a new instrument. I have one piano that’s completely distorted, I messed it up with a hammer. I still play technically perfect on it and record that sound. I then play the same piece of music classically on my good piano. and overlap the sound. They’re all creating different sounds now. The next thing is to start writing music with the new instrument, instead of applying the old music to it. It’s about the inherent new qualities that this instrument has. There’s so many fragmented elements from the construction to visual language, to making new instruments, making new music, and how do you make that tangible or in some way accessible for those who don’t know the story of you? I kind of feel like I’m on such a roll now. I’m starting to think of how I can combine all my successes together.