Recent coverage from China Daily

A Response to Place

By Tracie Barrett China Daily

NC placing paper web







Photos Wei Xiaohao- China Daily


A Response to Place

From knitting to painting, Irish artist weaves her heritage and  surroundings into her art, as Tracie Barrett discovers.

The first thing one notices on entering the Beijing apartment of artist Niamh Cunningham is thenumber of canvases covering almost every inch of wallspace. A closer look shows an equallyimpressive variety of styles and subject matter – the dark reds and black silhouettes of hersubway series, thickly applied impasto oils that form rugged crags on a huge mountainscape,and the soft, seemingly melting lines of her Transparent Milk portraits, inspired by the work of the contemporary Chinese artist Zheng Delong.

Nor does the Dublinborn artist limit herself to working on canvas. Stepping into her studio orbrowsing her website, one can see a delicate knitted skull spun from her own hair and a moresolid knitted spiral that serves as a calendar, both public and very personal. Cunningham’sspeech is an artwork of its own, her soft Irish brogue weaving ethereal and elemental images,as she speaks of the countries in which she has lived and traveled and her evolution as anartist.

Surprisingly, or perhaps not when one sees the detail in her work, Cunningham studiedbiomedical sciences at university and has both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in the field.Art has always been part of her life, however, learned first from her mother and grandmotherand honed through practice and experimentation.

China Daily profile -Niamh Cunningham studio

“My gran was a painter,” she says.”So she gave me my first oils when I was 11. My motherused to make marmalade from real oranges and when the crates of oranges came, there was a canvas board on the crates.”

Her grandmother, a “hobbyist” painter, taught her how to prime the boards and they were her first canvases.

Art fell by the wayside as she pursued a career in the medical field, first in England where shemet her husband and then in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she taught Medical LabSciences at a local college. There, through friendships she made with staff in the artdepartment, she started experimenting with her own art again and she says she will always associate South Africa with acrylics. The connection between place and artwork is a constant in her diverse body of work, as she says her art is “definitely a response” to where she is. Her time in South Africa was followed by seven years in Hong Kong, where her son Fionn wasborn in 1999, and three in Tokyo. The family then moved to Dubai for five years, and Cunningham said that is where her “first main body of work came”. The family lived close to the Dubai Creek and she took Fionn walking there almost every day,its rippling waters becoming the lifeblood of her Dubai cityscapes. “That’s when I knew I would be a very serious painter, or at least I knew I would have to drop my teaching,” she says. She had two solo shows while in Dubai, then the family returned to Ireland for a year, so Fionncould experience living there and “know he was Irish”. Her work from that period portrays the rich emerald beauty of her homeland. NC drawing The next year was spent in Prague, resulting in another series of landscapes, featuring therooftops and bridges of the historic city. Then, almost four years ago, the family relocated toBeijing, where Cunningham has again painted stunning landscapes, but also returned to a childhood passion for working with textiles.

“When I was in primary school, the only thing I felt super confident in doing, the only thing Iwas better at than anyone else in school was knitting and sewing,” she says. “It was one of the legacies my mother handed to me.”

That legacy has been an integral part of her connection to China and particularly to its women,as she knitted parts of her Pillar of Time installation piece while traveling the city by bus.

“The women on the bus would be very interested. Some of them would insist on taking it andshowing me how they hold their knitting needles and how they wrap the thread. And there isthis unspoken etiquette with knitting that you finish the row before handing it back. So thereare a few rows knitted by complete strangers on the bus in that pillar.”

Cunningham works on her art from around 9 am each day until 6 pm most days, and she maysqueeze in another hour or so in the evenings. She is currently working on China landscapesfor a solo show planned for December at 3C Creative Mall in Beijing’s 798 Art District and hopes to complete another 20 paintings by that time.

interior web

She says she has “loads of ideas” inspired by Beijing, including a series about the city’spublic transport and the “slow ballet” of bicycles – “almost like a swarm of bees or insects”.

“I think if you have an opportunity to make new work for an exhibition, it’s natural to push yourself into unknown directions,” she says.

Cunningham currently has two China landscapes in Nature – a charity fundraising group showorganized by artist Patty Hudak at 66 Art Workshop in Chaoyang district, showing until June15.

You can see her work at

Niamh Cunningham- Bio 。。。个人简介-倪芙瑞莲
由此及彼——中(国)爱(尔兰)女艺术家邀请展 The Pattern That Connects
Recently at Wuxi Bund Art Centre “Silent Explosion”
My interview with Today Art Museum and Today Art Media on the COVID era

Recent Interview , click on above image April 2020

Link to newspaper coverage -Carlow Nationalist (click on image)

In Her Eyes, F&E 100x100cm acrylic on canvas, 倪芙瑞莲Niamh Cunningham 2019

Silent Explosion
Recent ‘China-Ireland’ exhibition Shanghai Nov 29th 2019

China Ireland exhibition at MUSEu&m, Shanghai , opening Nov 29th

Early stage – Sculpture project HongFangzi ShaWan Sichuan
‘Whirls in the Old’ in New York at the exhibition ‘1919’

1919-Whirls in the Old Terezin acrylic on canvas 30x30cm Niamh Cunningham 2019

Gobi Heaven Art Festival August 2019

Participating in the International Artists program for this exciting event in the Gobi Dessert

Jul.Aug 2019 Group Exhibition , Hamilton Gallery , Sligo, Ireland and also Sept 2019 at the Irish Consulate Offices , Park Ave NYC
Granary Art exhibition SiShui Shandong June 2019

Granary Art Exhibition SiSHui , Shangdong June 2019 click on image

Swim Duck Video …30 sec clip of original work recently shown at Bloomsday event at Embassy of Ireland Niamh Cunningham 2019
clip from Swim Duck video Niamh Cunningham 2019

Clip from 'Swim Duck' Video by Niamh Cunningham 2019

Group exhibition in Sishui, Shangdong 正在展出

Granary Art Museum , Sishui, Jining , Shandong

April /May 2019 in Budapest 近期展出匈牙利

Currently showing in Budapest Aprli- May 2019

Wandering Rocks series of portraits 游岩系列
Talk on James Joyce at Bookworm with prof Fu Hao 乔伊斯座谈会
Aritst Talk on James Joyce at Beijing Bookworm

Talk on James Joyce at Bookwork Beijing April 2019

RTE interview on preparing for upcoming group exhibition 2 min clip
Web Of Fabulous Grass – Sucrose Series Click on image for Artist Profile English &简体中文
Artist talk at Beijing Geely College Dec 11th 2018
Map and Territory project Nov -Dec 2018 at Beijing Geely University
Map and Territory

Map and Territory

Current Events 正在展出














2019年11月”中国 爱尔兰  MUSEu&m , 上海

*2019年11月装置中国—红房子首届国际户外装置创作营在乐山沙湾红房子开营 …开始阶段

*2019年8月*Gobi Heaven- August 戈壁。天堂-八月

*2019年7月”1919″ 爱尔兰  Sligo -Hamilton Gallery  

*2019年5月“胜日寻芳“ 山东济宁市泗水等闲谷艺术粮仓美术馆

2019年5月-16 爱尔兰大使馆布卢姆日的展览

20195-6  《一张棉花纸》   在宋庄东区玖层美术馆展出



*2018年11月-12月“地图与疆域”国际艺术邀请展 北京吉利学院


*2018, 10月中欧国当代艺术全球巡展·上海

2018, 9月-10月“纸上·至上”展览,沈阳市拓•空间,

2018, 6月-11月诗人叶芝日,爱尔兰,斯莱戈(SLIGO),汉密尔顿艺术画廊

*2018年8月 淮阴艺术馆提名展,淮安市

*2018, 8月 “纸上·至上”展览, 鄂尔多斯,

*2018 , 6月30日 济南“国际抽象艺术展”

*2018 , 6月17 日 纸上•至上2018 在青岛,

*2018 , 5月20 日存在-国际女性艺术展,湖南长沙,

*2018 , 4月21 日延缓的时间,4月21日-29日,红门画廊,798艺术区

*2018 , 4月20 日 挖掘,,和画廊,来鹏高尔夫俱乐部

*2018年4月-12日 挖掘, , 展览,悦美术馆,北京798艺术区




*2017年12月末至2018年1月末, 《时间之外》主题艺术展, 北京中关村融科资讯中心

*2017年12月, 形质与叙事, 形质与叙事, 东岳美术馆

 *2017年12月,广州新造当代艺术中心,纸上·至上 纸艺作品群展.

Upcoming Exhibitions


Current Exhibition

*Silent Explosion, Wuxi Bund Art Centre, Jiangsu,  July 11-31 2020

Recent  exhibitions:

* Sculpture project in HongFangzu , Shawan, Sichuan , begining phase Nov 2019

Current Exhibition

*China Ireland exhibition at MUSEU&m, near the Bund , Shanghai, Nov 29th 2019

* Sculpture project in HongFangzu , Shawan, Sichuan , begining phase Nov 2019

*1919 – Group Exhibition (Hamilton Gallery) in New York, Irish Consulate

*1919 – Group Exhibition Hamilton Gallery , Sligo , Ireland July – September

*Gobi Heaven Art Festival , Inner Mongolia , August 2019

*A piece of Cotton Paper  9th floor gallery Songzhuang June 15th

*”Winning the Day ‘ Granary Art Centre,  SiShui , Shandong, May – June 2019

*Beyond the form of Art , Wick Art Centre , Budapest, Hungary may 2019

*Odyssey The Return ; group exhibition at Dong Yue Art Museum, Beijing  in April

Map and Territory Art IRRCA at Beijing Geely College Nov 20- Dec 20 2018

*Thousands of Sprouts, an experimental online exhibition – by Elizabeth Ross  Nov 2018

* On Paper Supreme, Gwangju Art Museum Beijing Creative Centre Songzhuang Nov- Dec 2018

*China Europe Internaitional Contemporary Art Global Tour Shanghai Oct 2018

*An Irish Airman foresees his Death – Hamilton Gallery Sligo, Ireland June – Nov 2018

*On Paper Supreme, Extension Space, Shenyang, Liaoning,  Sept 16th – Oct 21st  2018

*Artist Nomination Exhibition, Huaiyin art gallery, Huai ‘an shi, Jiangsu, July-Aug 2018

*On Paper Supreme, Ordos Culture and Art Centre , Inner Mongolia , Aug 17th – Sept 10th  2018

*International Abstract Art , ChungChuen College, Jinan, July 2018

* On Paper Supreme, QingDao , Tiantai Art Centre, June 2018

* Existence , International Feminist Art Exhibition,  Mezzi Bookstore Art Space , Changsha

* Excavations 20 April-4th June  He Gallery, Golf Club.

*’Mortgaged Time’ 21st- 29th April at Red Gate Gallery , 798 Beijing  April 21st

*’Excavations’ 12-18th Enjoy Museum 798,  Beijing   preview 5 pm 12th April

* 5 week residency at Guanlan Printmaking base , Shenzhen (Feb-March 2018)

*Lunar New Year theme exhibition “Red Fruit” showing at Raycom IT centre, Zhongguancun,  28th Jan continues to March 3rd, organised by RoveArt , supporting the Female Protection Fund.

*Chinese & Foreign Visual Arts Hunan,  at the Meixi Academy Book Complex, Changsha Dec 26th to Jan 26th 2018.

* ‘Beyond Time’  Raycom IT Centre, Zhongguangcun, Beijing Dec – Jan 27th  2018

*”Qualitative Phase and The Narrative” Beijing Film Academy Triennial Exhibition at Dong Yue Art Museum, Beijing, curated by Li Zhen till Dec 18th 2017…………………………………………….


-.On Paper Supreme made its final exhibition for 2018 in Beijing Songzhuang opening Nov 16th
Group exhibition Hamilton Gallery, Sligo
Hamilton Gallery Sligo - Lonely Impulse 2

A response to WB Yeats poem 'An Irish Airman Foresees his Death'

Group show Oct 27th Shanghai Bund 27 The House of Roosevelt House , the Bund Shanghai
Recent ‘At your Leisure’ Summer exhibition Jiangsu “悠游“——淮阴艺术馆
exhibited in Jinan curated by Ma Yi Ying
With curator Guo Zhen at the opening of Existence in Changsha , exhibition continues till end of July 2018


简体中文Artist Interview & Profile for the Art Project ‘Existence’
Group exhibition at Red Gate in April 2018 focussing on antiwar poet Ingeborg Bachmann
Niamh Cunningham 'Bachmann Girl' 2017

Artwork for poster is 'Bachmann Girl' 100x100cm Acrylic on Canvas by Niamh Cunningham 2017

Excavations showing at Enjoy Museum 798 April 2018

Excavations , a cross collaborative exhibition showing contemporary art by Chinese and Irish artists , showing in Enjoy Museum, 798 , 2018.4.12

Very honoured to have Irish Ambassador Eoin O’ Leary visit Chinese New Year exhibition “Red & Fruit”

Irish Ambassador Eoin O'Leary with subway paintings at Raycom Centre exhibition Feb 2018

Stay updated with Niamh’s work and her trips around Beijing

Recent Posts
Stay updated with Niamh’s work and her culture vulture trips around Beijing