Saatchi Online Spotlight: SHOWDOWN Winner Miriam Sweeney

Congratulations to the winner of the SHOWDOWN competition, Miriam Sweeney, and her work “Subversion”. Out of close to 4,500 entries, her artwork will go on to display at the Saatchi Gallery in London. She will also receive US$1,000.

"Subversion" by Miriam Sweeney, Digital Photography, 40 cm x 59 cm

An interview SHOWDOWN winner with Miriam Sweeney.

Please provide us with your current bio:

MS: I was born in Cork in 1954 and had a nomadic childhood that included living in Iran for a year. Through the years I have worked at various jobs: gallery assistant, invigilator, community arts worker, teacher, etc. For the past number of years I have been teaching art part-time.

I am a member of an art group Sodium, whose purpose is to meet for peer review and to initiate projects/exhibitions. In 2009 my partner Michael and I organised a postcard exhibition in Denmark. I am also a member of Visual Artists Ireland – an all-Ireland organisation that represents professional artists. To date I have had four solo shows and have exhibited in numerous group shows.

Tell us what inspired this piece you submitted for SHOWDOWN:

MS: ‘Subversion’ was driven by the need to articulate a journey from one level of reality to another – the unknown. A dark horse..a leap of faith…

Tell us about a typical day for you.

MS: My days are diverse. The geography of my day will be shaped by work for any forthcoming exhibitions, deadlines, research etc., and by any classes I have to teach on a particular day. My current project is to install work in a vacant shop in my locality. In order to do this, I have recently negotiated with an auctioneer, the county art’s office, electricans and neighbouring shop premises in order to get the go-ahead.

My general pattern of work would be cyclical – intense activity followed by calmer times and general sorting and clearing of my work area in order to re-start. I work from home. I am lucky enough to have a studio, but generally, practalities of my work and distance dictate that I work from home. I work with different media at home and in my studio I am currently learning the use of egg tempera painting.

I live with my partner Michael, who is a sculptor and a lecturer for 30 years, at the National College of Art & Design and am therefore lucky to be able to get his input and advice. I have four children and two grandchildren – they all live fairly nearby and so we are in regular contact.

When did you know you were an artist?

MS: The border from desperately wanting to be an artist, to “knowing” I was one, is a grey area that extends many years and levels of ‘knowing’.

What kind of training did you receive? Are you self-taught or did you go to art school?

MS: When I was 17, I worked in a studio, under the direction of Koert Delmonte for 2 years. It was my first contact with a professional artist and I received good insights and information from Koert.

In the 80’s, I attended art college for 4 years. Foundation year was particularly demanding and intense and I benefited greatly from it. The third year cycle was more reflective: I majored in paint with sculpture as a subsidiary. I was fortunate to have one tutor who was passionate about painting and to have other tutors who were very cool and analytic.

When I returned to college in 2005 I was introduced to new mediums that expanded the vocabularies of my practice. Since returning to college, the vocabulary of my work has expanded to include animation, 3D, and working with found objects. Up till then my work was mainly drawing and painting-based. Drawing continues to be a central component in my practice.

What’s the best advice you were given? What advice would you give to other artists?

MS: “Try again, fail again, fail better.” I was given the above advice many years ago and have always found it a useful yardstick to return to. I would also advice setting up deadlines by applying for and creating exhibition opportunities.

What do you like about Saatchi Online?

MS: I like its democracy and the fact that it throws everything wide open. It’s informative and provides a way for artists to show their work and communicate with each other.

Saatchi Online is currently accepting new submissions for the next SHOWDOWN. Voting starts Feb. 9th. To enter your work into SHOWDOWN, go to


  1. Robin says:

    a memorable image and a very worthy winner, in my view …

  2. Glenn Harcourt says:

    A magnificant effort — CONGRATULATIONS on a well-deserved win!

  3. Edward says:

    Is this a photograph of your partner’s sculpture?

  4. Hala Bou Akl says:

    Its just “Out of the Box”…it is truly a leap…Congrats!


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