Outsider artist Violetta Mahon presents a complex, ambivalent figure—a profoundly private artist, her most important works are holy grottoes built as if they were public art. Situated in fields, along roads, and half-hidden among various rural and urban landscapes, Mahon’s grottoes represent themselves as deeply personal expressions of folk art impulses, as if she were speaking her own invented words but in our common tongue. The strange blend of uncanniness and familiarity that evinces itself in Mahon’s work develops out of her abiding concern with dreams, symbols, the unconscious, religion, spirituality and alternative languages. Mahon’s artistic vision encompasses a heterogeneous spirituality, using religious symbology from around the world, absorbing it all into her own intuitive visionary structure and transforming the exotic into the personal, the banal into the wondrous.
Born in 1976 in Dublin, Violetta Mahon graduated from University College Dublin in 1998 with a BA in Celtic Studies. Mahon has always been a reclusive and solitary artist, devoting herself wholeheartedly to her artistic vision without showing much concern for exposing her work to a wider public or for promoting her artistic career. After graduating from college she worked a series of jobs, including phone-operator at a suicide hotline, caregiver at a home for adults with Down’s Syndrome, worker on an organic farm and postwoman. She has struggled with spiritual and psychological crises throughout her life, including being hospitalised twice for psychotic episodes. Her unique, innovative work went unrecognised and relegated to the realm of roadside oddities and second-hand shops until a chance meeting with Flor Hartigan brought her into the artist collective known as Grúpat. Since then, represented by Hartigan and the other members of Grúpat, Mahon has seen interest in her work flourish. Although she herself refuses to partake in the professional aspects of her artistic career, her work speaks for itself.
Mahon’s work can be seen in situ at numerous sites throughout South Dublin County, and has been exhibited at The Stone Gallery, Monster Truck and Pallas Studios in Dublin, at The Model Arts Gallery and the Niland Gallery in Sligo, The Crawford Arts Center in Cork and Denniston Hill in New York, and can also be found in private collections. Her work has been reviewed in Wire, Artforum, Diagram, Signal to Noise and elsewhere. She shows almost exclusively with other artists from Grúpat.
Mahon currently lives in Dublin, where she works as a delivery driver. She eschews publicity and personal appearances, preferring to insulate herself and her artistic practice from commercial concerns. She is represented by Flor Hartigan.