"You don’t need a gallery to get an exhibition" Be Inspired by Martin Finnin


Skipping through the streets of Cork city, in my late teens, free to drink Bulmers for breakfast, stay up really late eating Taytos and generally doing what I wanted.

Living out of home ROCKS!!

My early exposure to the world of Art and the wonderful Creatives that came with it, kicked off in 1993. I was on my early, extremely short, path of becoming a painter myself and dived into this world, with full enthusiasm of a cherry-cheeked 17 year old (Sigh!)

One such Creative, who I noticed rushing around the streets of Cork, hands covered in dried paint, overalls and an expression of preoccupation, was Martin Finnin. I observed from afar and wondered who this guy was, and more importantly what was he up to!

One day in the Crawford Art Gallery, a regular haunt of mine, an interesting piece caught my attention. It was a style I had never seen before. Abstraction with Monster Munch crisps stuck to it. Cooooool...and in the Crawford Gallery...on the edge!!

Who was behind this....Martin Finnin..Bingo now it made sense.

And so my love of Abstract Art began.

Thank you, Martin & Monster Munch ( I love obvious disguises)

Now years later this hardworking, passionate individual who dropped out of three Art Schools has carved a wonderful place for himself on the Global Art scene.

So how did he do it?



What was the biggest struggle when starting out as an artist?

Doubt was the biggest struggle. Doubt about my work but also about my place in the world. It was hard to convince myself and people around me that being an artist is as much a job as being an accountant and that it can be a way to earn a living.

I grew up surrounded by people learning trades, earning wages, doing “the right thing”. Questions about “when was I going to grow up and get a real job” kept getting more persistent as the years went by. I have been fortunate enough to be able to live from my art for many years now, yet people still comment on me ”not having a job”.

Now I think it’s funny, when I started out I found it awkward and I wasted a lot of time trying to explain myself.


 Top 3 tips for approaching a gallery to represent you?

 1. Get really good quality images taken of your work – best money you’ll ever spend.

 2. Only approach Galleries who are representing Artists whose work you like.

 3. If in doubt, just go for it. Sometimes you have to be brazen and put yourself out there. A lot of the Galleries who turned me down, gave me great tips on how to improve or where to head next and so the worst that can happen is that you’ll get free, invaluable advice.



You don’t need a gallery to get an exhibition. Many people get their first shows by going on residencies. There are so many different types of residencies, apply to those that incorporate some kind of exhibition. I started by having pop-up shows in random public places, cafes, markets etc. Just keep doing what you love and it will work out.


Was there a lightbulb moment in your career?

Mine was when I realised I could make art from anything, anywhere. When I had no paint I found stuff in skips for installations, when I had no studio I worked in my bedroom. Today people can have their whole studio and materials in a mobile phone. There are endless ways to be creative, reinvent and share, all from right where you are now.


How did you get your work out there, initially?

Starting out, I found it really hard to get into a Gallery so I had my own shows anywhere I could. I organised one of my first shows while I was still in college in Dublin. I rented a space in the old Iveagh Markets and hung these huge nude abstract paintings in two rows down the middle of all the piles of second-hand clothes. I thought it was a cool building. No one came so I asked a friend to ring the Gerry Ryan radio show and pretend to be a trader complaining about the nudity in the paintings and sure enough the next day the radio was there to see what was happening. I got free advertising and some other people came after that. I also met a curator who, a few years later, bought a piece for a permanent collection.

 **Virtual applause** Biscuit LOVES this type of initiative! Whoop! Make it happen! Oh yeah! 

I continued to work along those lines for years. I would build up a body of work, find an interesting venue (theaters, cafes, empty buildings) introduce myself and show them some of my work. Once I had secured a potential venue I would go out to look for sponsorship by walking around shops, asking for money or goods in return for exposure on invites: off-licenses for the wine, printers for the invites, stationary shops for the envelopes, painters and decorators for the paint needed to clean the walls before and after and so on. Then I would make an invite list by going through the phone book: architects, doctors, barristers and business owners etc. I asked friends and family to turn up to fill the room and have a lash again. There were plenty of shows where I didn’t sell anything but eventually it took off and from there I got into my first gallery and then into others.  


What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?

 Lay off the rasher sandwiches and dance more.


Would you recommend going to a bigger city like London or New York with work?

Why not? Try everything. If it feels right for you do it. There is more competition in big cities but there are also more opportunities. I travelled a lot over the years and worked wherever I went. Travelling has been really important for my work but I don’t think it has been important in getting into galleries. I didn’t live in London when I got into a London gallery. The best place to make art is wherever you are right now. 


Do you use Social Media to promote your work?

A friend helped me to set up my first website about 14 years ago and I have always been grateful to have yet I didn't really update it or do anything with it. It wasn't until about two years ago that I started to get into the concept of having an online presence and using social media. I got a new website and started a blog. To my great surprise I do actually enjoy it but I find I am not very consistent. I might post a lot for several weeks and then nothing for a few after that. Working intensely for a period and then going into hiding is how I work offline so it’s actually a true reflection of my practice. I guess the social media police will come and get me any day now but in the meantime I’ll keep going.

Since discovering the Flipboard app I do actually enjoy reading and discovering stuff on Twitter, even while I am not posting much myself, but my favourite platform is Tumblr.


Have you any motivational tips for artists?

Being a painter is like being a writer, you spend a lot of time on your own. I do anyway, so I think it is important to not forget to meet people, cultivate a good sense of humour and dance more.

 I think doubt will always come into your practice, no matter which stage you’re at. Just keep going anyway and move in the direction of what feels right rather than what your head tells you to do.

And if you’re still in doubt, tell yourself you rock… 


Huge thanks to Martin for talking to Biscuit - a true passion fuelled Creative Entrepreneur. 

Be inspired - Make it happen!

Bop on over to BitetheBiscuit facebook group to meet like minded Creatives and join the conversation.