Niamh Barry was born and raised in Dublin. Since graduating from the National College of Art and Design in 1991 she has made her native city the home of her studio practice.
Barry transitioned from ceramics to metalwork soon after graduating, drawn by the control bronze afforded her, saying of the material, “what I have in front of me at any moment is what I have—definite and immediate, enduring and strong.”
She first gained international recognition in 2011 when she was chosen by London’s Luxcraft as one of just eight artists to showcase their lighting designs. She has risen to great prominence in the intervening years. A pioneering force in the use of LED, she has become one of the most sought-after figures producing light sculptures today. In fact, Barry credits much of her success to developments in this medium, which, like bronze, has afforded her the capacity for unhindered expression, an ability to reproduce forms that spring from her imagination three-dimensionally.
Barry’s work transcends utility. She strives, above all else, to achieve striking visual balance, movement, and proportion. Her process is visceral, and allows her instinct to speak. Her work is thus experienced similarly—which is to say with emotion rather than contemplation alone. It is inpired by natural beauty—the patterns and textures of ploughed and planted fields, walls, and hedges; cloud formations; the delicacy of flowers; low winter light penetrating the branches of bare trees; the light and heat of fire, which she finds both exhilarating and comforting; and the perfection of birds—their long necks, their grace in flight, the markings of their feathers, and the seeming impossibility of their heavy torsos supported by fragile, delicate legs.
Perhaps her greatest source of inspiration is the human form—its movement in embrace and dance, or even its composure in a still moment. This is visible in many of her sculptures.
Barry’s process begins with a series of rapid line drawings. She transcribes these sketches directly to maquettes, from which she creates her sculptures. She often says that her sculptures are drawings in bronze and light.
Barry has been profiled in Architectural Digest, The Financial Times, Modern Magazine, and Galerie Magazine. In 2017 Barry was the recipient of the 2017 Award for Best Lighting in Image Interiors and Living Magazine. Later that same year she executed a monumental light sculpture in the headquarters of the Central Bank of Ireland. In 2019 a solo exhibition of her work was mounted at the National Museum of Ireland.