Climbing In The Abstract

·2 min read

This article originally appeared on Climbing

This feature is free for 48 hours, from Tuesday, April 19, 8:00 a.m. Mountain Time until Thursday, April 21, 8:00 a.m. It was first published in the 2022 print issue of Ascent, where it appears under the title "The Art of Climbing."

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The climber and artist Ali Mulroy (@ART_OF_CLIMBING_) graduated from the University of Westminster in London in 2005 with a bachelor's of art in illustration. For the past 13 years, she's specialized in fine-art portraiture, working primarily in oils, and has exhibited with several galleries throughout London. In 2006, Mulroy won the Winsor and Newton Young Artist of the Year, awarded by the Society of Women Artists. She's since become a committee member of the same society.

A few years after graduating, Mulroy was delivering a painting of hers to a warehouse to enter in a competition. Serendipitously, she went into the wrong building, and instead found herself in a climbing gym. "The wall was so chilled out, the staff was friendly, there were loads of people sitting around listening to music, going outside for a smoke--it felt like art school!" she says. Mulroy returned the next day, and has been climbing regularly ever since.

The sport soon became a source of inspiration for Mulroy. "By the time I'd started climbing, I'd been a professional artist for many years," she says. "I forgot the hours of learning, the micro-adjustments, the endless flow of analysis that goes into art. I was almost on autopilot." Climbing reminded her to be more present in the process, and to be unafraid of experimentation. "Climbing is pretty much the art of learning from your mistakes," she says.

Missing the immediacy of drawing and illustration from her earlier years, Mulroy wanted to try something new to reignite her creativity. Basing a side project on her other passion seemed like a natural course of action, and, in 2019, The Art of Climbing was born. "I find creating these works so enjoyable--this project awards such freedom for expression," she says. "I hope--and on a good day, I can see--that this project is helping me grow as an artist. I definitely feel far more confident and energized within the creative process."

Via pen, pencil, paint, ink, paper, and wood, Mulroy's multimedia exhibition captures the soul of our sport. --Delaney Miller

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