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Pauline O’Connell

When a Gap Becomes an Aperture 


Saturday, 31 July, 2021, 7-10 pm

Artists Introductions on:

Tuesday, 3 August, 2021, 6 pm

Saturday, 7 August, 2021, 6 pm

Thursday, 12 August, 2021, 6 pm

Visit until Tuesday, 30 August, 2021

on appointment:

We are delighted to present a solo exhibition by Pauline O’Connell, whose work, since 2012, has focused on the upland rural area where she lives in County Kilkenny in the southeast of Ireland. Her discovery of the absence of this place on the electoral map prompted her inquiries of the rural as a place, a subject and philosophical enquiry.  Through the cultivation of her practice-led (auto)ethnographic research, she uses a range of media - including sound, video, photography, drawing, installation, and text - to explore the impacts that historic rural constructions, disciplinary malpractices and conceptual disinvestment have had on the political, material, and social perceptions of the rural today prompting us to question the

very basis of our understanding.  Contradiction plays a large part

in O’Connell’s work  - sometimes even she confronts herself in

the process. 

The exhibition comprises a series of newly created works ranging

from a choreographic textual neon work, a large-scale photographic panorama, a wooden sculpture and an artist’s book. At the centre is (t)here (2020-2021) - a green neon wall- mounted text work whose central element - a constant, is here - which is always ‘on’.  Shifting perspectives are presented through a series of accumulations - questions and positions: here, (t)here, where?, nowhere, now (t)here, now here, here?  This ‘on/off’ sequence tells its own story where the politics of narrative – whereby authority is afforded to those who employ it can maintain power over those subject to it - can be analysed, deconstructed and translated.  This work acts as a prompt through which conversations can be catalysed.  It is, therefore, unfinished in that sense.   It creates a space for further enquiry,

for discussions across and between rurals constituted by multiple, similar and contradictory identities, geographies and lifeworlds.

Pauline O’Connell (b. Dublin 1971) is a visual artist based between rural County Kilkenny, Ireland and Amsterdam. She studied Fine Art, Mixed Media at Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art Design and Technology (1988-92) and received a 1st class honours M.A. in Social Practice and the Creative Environment at Limerick School of Art and Design (2012). She is completing a PhD at the University of Amsterdam, School of Heritage, Memory and Material Culture.

She has presented her work at L’Ecole Des Beaux Arts, Paris (FR); M.Y. Art Prospects, New York (USA), EVA International (IRE); Sheffield Hallam University (UK), University College Cork,

Maynooth University (IRE); University of Dundee (SCT); RIXC Art Science Festival, Riga (LV) and since 2012 her works have been

‘played back’ or (re)presented locally in the context from which

they emerge - in community halls, in fields and at crossroads.

Recent exhibitions include Wording – Collaborative Writing

in Public Space (2019) part of Disruptive Processes at the #3

Research Pavilion (Finland), Venice Biennale, invited by Dr. Lena Séraphin; Earth Writings: Bogs, Forests, Fields, Gardens (2019) Maynooth University, Dublin curated by Dr Karen E. Till; You Cannot Climb a Hedge (2018) Kilkenny Arts Festival; Our Journey to Here (2016) VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art, Carlow curated

by Emma Lucy O’Brien; The Milk Well and The Tea Well

  1. (2015)LSC Gallery touring to RAC curated by Linda Shevlin and

Sean O’Reilly. Recent awards include ArtLinks Bursary, Kilkenny County Council, The Arts Council of Ireland (2021, 2019, 2015);

A Decade of Centenaries commission award for

A Woman’s Culm HDV (2021).

supported by:

Spoil I (2021), a 3-meter wide photographic panorama depicts the

so-called heaved-up-leftovers of a mono-culture industrial  plantation after it is deforested.  These linear spoils line up similar to war barricades, redrawing the area where planting took place 30 years prior. They become remnants of an ongoing industrial agriculture practice that is based on an extraction rhetoric that renders land/nature only valuable in economic terms. This upland area,  a place called

The Brown Mountain that is close to where the artist lives, is left spoiled. The land is deemed by agricultural policy not good enough

for anything but large scale, quick-growing Sitka Spruce plantations that, at the end of their growing life are transformed into low-grade planks and OSB board.  Even though considered a sustainable renewable timber resource, these monoculture plantations render

the soil dead in terms of its biodiversity.  While agricultural incentives are at odds with the prospect of forward-thinking ecological restoration which involves the replanting of a broad range of native trees and time is given for them to regenerate, in this way, the agri-capitalist frame is subverted offering a more-than palliative approach.  A decentring of the ego and galvanising thinking beyond one’ self and lifetime is required.  Spoil I, is the first in a series that reflects on our

attachment/detachment to nature and our surrounding environment.   

PINE (2021), a hand-cut oriented strand board (OSB), is both material and emotion. It directly relates to and comes from Irish monoculture Sitka Spruce plantations where trees provide a renewable raw material that makes up the boards, providing material for our built environment.   Reflecting on the effects of Covid-19 on the curtailment of peoples’ movements, the artist explores the ways The Brown Mountain local plantation has also provided a place where grief can be expressed - evidenced through an increased social/recreational footprint.  PINE provides a space for contemplation, self-reflection, (dis)connection

and hope.  

Inspired by Georges Perec’s experimental book Tentative D'épuisement d'un Lieu Parisien, or An Attempt at Exhausting a

Place in Paris,  In the Middle of Nowhere (2019), in the form of an artist’s book, recontextualises this work where the O’Connell pays attention to the seemingly insignificant and notices what is taking

place when nothing special is happening. Set at Brooke’s Cross, Castlewarren, Co. Kilkenny, where, over three days, she placed herself and took note of what she saw speaks back to rural

pejoratives such that ‘nothing happens there’, ‘it’s the middle

of nowhere’.  

The (re)contextualising this work during the Vienna Biennale 2021 Planet Love, in a gallery setting at the edge of the former imperial hunting grounds, the Vienna Prater - a place only accessible for the aristocracy until the Austrian Emperor Josef II donated the area to the Viennese in 1766 - provides a space where human/nature relations can be explored; where land is either viewed as a money-making resource, land as commodity, land as recreation, livelihood, home, memory can be refocused - it pays attention to scale.