Interview: Esther O’Kelly | ITSLIQUID

Interview: Esther O’Kelly

Interviews | October 1, 2020 |

Esther O'Kelly
Image courtesy of Esther O’Kelly

Interview: Esther O’Kelly
Luca Curci talks with Esther O’Kelly, one of the winners of ARTIST OF THE MONTH – SEPTEMBER 2020.

I make my paintings in Vault Artist Studio’s in Belfast. They are mostly large format acrylic paint applied with thick brushes. An experimental and intuitive approach is at the core of my work. Works are produced in a spontaneous manner drawing upon the unconscious as source material. I work into the painting using wide blades that remove layers of paint while simultaneously creating scratch marks. I like this visceral approach to the medium, quite often it is what I remove from the canvas rather than what is added that creates the focal point of the work. My paintings are an evocation of my relationship with home; memories, landscape and heritage. I paint from memories and remembered experience, drawing narratives from personal and cultural memory, an active engagement with the idea of place. I am inspired by how we form an understanding of our surroundings, how the chaos of this world can turn into an abstract expression where personal experience overflows. Our mental maps are skewed by whatever is meaningful to us, it’s a visceral, fundamental human thing, My everyday experience goes into making a painting, recurring ideas that take root and flourish in the imagination, gateways into feelings and stories known or imagined. By travelling with the landscape I can encode a map that’s constantly being influenced with what is meaningful. I see the journey as a beautifully non-linear thing, haphazard wanderings are built into the most fundamental stories we tell ourselves about human growth, a hero must leave home and trek through uncharted territory to fulfil their potential. These stories are bound to the personal and collective memory, the need to survive, to rebuild and to defend in these precarious pandemic, post-war pre-Brexit times. I’m influenced by the mythologies that shape our views of the world and our places within it. The trauma bond that exists between Britain and Ireland, the long and troubled history of colonisation and its associated grand narrative/s. My work represents a resistance to the google map celebrating the idea of getting lost by encouraging the mind to create idiosyncratic sketches of wild rambles. This is how the uncharted is discovered and how I stumble upon the unmoored experience.I attempt to transcend reality in my work by saying that the most desirable of possible worlds can be created and stories can deny or re-imagine.

Esther O'Kelly
Image courtesy of Esther O’Kelly

Luca Curci – What is art for you?
Esther O’Kelly – Art is life, It’s everything, I see it as fundamental to the human experience. Art helps us form an understanding of the world around us, it helps us process our experiences and connects us with others.

LC – What are you currently working on?
EOK – I have been working outside the studio and experimenting with being more immersive in the landscape by actively engaging with the notion and experience of the journey. Making work based on how I experience time, place, and space. How I experience the transient, the impermanent and the romantic all in a more connected way. Being in the landscape is a big part in making the work more relevant for me bringing a balance between being mindful and being mindless. I would like to make work that records the wisdom and bleakness held in the vastness of the landscape as it consumes and intoxicates generations of humans on their journey

Esther O'Kelly
Image courtesy of Esther O’Kelly

LC – What is the most challenging part about creating your artworks?
EOK – The most challenging part about making work is getting the time and resources to make the work. As a self reliant full time artist and carer you feel the pressure to justify the time spent on your practice, so it can be difficult to dedicate research and development time to enhance your career with research trips and residencies. I have worked hard however to improve my creative network and relationships with mentors which has helped me gain perceptive on my career and my work which I am very grateful for.

Esther O'Kelly
Image courtesy of Esther O’Kelly

LC – What is your creative process like?
EOK – I make my paintings in Vault Artist Studio’s in Belfast. They are mostly large format acrylic paint applied with thick brushes. An experimental and intuitive approach is at the core of my work. Works are produced in a spontaneous manner drawing upon the unconscious as source material. I work into the painting using wide blades that remove layers of paint while simultaneously creating scratch marks. I like this visceral approach to the medium, quite often it is what I remove from the canvas rather than what is added that creates the focal point of the work.

Esther O'Kelly
Image courtesy of Esther O’Kelly

LC – Are your artworks focused on a specific theme?
EOK – My paintings are an evocation of my relationship with home; memories, landscape and heritage. I paint from memories and remembered experience, drawing narratives from personal and cultural memory, an active engagement with the idea of place. I am inspired by how we form an understanding of our surroundings, how the chaos of this world can turn into an abstract expression where personal experience overflows. Our mental maps are skewed by whatever is meaningful to us, it’s a visceral, fundamental human thing, My everyday experience goes into making a painting, recurring ideas that take root and flourish in the imagination, gateways into feelings and stories known or imagined. By travelling with the inner landscape I can encode a map that’s constantly being influenced with what is meaningful.

Esther O'Kelly
Image courtesy of Esther O’Kelly

LC – How is being an artist nowadays?
EOK – I love being an artist, I feel very privileged to be able to practice my art. We play a diverse and necessary part in contributing to the overall health, development, and well-being of our society. Artist provide our communities with joy, and inspiration, enabling steps toward meaningful social progress. But right at the moment it’s tough for many of us particularly the performing artists. I’m hopeful for the future though, we always find a means and a way, that’s our thing and we’ll keep doing it.

Esther O'Kelly
Image courtesy of Esther O’Kelly
Esther O'Kelly
Image courtesy of Esther O’Kelly

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