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8th Jon Schueler Scholarship Artist takes up Residence at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig

Irish artist and curator, Conor O’Grady, has now taken up his residency at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, under the Jon Schueler Residency Programme which has now been running for 8 years at the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture on the Isle of Skye.

The Scholarship is a unique partnership between SMO and the Jon Schueler Charitable Trust with support from the Royal Scottish Academy. It was established to celebrate and remember the life, work and artistic influence of internationally renowned artist and abstract expressionist painter, Jon Schueler (1916-1992), and in recognition of his very special relationship with the landscape and environment of the Sound of Sleat.

Based in Counties Donegal and Mayo, O’ Grady was educated in Fine Art at Dublin Institute of Technology and at the National College of Art and Design. He is widely published and is the recipient of several awards and commissions including: Siamsa Tíre Artist-In-Residence at the National Folk Theatre of Ireland, Tralee (2018); Krems AIR Artist-In-Residence, Kunsthalle Krems, Lower Austria (2017) and Home Residency DAS Digital Art Studios Artist-In-Residence, Belfast (2017).  Conor has exhibited in solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally including: Damnatio Memoriae, a solo show at Ballina Arts Centre, Mayo (2019); Culture Prize Presentation, Stadtmuseum, St. Polten, Austria (2017-18) and exhibitions in Dublin, Tasmania, Melbourne and London.

O’Grady’s practice uses observation, documentation and material/visual investigation as primary techniques for creating work. Discussion, dialogue and conversation are the main focus when exploring ideas.  However, painting, drawing and other traditional media also play an important part in his artistic process.

On his Scholarship, Conor explained:  “During the residency I will use active-research techniques, dialogue, informal interviews and other means of information gathering, including material investigation in order to research the language, history, folklore, and traditional culture of the island and the people who live here, with a specific emphasis on how these are common within Scotland and Ireland.

This will culminate in a series of paintings, sculpture, installations and rural- interventions that examine the biodiversity of the island and which explore the balance between native and invasive plants using this as a metaphor for the balance between traditional ways of living and contemporary changes in industries such as agriculture, fishing and tourism.

At the moment I am examining the areas surrounding the college, the different uses of land, the remnants of traditional industries and the biodiversity of this part of the island and using these to create sculptures in my studio which will become larger installations for gallery display.

Recently I acquired thousands of postage stamps on the island, some of which date back to the 1880s and a number of which are from the late’1910s to early 1940s, alluding to the fact that they may be from soldiers living in areas affected by WWI and WWII sending letters back to their families, presumably on Skye. The vast array of colours and images depicted on the stamps will accompany the sculptures, interventions and installations as fallen leaves.”

Last year’s Jon Schueler Scholarship recipient, Kim Anderson from Australia, is currently working towards two exhibitions – one in Hobart in December, and one in Melbourne next June, both of which will feature images developed from her residency.  She has also been shortlisted in 4 major drawing prizes, including the prestigious Jacaranda Acquistive Drawing Award 2020.  

On her time spent on Skye, Kim said:  “It really was a huge turning point in my practice, and it’s been so heartening that these works have had such an incredible response so far.  It’s really great to have some recognition and be counted amongst some pretty well-renowned artists here in Australia. I collected so much material during the residency at Sabhal Mòr, material that I will work with for many years. The way I develop works, slowly, over time, the results are now gradually seeping out into the public realm.  I often think about Skye and I’ve missed it since I left.  I guess it gets under your skin…”

Kim will be exhibiting in Grafton Regional Gallery, 2 Oct – 22 Nov, Swan Hill Regional Gallery, 5 Sept – 22 Nov and Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, 5 Dec – 21 Feb 21.


Image and credit:  Conor O’ Grady – Alison Laredo

Charcoal drawings:  Kim Anderson

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