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Irish Gaeltacht artist to be next international visual artist in residence at SMO

Artist and Curator Conor O’Grady based in Counties Donegal and Mayo has been selected as the Jon Schueler Scholarship Artist in Residence 2020 at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig.  This is the eighth year of the Residency Programme which runs 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 for O’Grady when exploring ideas.  Referencing diverse aspects of active-research-techniques such as systems aesthetics or for example exploring the visual languages of investigative journalism he re-interprets the transient, ephemeral media of discourse into multidisciplinary visual art and provocative actions, ‘re-presenting’ the experiences of certain groups within society. Frequently this is expressed through extended photography, interventionist sculptural practices, and moving imagery which reflects contemporary visual consumption. However, painting, drawing and other traditional media also play an important part in his artistic process. Conor intends to examine the contemporary and historical land use of the area specifically in relation to traditional methods used in agriculture on the island, and exploring the biodiversity of Skye as well as examining the effect climate change is having on the island, its physical landscape and the people who live and work here. Having recently undertaken a three-month residency within the National Folk Theatre of Ireland, Siamsa Tíre, exploring a project related to the dendrology and biodiversity of the theatre’s urban setting, Conor wants to use the experience gained within this largely Gaelic speaking community with the intention of combining both strands of research into a single survey exhibition examining the biodiversity of the two areas.

On his upcoming residency at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig O’ Grady commented: “I am extremely honoured to be chosen to undertake the Jon Schueler Scholarship in 2020; to be afforded the opportunity to follow on from the rich tapestry of artists and writers who live or have lived in or created work on/about the island is a really exciting and humbling proposition. I am interested in the folklore, mythology and history of Scotland and am very much looking forward to exploring these throughout my residency with Sabhal Mór Ostaig and my time on the island.  I look forward to meeting people, engaging with the landscape and exploring the environment and in particular the unique biodiversity on the Isle of Skye.”

Last year’s artist in residence, Kim Anderson, from Ballarat in Australia, undertook a time of investigation and development of her drawing practice during her residency.  

“My initial proposal was to investigate grief and mourning in the face of climate change, and in particular the concept of “solastalgia”.  My intention was to relate this to Gaelic rituals around mourning, and this was certainly the starting point of my investigations.”

Kim also undertook two short courses at SMO – Supernatural in Song and Story with Margaret Stewart, and Level 1 Gaelic, which both gave greater depth and a clearer understanding to her research.

“One of the highlights was having access to the fantastic library, and some expert knowledge from a number of people at the college including Dr Donald William Stewart, Professor Hugh Cheap, and Dr Meg Bateman.  I also hosted events such as a public open studio event with the local community, staff and students, and a session with a group of art students from West Highland College, with some animated and fascinating conversations.’

The scholarship will run for a further 3 years having been awarded a grant from the Jon Schueler Charitable Trust and with continuing support from The Royal Scottish Academy. Sabhal Mòr is looking at hosting an exhibition of all the Schueler artists’ in residence in 2023. Meanwhile, work developed during Kim’s residency will be shown in two exhibitions – at Penny Contemporary in Hobart in December 2020, and at Flinders Lane Gallery in Melbourne in mid-2021.

Image and credit:  Conor O’ Grady – Alison Laredo

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