ARTIST INTERVIEW: Orla Whelan

March 1, 2008

"I have always wanted to be an artist from as far back as I can remember. I was always drawing and painting as a child. I started watercolour classes on a Saturday morning when I was eight years old, as well as doing art in school.”  Orla Whelan, March 2008.





ARTIST INTERVIEW: Orla Whelan in conversation with Nicola Murphy in March 2008 about her residency in Draíocht's Artists Studio.


Brief Introduction:

Draíocht welcomes Orla Whelan to the studio residency for six months from January to June 2008. Working in oil on canvas Orla creates gentle and elusive images drawn from a range of sources of personal significance. Redundant memorials, forgotten monuments, faces, places or cosmic elements such as the moon, clouds, and stars appear pared down in a barely visible manner. Orla will spend her time at Draíocht expanding the scale of her work in preparation for a number of projects, including a group show at the Lab, Dublin City Council’s new space for contemporary art in the city centre, and a solo show in Draíocht in November 2008.

Born in Dublin 1975, Orla Whelan is an Irish artist who lives and works in Dublin. Recent Exhibitions include There, Not There at Crawford Art Gallery (2008) and Trapezium at the LAB (2008). Previous solo exhibitions include We live to see each other at thisisnotashop (2007), Outside at The Return, Goethe Instituit (2007), Overtime at Archeus Fine Art London (2002) and New Work at Christopher Hull Gallery London (1997). She holds BA Fine Art from NCAD, MA European Fine Art from Winchester School of Art, Barcelona and an MA in Visual Arts Practices from IADT.



Q: Tell us a little about yourself, your background, where you’re from and where you live?

I am from Dublin. I grew up here and went to NCAD after I left school, where I did my degree in Fine Art. I have lived in a few other places since; Spain, England and travelled a little to Australia and India. I did an MA in Barcelona a few years ago and I have just completed an MA in Visual Art Practices from IADT in December. I now live in Drimnagh with my husband and daughter who is two and a half.

Q: How long have you been an artist and why choose an arty profession over a more conventional career, like being an accountant, or working in an office for instance?

I have always wanted to be an artist form as far back as I can remember. I was always drawing and painting as a child. I started watercolour classes on a Saturday morning when I was eight years old, as well as doing art in school. My parents were very encouraging and supportive. I have only one sister and she is an artist too.

Q: Perhaps you also have a conventional day job to supplement your income as an artist and if yes does this interfere with your creativity and focus?

Over the years I have done different jobs to supplement my income, mostly casual teaching. At the moment I don’t do any other work.

Q: When did you paint your first picture and what was your subject matter?

I used to paint romantic landscapes in watercolour when I was nine or ten. The first one I remember my parents framing was a snow-scene with a farmhouse or barn in the distance.


Q: Has your style changed over the years and what might have influenced this change if yes?


Yes, it changes and evolves all the time. It s usually influenced by what I see, what I am reading or researching and by other artists work that I have seen or films that I have seen as well. Circumstance plays a part too, my work is influenced by where I am based, what my studio is like, what else is going on in my life and around me.

Q: Have you ever tried other art forms like photography, sculpting, making music, or dancing for instance?

No, I have only ever worked in painting. I am very focussed and still I always feel there is so much more within painting that I want to do, or need to try out, as if there isn’t enough time to diversify.


Q: What other artists or people have influenced or inspired you, and in what ways?


I have been looking at the work of Mamma Anderson and Laura Owens recently. In terms of Irish artists, Stephen McKenna would be an influence. I am influenced a lot by novels I read, some writers have a really visual way of writing that lingers, like WG Sebald and Michael Oondatje.



Q: How do you keep motivated if you’re having a bad day?



I don’t know really. It’s so disheartening when you work really hard all day and sometimes have nothing to show for it at the end, but it just makes me more determined to figure out what I am trying to do with it. There is always a need to be making the work no matter what. The thought of not doing it fills me with dread, what else would I do?

Q: How do you juggle being a mother and an artist?

It’s not that difficult. Having a child does impact my studio time but it also kind of empowers you, gives you a confidence. It gives you quite a different perspective on time generally, I have become more appreciative of the present, and much more aware of the long term. It alters your perception of life and mortality quite significantly and these thoughts have influenced the ideas and imagery in my work.

Q: How have you handled the business side of being an artist, promoting yourself and getting exposure, selling your work etc?

Not very well. As an artist, you do have to spend a lot of time on applications and proposals and I probably don’t do it enough. There is a lot of pressure to be actively seeking opportunities which is tiring but necessary.

Q: Could you tell us a little more about your residency in Draíocht’s Artist Studio?

It’s a great opportunity for me to work on a larger scale as it is quite a large studio. I have been working on a small scale for the last five years, in much smaller studios and have been looking forward to up-scaling again. I am going to use the time and space here to try things out and to explore new materials and processes of working. With my current work, I am particularly interested in the relationship between imagery and meaning, in the psychological power of imagery. My most recent work considers ideas of memory, collectivity and subjectivity. These themes are explored through the use of personal imagery, faces and physical points of connection between two people. The sense of reflection, connection, or implication inherent in this imagery is something that I am currently developing.

Q: Have you any exhibitions coming up?

The next show I have is a group show at the LAB, in Foley St. The show is called Trapezium, with three other artists and it opens in mid June.

Q: Do you have any advice you could give to an artist just starting out?

Enjoy yourself. Follow your instincts for what you are interested in, and look at other artists work all the time. You learn a lot from looking.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Working away, hopefully in a nice big studio like this.

Q: What are your interests and hobbies outside of painting?

Well, I go to exhibitions a lot, I read, watch films and play basket-ball regularly. I enjoy going out with my friends and being with my family.


For further information about Artist Orla Whelan or the Visual Arts programme please contact:

The Visual Arts Officer, Draíocht / Tel: 01-809 8026

For media information please contact:
Nicola Murphy, Marketing Press & PR Manager, Draíocht
Tel: 01-8098021

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By Draíocht. Tags: Artist Interview, Exhibitions, Visual Arts, Orla Whelan,

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Naomi Sex

March 1, 2008

ARTIST INTERVIEW: Naomi Sex in conversation with Nicola Murphy in March 2008



"This is a body of prints, which I have been working towards for a number of years. It’s a mixture of some smaller pieces, which have been shown individually before, and some very large pieces, which have never been shown before. Each piece is conveying a set of circumstances, scenarios or a particular version of events. Together in the space, they sum up a sense of clarity, or perhaps misjudged clarity, which is often the case when one looks back at a time or situation where something of significance has occurred, with a certain degree of regret or remorse..
Naomi Sex, March 2008



Brief Introduction: Naomi Sex specializes in etching. Her evocative prints capture moments in time and place in a cinematic way while at the same time keeping a sense of intimacy, hinting at personal histories rather than grand narratives. Like finding a strangers lost diary they allow the viewer to glimpse a series of private events as though each image represented random pages. As a print maker Sex uses diverse technical means in a variety of materials and media, producing highly accomplished works. Naomi Sex received a BA in Fine Art in 1999 from the National College of Art and Design, where she is currently completing a Masters Degree. She has exhibited widely nationally and internationally and in 2001 she was part of a two-person show in the Original Print Gallery, Dublin. In 2002 she was awarded a one month residency by the Newfoundland­-Ireland artist program. In 2003 as part of the 'Percent for Arts’ scheme she was awarded a commission by the Office of Public Works to produce a series of ten etchings documenting the restoration of the Great Palm House in the National Botanical Gardens. In 2005 she had a solo show at the Printmakers Gallery, Dublin. Her work is part of numerous state collections including the Office of Public Works, AXA Insurance, The Aviation Board of Ireland, A & L Goodbody Solicitors, Chris Ryan, KMD and O' Dowd, Herlihy & Horan architects.  Q: Tell us a little about yourself, your background, where you’re from and where you live?

I’m from Portmarnock in Dublin, excluding time in digs and some traveling and residencies, I have lived there for most of my life.

Q: How long have you been an artist and why choose an arty profession over a more conventional career, like being an accountant, or working in an office for instance?

 I did a B.A. at the National college of Art and Design about 10 years ago, and am currently back there studying for my M.A. So I have been practicing and actively exhibiting for those 10 years. Becoming an artist was a foregone conclusion for me; as a kid growing up in my house, if you were to throw a stone you would be sure to hit an artist.




Q: Perhaps you also have a conventional day job to supplement your income as an artist and if yes does this interfere with your creativity and focus?

I have many jobs and, assume many roles. At the moment, I am studying at the N.C.A.D., I currently teach at both I.A.D.T. (Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology) and D.I.T. (School of Art and Design). I still work part time at The Printmakers Gallery, and I am heavily involved with the Blackchurch Print Studio, where I have been a director for the last three years. I see all these roles, learning, teaching, showing, selling, and organising as vital elements in keeping my work grounded and maintaining a good understanding of how other people think and feel in relation to art practice. I think this is crucial when it comes to making well informed and considered work.

Q: When did you create your first print and what was your subject matter?

The first real print I made was about 13 years ago, and I seem to remember a lot of floating chickens. Eh, some things are best forgotten.

Q: Has your style changed over the years and what might have influenced this change if yes?

Yes it has, and particularly now since I am studying again. I wasn’t listening the first time around, too busy having the craic. Now I’m a bit of sponge, it has opened up a huge amount of possibilities in relation to my work and also working with other people, which is very exciting.



Q: Have you ever tried other art forms like photography, sculpting, making music, or dancing for instance?

Funny, you should ask that. Yes, as part of a recent post-graduate symposium ‘In sight of the audience’ at N.C.A.D., my new collaborative partner, Sinead McCann, and myself, gave a presentation, prior to which we worked with a musician, who we co- wrote a rap with (Dave Layde). He then performed it live at the symposium. There will be an article about it published in Circa Magazine, and the tune will be available for download on the Circa website in March.

Q: What other artists or people have influenced or inspired you, and in what ways?

Even though I tell her that I taught her everything she knows, the truth is my mother (Botanical painter) Susan Sex, is a bit of a pain that way, she’s just too inspiring, always working, working, working. She is a complete perfectionist, and an absolute professional, in regards to getting the job done and doing it well; a mother of six, and grandmother of five. Such a pain..




Q: How do you keep motivated if you’re having a bad day?

When you get used to self-generating and directing your own various working methods, you develop little tactics and tricks for not taking things personally, and keeping your work in perspective. I will do things like give my Mark a call (artists husband) ... that usually does the trick.

Q: How have you handled the business side of being an artist, promoting yourself and getting exposure, selling your work etc?

I suppose, I’ve been knocking around for a while now, so it’s been a gradual thing. I picked up a lot of tips from my peers, who for the majority of my time as an artist have been the membership of the Blackchurch. There is a high level of professionalism there, and it is a dynamic, supportive and inspiring environment, where information is shared. As a young artist starting out, the more established artists there offer a lot of guidance and advise. Realistically, there is a good bit of tact and discipline in relation to conducting your practice in a business like fashion, which in my case was and still is self-taught over time.





Q: Could you tell us a little more about your forthcoming exhibition in Draíocht’, ‘20/20 Hindsight’?

This is a body of prints, which I have been working towards for a number of years. It’s a mixture of some smaller pieces, which have been shown individually before, and some very large pieces, which have never been shown before. Each piece is conveying a set of circumstances, scenarios or a particular version of events. Together in the space, they sum up a sense of clarity, or perhaps misjudged clarity, which is often the case when one looks back at a time or situation where something of significance has occurred, with a certain degree of regret or remorse. The underlying concern in relation to the work is the fallibility, which is inherent in the human condition, resulting in mistakes, misjudgements, and misinterpretations. These scenes are based on the reflective time after an event has occurred.

Q: What other exhibitions are coming up for you in the future?

I have my grad show as part of the M.A. in the Digital Hub in June, and I also have a two-man show with Sinead McCann in Red Stables, which will probably be in autumn sometime.





Q: Do you have any advice you could give to an artist just starting out?

Use a diary. Simple and effective.




For further information about Artist Naomi Sex or the Visual Arts programme please contact:

Visual Arts Officer, Draíocht / Tel: 01-809 8026

For media information please contact:
Nicola Murphy, Marketing Press & PR Manager, Draíocht
Tel: 01-8098021

Leave a comment / 0 Comments

By Draíocht. Tags: Artist Interview, Exhibitions, Visual Arts,