Ronan O’Brien

Ronan O’Brien

Who are you?
     Ronan O’Brien

Where are you?
     Currently living between Vienna and London

What are you researching/interested in?
     I have been interested in the notion of ‘the sublime’ for a while now, combining it with psychogeography to investigate city aesthetics and contemporary architecture; how it influences us and how we in turn interact with urban environments. I used to go on walks as research and document them with text, although recently since I have moved to Vienna it has become more of a general sense of city life I am focusing on. I would often find myself being drawn to the margins of the city such as industrial estates and motorways and I’m trying to discover where this draw is coming from. I am also interested in geology; how things like rocks and crystalline structures are made, specifically quartz. I’ve been using quartz as a metaphor for skyscrapers and as quartz, sand and glass are pretty much the same thing there is this chemical link (silicon dioxide) but also a visual one in their form. Whilst researching the geological side of these minerals it was impossible to ignore the masses of text on crystal healing, although I am extremely skeptical of its uses I found it interesting how people would look at a minerals physical properties such as colour, density etc. and then translate this to its metaphysical properties. For example rose quartz is pink in colour and is the stone of love. I became interested with this as psychogeography is similar in that it is the aesthetics of the city which influence you as you pass through it.

up Ronan o'brien
'Up' (2018)
quartz Ronan o'brien
'Quartz' (2018)

What is your work (specific or general) trying to say?
     I think its trying to make sense of this notion of the sublime. My work is always a bit dirty yet having shiny, attractive qualities also. I am thinking of the urban environment becoming the natural environment, having lived all my life in a city it is my natural environment now, with the natural feeling more alien in terms of day to day life. Obviously you also have the majority if the worlds population now living in cities. Its exploring this shift.

Who is your work for?
     Its for city dwellers I suppose. I try to pick out these aspects form the city and put them into my work to make it relatable. Even of you don’t like art or are uninterested in it you can still relate to it on a material level.

Can you explain a pivotal artwork of yours?
     In terms of an artwork in my portfolio it would be ‘Walking About’ but the tests leading up to that were called ‘Urban Geodes’. I was looking back to works were I was trying to imagine the fossils of the future; linking this city life with geology but in a way were I was just using the materials on their own. I wasn’t trying to actually make geodes, I was just playing with the material and painting them gold and silver, letting the materials do the talking with their won connotations. I had geodes in mind but not a strict sense. I made these clay forms with no specific shape, just enjoying this free making, then standing back and realising that this was how I was walking during my research walks; without a specific plan or destination to go to. Rather than forcing an idea through from the beginning just making and then looking and interpreting that at a later stage or once it had been completed. I found it really freeing and fun bringing these interests together and I think it worked well.

walking around Ronan o'brien
'Walking About' (2017)
urban geodes Ronan o'brien
'Urban Geodes' (2017)
going home Ronan o'brien
'Going Home' (2017)

Can you give one piece of advice?
     Always keep a spare pair of gloves at the ready. Mine always rip and I always end up cement or toxic chemicals all over my hands right at the most crucial point of making a sculpture.

Which exhibition have you liked recently? (past 6 months)
     ‘Communicating Vessels’ at Bunkier Sztuki, Krakow, Poland. It had really fascinating gloopy blobs, between tar and treacle . They were disgusting but beautiful at the same time. It was a group show and there were other interesting works but that stood in my mind. It was one of the few sticky works I have seen. (Artist was Agata Ingarden)

Whats next?
     I have made my initial piece about quartz called ‘Quartz’ and I am trying to take the elements from that piece and push them further, experimenting with them. I also have the ‘Praktische Scheiße’ (‘Practical Shit’) exhibition in Linz at the end of June which I am working towards. I think there will be some kind of sheet of glass stuck to the wall with chewing gum, but I am refining that now.


Can you recommend three artists to look at?
     Georgia McGrath             @_georgiamcgrath 
     Anna Smallman               @annasmallman
     Taro Meissner               @taromeissner

1:30:00 Ronan o'brien
'1:30:00 From Home' (2017)
hanwell Ronan o'brien
'Hanwell' (2016)

To view more images of Ronan’s work, please click on the following links:

Crossing image Ronan o'brien
'Crossing' (2017)
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