Refusal, an exhibition featuring work by Helen O’Leary, artist and professor of art, will be on display at the Wexford Arts Centre, Wexford, Ireland, October 20-December 24, 2013. An opening reception will be held Saturday, October 19, 4:00 p.m., with Brian Fay, artist and lecturer, Dublin Institute of Technology.
O’Leary grew up in rural Wexford in the 1960s through the 1980s. It was a life of survival, where industriousness and invention born of need were placed on equal footing with rich literature, music, language and personal narrative. In Refusal, O’Leary’s work will explore the notion of lament and survival, the space between remembering and forgetting, and the poetic perception of returning to something that has been forgotten or overlooked.
O’Leary has been exhibiting for more than twenty years. Her new work for Wexford Arts Centre delves into her own history as a painter, with both subject matter and raw material rooted in the ruins and failures of her studio. By taking apart canvases, wooden stretchers, panels and frames, she turns the conventions of painting literally inside out. Humorous and enigmatic, these fragments that make a new whole bare their histories as well-worn objects while at the same time are infused with new-found energy and dynamism. Through the language of paint, O'Leary's work offers a glimpse into the irrational resistance and refusal to accept convention still very present in the human psyche, and the ever-present humor necessary to survival everywhere.
O’Leary has received many prestigious awards, including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2010-2011); Penn State Institute for the Arts and Humanities fellowship (2013); Pollock-Krasner Award (1989 and 1996); Joan Mitchell Award (2000); several grants from the Arts Council of Ireland; residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre and the Fundacion Valparaiso in Almeria, Spain; and most recently the Culturel Irlandais Fellowship.
Running in tandem with Refusal will be a showcase of recent work by Helen’s daughter, Eva O’Leary. In this exhibition, Extra, Eva O’Leary employs photography, text and video to investigate issues such as identity formation and human behavioral patterns on the backdrop of wider social, cultural and philosophical implications.