Kevin O’Kelly

Kevin O’Kelly is a Dublin based artist who is currently undertaking an MFA in Digital Art at NCAD. He works on a large-scale installations, creating experience-based rooms and elaborate devices as a way to produce sensory effects.

1. Can you describe your creative process in three words

Read, make, re-make

The way I work is to research an idea for a period of time, reading around various topics relating to the theme, sketching, thinking of ways to visualise the ideas. Then I will make a test work incorporating a few elements. After testing the work on people and noting the affect that the various elements had on them, I then decide what parts to carry through. This is often repeated a number of times before deciding on the final piece.

2. How has your background in ceramics informed your current creative process?

The fact that I was working with my hands for all that time must have influenced what I’m doing now but I haven’t brought much ceramics into my work, yet. I did use clay to model Enda Kenny’s head for a project, but it was then used to make a mould.

I see ceramics as a skill that I will always have and be able to apply if and when ever I need it. I enjoy now working without the restrictions that can come with clay in terms of scale and weight. I also prefer being free to decide what materials best suit a project.

I still love pottery but I found production pottery wasn’t for me. I continue to teach classes in throwing at the weekend but this is separate to my own practice.

3. What advice would you give to someone who wants to branch out from their current creative practice and take their process in a different direction?

I would say try everything! It took me a long time and a few different ventures to find out what it was I wanted to do. I’d also like to think that they all, along with the ceramic work, have had a positive effect on what I’m doing now.

A lot of artists practices are spread across a wide range of mediums and aspects of one line of interest can almost always be applied to another.

4. You recently won The RDS Taylor Award for your ‘experience based room’ that examined the line between solitude and loneliness. Can you tell us a little about this?

“Something about the way you look” was an installation was based around social isolation in urban life. Loneliness is often thought of as being a rural problem but it is an increasingly urban one. Trying to find your place in a busy city can be difficult and it is easy to feel alone even while surrounded by other people.

The work focused on how the effects of loneliness can distort our perceptions, both of social interactions and how we imagine we are seen by others.

5. Do you feel it is important to start a discussion about such pressing issues through the medium of art / creativity?

I think that visual art is one of the ways that issues like this can be addressed without having an obligation to please or to entertain. The work needs to have some kind of effect on us but it can also subtlety antagonise and challenge us, sometimes long after we’ve experienced it. The goal is to make a difference in some way, hopefully a positive one, but this can be as small as making one visitor to the exhibition more aware of the situation of another person, whether they are in their life or not.

Kevin will exhibit in the north stairwell of the RHA throughout June and July, you can follow Kevin’s career as an artist in Ireland here.