independent

Wednesday 20 March 2019

Pop art in pencil

Renowned pop artist Orla Walsh shows a different side during her six-week residency at the Design Loft

Pop artist Orla Walsh
Pop artist Orla Walsh
Heinz Ketchup bottle
The Queen
Brown Thomas Bag

Pop artist Orla Walsh will hold a meet and greet this week as part of her new six-week residency at The Design Loft at Powerscourt.

Renowned for her bright, colourful and eye-catching work, Orla is showing a different side with her collection of stunning pencil drawings which are now on show.

Orla had been working on the series of pencil drawings, entitled 'From POP Art to Pencil: 50 Shades of Grey', for a solo exhibition that was due to take place late last year when her husband suffered catastrophic injuries as the result of a bike accident.

Undeterred, she completed this beautiful and intricate body of work, which will on display until March 29 during a six-week residency at The Design Loft. She will also be doing a meet and greet from noon on Saturday, March 9, where she will be doing some live sketching in store.

The original pencil drawings took nearly a year to complete. There are six large sketches over 4ft tall and 3.5ft wide which each took from 150 to 195 hours to draw. There are also 12 A4 sketches, of which six are being exhibited. Out of the six large pieces, there are a limited edition print of only 10 pieces.

Although dealing with such unexpected upheaval in her personal life following her husband's accident, Orla felt it would be a shame not to put her work on display.

'Although I don't have much time to give to my art at the moment, the body of work was there for the exhibition and it seemed a shame not to showcase them and when this opportunity came up, I jumped at it!' she said.

'I love drawing as an art form in its own right and it was very challenging using only pencil but hugely exciting to create these pieces of art. It looks like a random collection but each piece has its significance to me.'

The piece 'Heinz Ketchup' reflects an obsession with the ketchup bottle that has been ongoing for 19 years. In fact, her graphic paintings of Heinz bottles, which she was selling at St Stephen's Green, brought about her big break. Spotted by a corporate lawyer for Heinz, Orla was ordered to remove her paintings due to copyright infringement. However, a few weeks later, the lawyer got back in touch and said that Heinz wanted to display her work at its headquarters. They bought all six paintings which are still on display at Heinz HQ in Pittsburg.

'The Queen' holds fond memories for Orla as it is a reminder of her dad teaching her and her siblings - and later his grandchildren - how to play a range of card games, while '1987 U2 Ticket' is a reminder of Orla's utter devotion to Bono and band, not to mention her first ever concert - U2 in Croke Park in 1987.

'Sindy & Action Man' is a nod to a loved-up couple in Orla's childhood home. Her brother Jack's Action Man had a Jeep and he would collect Orla's Sindy doll in her bedroom before driving off to explore the house. 'For some reason they never had any clothes on. I'm not sure why. They were definitely married because I remember getting the wedding dress from my next door neighbour!,' said Orla.

'The Brown Thomas Bag' reflects a special childhood tradition when Orla, as the only girl in a family of four, would accompany her mum on a special Christmas shopping day out when they would go to Brown Thomas and soak up the atmosphere.

Second to the Heinz bottle in Orla's affection for iconic items is the Tayto packet and 'Tayto Crisp' reflects her preference for the older package design from around 1970, with it's red, white and blue block colour packaging.

Finally, 'The Love Letter' is one from Lady Lavery to Michael Collins, with the idea being that it was in his pocket and close to his heart when he was shot.

'We had a photograph of my Nana's brother Harry at Micheal Collins funeral which he led and I was fascinated with him and the stories my Nana would tell about Harry as a "runner" for Collins,' explained Orla.

Orla's pencil drawings are on display now at The Design Loft and continue until March 29. For more information about Orla, visit www.orlawalsh.com

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