Siamsa's artist takes us into his role

Artist Conor O'Grady
Artist Conor O'Grady

We've reached the halfway point in Conor O'Grady's term as the Siamsa Tíre Artist-in-Residence and that seems like a perfect time to sit down and have a chat with the Castlebar native about his time here in Tralee.

Now into its second year, the residency program was set up to help provide a great opportunity for visual artists as they get the space and time to develop projects they are working on.

Karen Hendy was the inaugural artist last year and this year, after an extensive selection process, Conor delighted to be chosen for the 2018 period.

A graduate of Fine Art from the National College from 2006 to 2009 and Dublin Institute of Technology from 2010 to 2013, Conor has seen his work exhibited in both solo and group exhibitions around the country.

Conor was first appointed to the role back in May and his term will run right up to the start of Culture Night on September 21 and since then, he has undertaken a number of personal projects designed to connect the town and Siamsa Tíre.

First and foremost though, what does his role as Artist-in-Residence entail?

"They give me a lot of freedom to do my own work and my own projects, but I still do get to do a lot of work that reflects the historical and contemporary use of the building and the site around it," said Conor, speaking to The Kerryman on Monday.

"My role is to help and create work in response to the site and to create strong public engagement. I want to help bring people into the centre who might necessarily have come into Siamsa Tíre before this to see the exhibitions," he continued.

One such plan that Conor has come up with is the idea to hold an open artists talk where lots of different artists from around Tralee and Kerry would be invited into the centre; there, they would discuss his work and some of the different topics that he has researched over the past few months.

Conor said that he would encourage anyone who is interested in art to pop into him in the theatre and chat to him about some of his exhibits down there.

"I currently have an exhibition in place in the main space in the theatre which is basically objects that I have found in the Town Park. One of the first few days that I was there, I noticed that there was a lot of people using the crowd for let's say, some anti-social behaviour, and so I started to collect some of the things that they were leaving behind," he said.

"One of the most fascinating things that I keep finding down there is false nails. I've found maybe 50 of them so far in the last few weeks and these, along with other objects, I've put them all into an exhibition and people can come along and see these in the theatre."

"It's an examination of peoples relationship between themselves and the park," he continued.

Throughout his residency, Conor said that he has been spending a lot of time engaging with lots of people and areas in the town about some of the artistic rejuvenation that has been taking place.

"I've been linking up with the Kerry County Museum as a reference to how I want to exhibit my work and that has been very helpful."

The owners of the Maddens coffee house down in Milk Market Lane too, they are trying to bring about a rejuvenation of that area down there so I've been spending a lot of time engaging with the owners there about this," he said.

"I love to find group. It can be any sub-group in society and I like to research them through dialogue and my own research on the internet. After this them I like try and find materials or objects in everyday life that I can express their experiences through. That's how I work," he said.

If anyone is looking to come in to chat to Conor about any of his exhibits, he is usually available in Siamsa anytime from Tuesdays to Thursdays.

"That'd be one of my main focuses, to be available to chat to anyone who pops in, We want to help cultivate that link between the artist and the public," he finished.

Anyone to check out more of Conor's work can do so at the 'SiamsaTireResidency2018' Facebook page or by heading over to Conor's own personal Facebook page at 'Conor O'Grady Visual Artist'.