Orla Whelan is a visual artist whose practice is rooted in painting. Her approach is to consider the visual language and materials of the medium as tools to reimagine contemporary possibilities for transcendence. She is motivated by an existential anxiety, and a belief that abstraction is a viable means to address metaphysical uncertainties. In addition to oil paint on linen, she uses non-traditional painting materials which refer to the materiality and tropes of painting. These expanded forms include: wood veneers on panel, painted plywood wedges, modified furniture, colour pencil on paper and site responsive interventions that speak to the history and architecture of particular spaces. Orla frequently explores the role of writing within visual art practice by creating different author identities and experimental texts that challenge ideas of subjectivity, authorship and meaning.
Recent solo exhibitions include Glas, Gorm, Uaine at the Pearse Museum OPW, Dublin (2023), Magnum Chaos at Hillsboro Fine Art (2023), and I Don’t Need Anything From Here (magic-carpet-painting) at the RHA Gallery (2022). In 2021, Orla took part in Dubliners – The 6th Biennial of Painting in Zagreb, Croatia, in association with Pallas Projects. Recent solo projects include Matter Mammal Oil Soar – an experimental book exploring the relationship between art writing, authorship and painting which was launched at the Dublin Art Book Fair at Temple Bar Gallery & Studios in 2021; A More Immortal Atlas – solo exhibition at Rathfarnham Castle OPW, Dublin (2020); A Falling of the Bright – a site specific commission for Facebook Artist in Residence Programme at Grand Canal Dock, Dublin (2019) and Chaos Bewitched, which won the inaugural Merrion Plinth Award, by the Merrion Hotel, Dublin (2019).
Orla’s practice is supported by The Arts Council of Ireland with a Visual Art Bursary in 2022 and 2021. Her work is held in the collections of The Arts Council of Ireland, The Crawford Art Gallery, The OPW State Art Collection, Trinity College Dublin, The Merrion Hotel and private collections worldwide. Orla is founder and director of AtHomeStudios – a collective of visual artists working from studios based in their own homes, and the art publishing project Whale Dust. She lives in and works in Dublin, Ireland.
© Orla Whelan