Orla Whelan

Visual Artist

Glas, Gorm, Uaine – Exhibition, Pearse Museum, Dublin


The OPW is delighted to present Glas, Gorm, Uaine a solo exhibition of new work by visual artist Orla Whelan at the Pearse Museum. The exhibition features paintings and site-responsive artworks including a large, floor-based painting and modified furniture pieces inspired by the heritage museum context. The exhibition title Glas, Gorm, Uaine can be translated from Irish to English as ‘Green, Blue, Green’. It could also be translated as ‘Light Grey, Dark Blue, Artificial Green’. In the Irish language, colours were traditionally grouped according to degrees of brightness rather than hue, with ‘glas’ suggesting light blue or grey, as much as light green. The semantic shift towards categories of hue which occurred through colonisation and globalisation, eroded the contextual and descriptive information conveyed in Irish colour words, and arguably influenced our perception of these colours in the world. This exhibition presents a convergence of Whelan’s interest in language and perception with her belief in colour as a magical substance. Considering the communicative potential, along with the complexities of categorisation and naming, the artist reflects on colour in relation to nature, perception and place.

I Don’t Need Anything From Here (magic-carpet-painting), is a temporary, site-responsive artwork intended to be expanded, reduced or reconfigured in response to the particularities of each new space in which it is exhibited. The large floor-based painting consists of hundreds of hand-painted wooden wedges combined to form a colourful ground covering. The first iteration of this artwork was exhibited at the RHA Gallery (2022) in response to the atrium’s double height exhibition space. For the second iteration responding to the Pearse Museum site, an additional one hundred wedges have been painted to form a tonal tapestry that reflects the inherent colours of the Georgian building’s interior, parkland surroundings and nearby mountains. Colours of place are woven into the evolving magic-carpet-painting, to create a site-specific encounter with an artwork that speaks to us about who, what and where we are, through the language of colour.

Bedroom Chairs for Patrick and William are modified antique cane chairs, dating from the Edwardian period of the Pearse brothers’ residence at the Museum (when it was both their family home and premises of their bilingual school). Using the traditional hand-weaving technique of wicker furniture typical of the period, but employing contemporary nylon instead of the traditional cane, Whelan has created two bespoke seats as unique homages to the style and craftsmanship of the era and its people. These anachronistic mementos in the form of enduring domestic objects, speak to the eclectic mixture of furniture styles visible throughout the building, and to the idiosyncrasies of authenticity, preservation and display which must be negotiated in any heritage museum.

Moon, Valley, Dew, Death is an ongoing series of small paintings that explores the relationship between colour and form on intimately scaled surfaces, using a restricted colour palette and the same basic shapes. This formal and philosophical investigation employs the visual language of abstraction, to interrogate the possibility that what is beyond the visible is inherent within its forms, and potentially accessible through the medium of painting.

Screen is a modified vintage fire-screen for which the artist has created a bespoke wooden panel employing the traditional craft of marquetry. Rendered in wood veneers, the abstract composition echoes the vocabulary of Whelan’s small paintings, expanding the visual language of painting across different surfaces and materials.

Glas, Gorm, Uaine
A solo exhibition by Orla Whelan
Pearse Museum
2nd July – 13th August. Open daily 9.30am – 5.30pm. Admission free