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Helen O'Leary

The Problem with Adjectives2017

O’Leary’s work draws on her personal experiences past and present. The intricate wooden objects she creates may be considered as fragments of an unfinished memoir. Growing up on a farm in rural Wexford in the 1960s through the 1980s, she cites the industriousness and invention born of need, that she experienced from a young age, as traits that carry through to her artistic practice now; “I revel in the history of painting, its rules, its beauty, its techniques, but fold them back into the agricultural language I grew up with. I’m interested in the personal, my own story, and the history of storytelling.”
In the studio, O’Leary repurposes wood from previous constructions that have been dismantled, knitting pieces of wood together and working into them until a final form takes hold. She describes the frame-like structures produced from this process, such as Refusal and The Problem with Adjectives, as paintings that can stand by themselves, that have their own architecture. In a recent interview with maake magazine, the artist described the process of making Refusal; “I was thinking about defeat and its opposite, seeing the dissembled emptied frame as a marker, somewhere in between losing and gaining.”

MediumEgg tempera, bole clay and silver leaf on constructed wood
Dimensions Unframed, 48.9 x 48.9 x 14 cm
Credit LineIMMA Collection: Purchase, Hennessy Art Fund for IMMA Collection, 2018
Item NumberIMMA.4041
Copyright For copyright information, please contact the IMMA Collections team: [email protected].
Image Caption
Helen O'Leary, The Problem with Adjectives, 2017, Egg tempera, bole clay and silver leaf on constructed wood, Unframed, 48.9 x 48.9 x 14 cm, Collection Irish Museum of Modern Art, Purchase, Hennessy Art Fund for IMMA Collection, 2018

For copyright information, please contact the IMMA Collections team: [email protected].

About the Artist

Helen O'Leary

Helen O’Leary attended the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has been honoured with la Prix de Rome, American Academy in Rome, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship; two PollockKrasner awards; and the Joan Mitchell Award for painting and sculpture. Solo exhibitions of O’Leary’s work have been held at venues including Lesley Heller Gallery, New York; The MAC, Belfast; and Limerick City Gallery of Art.

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We would like to advise our visitors that our Main Reception area is closed for renovation from 22 April until mid-June.  A temporary reception is open on the ground floor next to the original main entrance. While we prepare to open our next exhibition Hilary Heron: A Retrospective on 24 May, there are two exhibitions to see Derry Film & Video Workshop and Self: Determination: Artists Commissions. IMMA’s gardens and café are open to the public.