(selected by Cathy Lomax)
Radio Sunshine, 2007
Gary O'Connor mixes fiction with reality to create a varied practice that includes writing, installation, sound, video, and sculpture. 'Historical facts have always intrigued me', he says 'and at the end of the day, these are best told as stories. With time, facts can be subjected to the same treatment as fiction: they become myth and legend … a place of untruths, uncertainties and contradictions ... the space between reality, and the imaginary.'
Experiencing O'Connor's work is a sensory activity that transports the viewer to a completely different place and time, and often leaves them with more questions than answers. In the group show The Wrong Map at Three Colts Gallery in 2005 his sound installation seemed to reference the building the gallery was in whilst a monitor showed an empty room. On further inspection the monitor was linked to a CCTV camera in a Weetabix packet transforming this mundanity into a mini magical world, self-contained and confusing.
The starting point for each of O'Connor's artworks is often a real experience or event, such as being stuck in the lift in Regent Studios in Hackney or his parents strolling through Victoria Park on their first date. This is then spun out using both historical and imaginary references to create a final piece of work that is both familiar and unsettling. His developing narratives are often filtered through a Situationist viewpoint resulting in a quasi-imaginary, topographical installation.
Other recent work includes the Rock Against Racism inspired 'Little Giant', that will culminate in a compilation of soundtracks and memories on a downloadable pod cast, and 'Radio Sunshine', a sound piece that mimicked a mid twentieth-century radio broadcast featuring seaside inspired poetry and a faux talk show excerpt.
An important factor in the development of O'Connor's practice has been the 2006 completion of the innovative MA course 'Writing the Visual' developed by the poet George Szirtes at Norwich School of Art and Design. O'Connor's writing is now featured in numerous publications such as the compilation of artist short stories, The Alpine Fantasy of Victor B as well as accompanying his gallery installations.
Cathy Lomax 2007
Gary O'Connor: Artist statement
Gary O'Connor's work deals with ideas around deceit, pretence and contradiction, often set within a historical context. He views history as a fragile and vulnerable concept, open to corrupt and subversive forces, and in a playful way, much of his work responds to these notions. A sense of narrative and storytelling is very important to him: he works across disciplines often combining readymade objects with audio and text; he has also used CCTV technology, performance, and devised installations using smells. Audio is a key component of O'Connor's practice; he has a musical background, which is where his interest in sound began. O'Connor is also a writer. He began writing fiction as an art student and soon realized that this was just as important to him as conveying his ideas visually. As time progressed he began to draw together these two areas. What emerged was a symbiotic relationship between his art and his writing, although today, his writing has developed a life of its own. Throughout history there are many examples of artists who have written, but in recent years it has become a recognised genre. There is a growing community of artist writers, publishers and editors in the UK, and this crossing over of disciplines has created a fertile ground for artists to explore and express their ideas.
O'Connor's actions have included painting parts of the Brunswick Centre in Bloomsbury, London, with lavender oil and alcohol. Installing an audio recording of a housefly that had been slowed to such an extent that the individual wing beats could clearly be heard (not unlike the wings of a bird) in a small garden in East London. He has also set up several CCTV installations: one of which monitored a dying flower and another, the inside of a breakfast cereal box: the latter, when transmitted to a small black and white monitor, resembled an oppressive subterranean space. He has produced tee-shirts printed with personal details of his parent's lives: not all of which are true. He has walked in reverse with the aid of a mirror around the Cloisters of Norwich Cathedral whilst making audio recordings of his thoughts and observations on the experience. This was linked to a story he had written about an impossible external climb of the Cathedral and an internal exploration of the building at ground level. He devised and produced 'Radio Sunshine': a fake radio station for O Dreamland, an August Bank Holiday arts event in Greatstone, Kent.
Gary O'Connor was born in London in 1963. He now lives and works in the fenlands of East Cambridgeshire. He studied at the Sir John Cass Department of Art in London where he completed a BA (Hons) in Fine Art in 2001. He then went on to complete an MA in Writing the Visual at Norwich School of Art and Design in 2007.
His only solo project to date is Above and Below: an installation and performance at Norwich Cathedral in 2005. Other exhibitions include Blanc Noir at Transition, London 2007, Q at CuratorSpace, London 2006, The Wrong Map at Three Colts Gallery, London 2005, New Writing Worlds at The Forum, Norwich 2005, E9 at Transition, London 2004, Campaigning: Politics and Shopping at Unit 2 Gallery, London 2003 and Oh! Vienna at Soho in Ottakring, Vienna 2003.
In 2007 O'Connor was selected for the Escalator literary program and was awarded a grant for development and research by the Arts Council. There are also plans for his first solo gallery exhibition at Transition in 2008.
Blanc Noir , Transition, London (2007)
Blanc Noir Audio , Transition, London (2008)
Broader than Broadway , Review: Absolutearts.com (2003)