In 2010 a new Residential Studio Award open to artists who work primarily in paint, was offered in Ireland. In a fitting tribute to the late Tony O’Malley, who benefited greatly from studio residencies during his career, this award provides a much needed opportunity for painters.
Artist’s Residencies are a godsend, they provide much needed spaces and dedicated time for artists to get away from their day to day, to really focus on making work, thrash out ideas, wrestle with their creative demons and turn their art on its head. These days very many of the residencies on offer around the world are group facilities providing work space, accompanied sometimes but not always by living accommodation. These residencies provide access to another essential: art professionals. They give people not only the time to make work but a chance to enhance their network; it would not be unusual for new partnerships and collaborations to emerge from a group residency. Additionally, artists can receive new perspectives on work made and ideas generated from their new-found peers. But there are few residencies that provide space for solo artists, places where the artist can immerse themselves in their creative process unburdened by the social and networking expectations of group residency programmes. The O’Malley Studio Residency is exactly that, a solo run, a place to live and work for a full year away from distraction; an opportunity for one artist to push their ideas further and create new work, topped off with the residency laurel wreath. And it’s a coveted laurel wreath, because rather than being called after the location, this residency is called after one of Ireland’s Modern Greats: Tony O’Malley.
During his lifetime Tony O’Malley was the recipient of subsidised studios and accommodation in St. Ives, Cornwall, which was administered by the Arts Council of Great Britain. These subsidised facilities offered the artist time to concentrate on creating work. Jane O’Malley, Tony’s widow, has never forgotten the privilege of those decades for herself and Tony and in the spirit of reciprocity Jane O’Malley has with the assistance of her architect turned Tony’s family home in Callan, Co. Kilkenny into a first class modern facility where an artist can live and work.
Established in 2010 by the Royal Hibernian Academy under Jane’s guidance, the residency is allocated for a full calendar year for a modest fee, relieving the recipient from a lot of the pressures of contemporary life. There is less pressure to find other work to sustain the practice for a full 12 months, and although no stipend is provided, there is a distinct financial advantage to having a studio as part of the living accommodation and particularly one that is bespoke rather than an appropriated spare room.
The studio itself is 320 sq ft and has a double height ceiling with plenty of natural light. Double doors lead onto a landscaped private garden and the studio has a mezzanine level also which can be used either as an office area, for storage, or as further work space.
Although administered by the RHA there is no specific follow on alliance with the organisation which hopes the award itself will, like any major award, help to raise the profile of the resident artist and open doors for further career opportunities and it seems to be doing that already. Although there is no connection to her winning the studio award, the current incumbent Manghild Opdøl has a previous association with the RHA having been included in the RHA Futures exhibition in 2010 as well as its Annual Exhibitions, and she will also be having a solo show in the RHA Ashford Gallery in 2012. Furthermore, Magnhild will be moving on to a Residency at Firestation Artist’s Studios in the heart of Dublin once her term in Callan is up. So it seems the award is fulfilling the organisers’ career development expectations.
Magnhild hails from Norway and studied in Finland before moving to Ireland in 2002 to study Fine Art at NCAD, Dublin. She completed her BA there in 2005 and stayed on to study for an MA in Painting which she received in 2007. Her recent work has involved a lot of detailed drawing accompanied by sculptural work, which Magnhild says is far from where she started having painted for many years. Her hope in applying for this residency was to reintroduce painting into her practice after an absence of some time. Magnhild’s upcoming exhibition at the Ashford Gallery next year will perhaps reveal the fruits of her year in Callan.
As the house was O’Malley’s original home and the award being established in his memory, it was certainly important that it reflect this history, which is why it is aimed at artists who work, like O’Malley, primarily in paint. This award is undoubtedly a fitting tribute to Tony O’Malley, whose artistic career was assisted greatly by similar opportunities, but it remains to be seen if similarly successful careers will be made from a year spent in residence in County Kilkenny. The organisers themselves hold a long term hope that this award will establish itself as a major platform award for artists/painters, so do we.
The recipient of the 2012 award is Ciaran Murphy, and the 2013 residency will be advertised again mid-2012. For further details on the award see www.royalhibernianacademy.ie. To see details of Manghild Opdøl’s work and upcoming exhibitions visit her blog on http://magnhildopdol.blogspot.com/