Friday 24 May 2019

Hennessy Art Fund buys Helen's work

Helen O'Leary
Helen O'Leary

Maria Pepper

The Hennessy Art Fund has purchased a work by the award-winning Wexford contemporary artist Helen O'Leary for the Irish Museum of Modern Art 2018 collection.

Helen, a native of Kilrane based in America, joins the esteemed company of artists such as Louis Le Brocquy, Alice Maher, Dorothy Cross and Patrick Scott, whose works are already part of the IMMA National Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art.

The chosen piece 'Refusal' (2014) uses oil and wood while 'The Problem with Adjectives' (2017) uses egg tempera and oil emulsion on constructed wood.

Helen's work has been described as an un-writeable novel and she has said the frame-like structures she produces are paintintgs that can stand by themselves, that have their own architecture.

Her paintings hold a history of their past lives with panels fashioned from pieces of previous paintings and cloth and materials at hand in the studio. The materials become woven together to create non-representational,three-dimensional pieces that hold a story beyond what is immediately visible. She has described her process as 'knitting with wood' and 'cobbling together paintings out of the ruin of their own making'.

A former student of the Presentation secondary school in Wexford, Helen is a daughter of the late Kathleen and Richard O'Leary who ran O'Leary's Farmhouse bed and breakfast in Kilrane, Rosslare Harbour for many years.

She is professor of art in the Penn State School of Visual Arts and has been the recipient of many awards for her work. She recently won the 2018-2019 Rome Prize in the visual arts category awarded by the American Academy in Rome to support innovative and cross-disciplinary work in the arts and humanities.

As part of her prize, she receives a stipend, a workspace and room and board for a period of almost a year at the academny's 11-acre campus in Rome.

Works by three other artists were also chosen by the Hennessy Art Fund for the IMMA Collection - Barbara Knezevic of Dublin, Mary McIntyre of Tyrone and Susan MacWilliam, Antrim.

Hennessy Ireland formed a partnership with IMMA in 2016 to help fund the purchase of important works by Irish and Ireland-based artists for the National Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art. Funding cuts during the recession resulted in the museum lacking resources to purchase works which meant that the practices of younger and mid-career artists from 2011 onwards were glaringly absent from the IMMA collection.

Works are sought which show excellence and innovation within contemporary art developments and which represent a signal moment of achievement within the artist's practice. They must also have been made within the previous five years.

Elaine Cullen, Market Development Manager for Moet Hennessy Ireland said Hennessy has long been dedicated to discovering and nurturing gifted Irish talent, be it in literature and poetry through the Hennessy Literary Awards, contemporary music and culture at the Hennessy Lost Fridays multi-media events and through the Hennessy Art Fund for IMMA. She welcomed Barbara, Susan, Mary and Helen to the Hennessy family.

Wexford People

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