Helen O'Leary's work delves into her own history as a painter, rooting in the ruins and failures of her studio for both subject matter and raw material. She disassembles the wooden structures of previous paintings-the stretchers, panels, and frames-and cuts them back to rudimentary hand-built slabs of wood, glued and patched together, their history of being stapled, splashed with bits of paint, and stapled again to linen clearly evident. The residual marks on the frames, coupled with their internal organization, begin to form a constellation of densities, implying an idiomatic syntax of organic fluctuation where compact spaces coexist with the appearance of gaping holes where the rickety bridges have given way. Formal and structural concerns become inseparable, the slippery organization of their fluctuating grids showing a transparency both literal and historical. What long remained hidden as merely the bones behind the image plane are exhumed and remade into the tendons and sinews of the image itself. Through the process of deconstruction and reassembly, the pieces invert the conventional anatomical hierarchies of painting in an attempt to find what is fresh and vital among the entrails of the image.
Helen O’ Leary (b.1961, County Wexford, Ireland) attended the National College of Art and Design, Dublin before receiving her BFA (1987) and MFA (1989) from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has been honored with a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship (2010); two Pollock-Krasner awards (1989, 1996); the Joan Mitchell Award for painting and sculpture (1999); Skowhegan School of painting and sculpture residency; several grants from the Arts Council of Ireland; residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Monaghan, Ireland, the Fundacion Valparaiso in Almeria, Spain; the Culturel Irlandaise Fellowship, Cill Rialaig, Ireland, Golden Artist Residency, MacDowell fellowship and most recently Yaddo Fellowship.
She has participated in Solo and invitational exhibitions internationally, including at the American Academy of Arts and Letters, NY; The MAC Belfast; National Gallery of Art in Limerick, Ireland; the Glasgow Museum of Art in Scotland; Lesley Heller Gallery, NY; the Galerie le Petit Port in Leiden, The Netherlands; the Contemporary Arts Centre in Sydney, Australia; The Zolla/Lieberman Gallery in Chicago; the Victorian College of the Arts in Melbourne, Australia; the Kerlin Gallery in Dublin; and Fenderesky Gallery, Belfast. She currently lives in Jersey City NJ and Leitrim, Ireland.