Alan Phelan

By 23rd July 2019December 1st, 2019Ireland based Photographers, Irish Photographers

Born 12th March, 1968 (Dublin)


Alan Phelan studied Communications at Dublin City University and Photography at Rochester Institute of Technology, New York. His practice involves the production of objects, participatory projects, curating and writing. These all inform, combine and contribute to an interest in the narrative potential surrounding an artwork. This can be exploited or explored from actual and historical events, ideas, things and places as well as their fictional counterparts. Working in the museum and archive sector has shaped this approach somewhat but more as a counterpoint than agency.

His work is realised in numerous ways, including photography, sculpture, film, museum interventions, public art and collaborations with other artists, writers and curators. Recent examples of this would be the “Handjob” project which began with a collection of hand photographs gathered on social media. It was first presented as a 10-artist gallery show where all works were re-made by me and displayed in a complex narrative based layout. This led to the film “Edwart & Arlette” which adapted and re-narrativised a Sherlock Holmes story, using words on the found images as dialogue. Sources collided to create a functioning narrative scenario as the melodrama the detective story matched the common source of the hand photographs in teenage self-harming hubs. Current projects include a commission for The Hugh Lane Dublin City Gallery, Dublin where the dialogue from a feature film has been re-narrativised create a counter-factual story of Roger Casement in exile 25 years after 1916. The film counters dominant historical narratives of commemoration to instead deal with betrayal of ideals.


Photography books by

  • 2009 Fragile Absolutes, texts by Dusan I Bjelic, Seán Kissane, Medb Ruane and Tony White, Dublin: Charta/IMMA
  • 2005 Bio, with texts by David Godbold, Jeanette Doyle, Cherry Smyth, Gemma Tipton, Mick Wilson, Sarah Pierce, Henriette Huldisch, Nataša Petrešin, Enda Leaney, Maria Fusco and Ciarán Bennett Dublin: Tulca, Galway Arts Centre, Millenium Court Arts Centre and the Art Projects Newtwork

Photography books with contribution by

  • 2016 Chris Clarke, “One of Our Kind” in High Treason: Roger Casement Dublin: The Hugh Lane Dublin City Gallery

Awards and honours

  • 2016 Hotron Éigse Art Prize at Carlow Arts Festival, VISUAL, Carlow, Ireland


Solo exhibitions

  • 2020 Joly Screen Project RGB, RHA, Dublin; Void Derry, CCI, Paris, France
  • 2016 Our Kind, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, Dublin, Ireland
  • 2015 if you aren’t all mine, Oonagh Young Gallery, Dublin, Ireland
  • 2014 To what end?, Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast, Northern Ireland
  • 2013 Handjob, artist project, Oonagh Young Gallery, Dublin
  • 2012 Fragile Absolutes Part 3, Limerick City Gallery of Art, Limerick
  • 2011 Blind Private Party, The Black Mariah, Cork
  • 2011 Seeing Things That Aren’t There – Sokea Yksityistilaisuus, Oksasenkatu 11, Helsinki, Finland
  • 2010 Cabbages and Things, Solstice Arts Centre, Navan, Ireland
  • 2009 Fragile Absolutes, Chapter, Cardiff, Wales
  • 2009 Fragile Absolutes, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland
  • 2007 Ralph Eamon Odo Barbara, mother’s tankstation, Dublin

Group exhibitions

  • 2019 The Parted Veil, curated by Chris Clarke, Lewis Glucksman Gallery, UCC, Cork, Ireland
  • 2019 The last great album of the decade, curated by PE Moore, The Lab, Dublin, Ireland
  • 2018 Trophy Hunters, curated by Sheena Malone, Dada Post, Berlin, Germany
  • 2017 Loop: City Screen with Damer House Gallery, La Place Art Space, Barcelona, Spain
  • 2016 Meeting Casement, curated by John Fitzgerlad, Grand Hotel Oslo and Litteraturhuset Bergen, Norway
  • 2016 Still (the) Barbarians, curated by Koyo Kouoh, EVA International, Limerick, Ireland
  • 2015 Videonale.15, Bonn Kunstmuseum, Germany
  • 2014 Selective Memory-Artists and the archive, curated by Chris Clarke, Lewis Glucksman Gallery, UCC, Cork, Ireland
  • 2014 Mammoth, curated by Matt Packer, Treignac Projet, Treignac, Limousin, France
  • 2013 Changing States: Contemporary Irish Art & The Francis Bacon Studio, Bozar, Brussels, Belgium
  • 2012 Cutting a Door, curated by Robert O’Connor, Eastlink Gallery, Shanghai, China
  • 2011 Death and Sensuality, curated by Jim Ricks, Mina Dresden Gallery, San Francisco, USA
  • 2010 …and if I listen in I hear my own heart beating…, curated by Noel Kelly, CAKE, Curragh Camp, Kildare, Ireland
  • 2010 URRA, Galería Del Infinito Arte, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • 2009 Reading the City, EV+A curated by Angelika Nollert and Yilmaz Dziewior, Hunt Museum, Limerick, Ireland
  • 2008 Shuffle, I-Podism: Cultural Promiscuity in the Age of Consumption, curated by George Bolster, Tulca, Galway
  • 2008 The Space In Between, curated by Fiona Mulholland, Basement Gallery, Dundalk
  • 2008 Fifteen Fragile Absolutes, The Process Room, part of the Artist’s Residency Programme, IMMA, Dublin
  • 2008 Concourse Offsite, curated by Claire Power and Carolyn Browne, DLR, Blackrock Park, Dublin
  • 2008 Points of View – In Transition, curated by Ciaran Bennett, Solstice Arts Centre, Navan, Ireland
  • 2007 The Art World, Feinkost, Berlin, Germany
  • 2007 Platform II: Dis-[re]-place, curated by Niamh Smyth, Knockbride House, Bailieborough, Co. Cavan, Ireland
  • 2007 Oh show me your beauty when the witnesses have gone, curated by Noel Kelly, ŠKUC, Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • 2004 Small: The Object in Film, Video and Slide Installation, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, USA


  • Joly Screens RGB (2019-2021)
    Series of exhibitions and installations using the additive colour process invented by John Joly in the 1890s, re-creating the method as 4×5 illuminated images, a bio-pic film and sculptures. The work explores queer iconography and hidden histories.
  • Our Kind (2016)
    Film commissioned for the anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising – the film placed Roger Casement, one of the rebellion leaders, 25 years after his execution in exile, alive in Norway with his boyfriend to create a counterfactual account of betrayal and treason. Includes wall text and re-created artefacts.
  • Handjob (2013)
    Using hand photographs collected on social media the project hosted 10 artists whose work used hand sin some way, all re-created or re-staged by Phelan. This led to a film re-working a Sherlock Holmes story into a gender queer story of love, jealousy and murder.
  • Fragile Absolutes (2009)
    Using a controlled vocabulary culled from a Zizek text, 15 chapters led to a wide variety of works dealing with infrastructural aesthetics, hyper masculinity, the conflict in the Balkans, crime reporting, and sculptures made from photographs. Catalogue texts subsequently generated two film works.