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Born 12th March, 1968 (Dublin)


Alan Phelan (b.1968) is an artist based in Dublin whose practice began in photography and has extended into many different media and mediums with a focus on interpretation, language and collaboration. 

He received BA, Dublin City University, 1989 and MFA, Rochester Institute of Technology, New York, 1994 and studied there under a Fulbright scholarship.

Since 2018, Phelan has been working with the Joly Screen process, an additive colour method invented in the late 19th century. This creates unique rear illuminated colour images which he has made several bodies of work traversing various art and photography histories as references points. With this body of work Phelan imagines a visual history the Joly screen never had, as the process was abandoned from use in the early twentieth century. To do this, he uses art and historical references spanning over 500 years. The work presents a “counterfactual temporality”, a longer potential history for photography that contextualises it prior to its technical beginnings.

His wider 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.


Photography books by

  • 2021, Joly Screen Flower Photographs, Solstice Navan, digital catalogue
  • 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 Network
  • 2002, Enthalpic Whatever, R4, 2002.

Photography books with contribution by

  • 2022, TONE, Small Night Projects
  • 2017, Madder Lake, James Merrigan
  • 2016, Chris Clarke, “One of Our Kind” in High Treason: Roger Casement Dublin: The Hugh Lane Dublin City Gallery

Awards and honours

  • 2021, Visual Arts Bursary, The Arts Council, Dublin, Ireland
  • 2019, Creative Award, Meath County Council Cultural Services, Creative Ireland, Solstice Arts Centre, Navan, Ireland
  • 2017, Visual Arts Bursary, The Arts Council, Dublin, Ireland
  • 2016, Hotron Éigse Art Prize at Carlow Arts Festival, VISUAL, Carlow, Ireland
  • 2011,13 &15, Project Award, The Arts Council, Dublin, Ireland
  • 1998-2010, Various awards, The Arts Council, Dublin, Ireland
  • 1991-94, Fulbright Scholarship, Dublin, Ireland
  • 1991, John F Kennedy Fund Graduate Scholarship. Dublin, Ireland


Solo exhibitions

  • 2022, RGB Birr, as part of Spectacular Venacular, Birr Castle Visitor Centre, curated by Brendan Fox.
  • 2022, RGB Hyacinth, Void Offsites Commission, Brooke Park, Derry.
  • 2021, RGB Sconce, Hold Your Nose, Sculpture Dublin, O’Connell Plinth Commission, City Hall, Dublin.
  • 2021, Fleurs Tarabscoté, Molesworth Gallery, Dublin.
  • 2021, Echos toujours plus sourds, Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris.
  • 2020, echos are always more muted, Void, Derry.
  • 2020, Folly & Diction, Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin.
  • 2019, Red Lines, The Dock, Carrick-on-Shannon.
  • 2018, Library Words, Kevin Street Library, sculpture commission for Dublin City Council.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

  • 2022, Can Rocks Save the Planet? Eco ShowBoat, Banagher Marina, Co Offaly, Ireland.
  • 2022, Opening the Gates, PhotoIreland Festival, The Printworks, Dublin Castle, Ireland.
  • 2022, TONE, Small Night Projects, RHA, Dublin and Waterford, Ireland.
  • 2022, Prosopopoeia: Art and Storytelling, Molesworth Gallery, Dublin.
  • 2021, The Narrow Gate of the Here-and-Now: Queer Embodiment, curated by Sean Kissane, IMMA, Dublin, Ireland.
  • 2021, Company of Others – Box, CCA, Derry/Londonderry, N Ireland.
  • 2021, Bite the Hand that Feeds You, PhotoIreland Festival 2021, curated by Julia Gelezova, Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin, Ireland.
  • 2021 Hybrid Spaces, Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin.
  • 2020, Heavy Metal Parking Lot, curated by Pádraic E Moore, Garage, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
  • 2019, Arrangements, zine with Philipp Guffler, curated by James Merrigan, Small Night Zine at PCP, Ireland.
  • 2019, when the idea is extinguished, atrium commission at TBG+S, Dublin, Ireland.
  • 2019, The Parted Veil, curated by Chris Clarke, Lewis Glucksman Gallery, UCC, Cork, Ireland.
  • 2019 The last great album of the decade, curated by Pádraic E Moore and Sheena Barrett, 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, 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.