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mick o kelly
mick o kelly

Mick O’Kelly

Born 1954, December 29 (Dublin, Ireland)

The ongoing concerns in his work and research acknowledge the changing nature of contemporary art, and issues of situated practice, location, and context. He has exhibited nationally and internationally in conventional art spaces in gallery and museum structure and beyond. These works are understood and perceived under controlled perceptual conditions. Other strategies for action include contextual art initiatives with marginal communities that create spaces for urban intervention for agency and self-organization. This work frequently operates within states of contingency and indeterminacy where the dimensions of art acknowledge the local context within its economic, political, social, and historical arena. The work brings together different methods and platforms of collaborative practice with urban actors engaged in the social production of space. Frequently these strategies use informal kinds of knowledge and exchange of know-how and making-do tactics to negotiate everyday urban living.

Bio & Career

Collaborating with residents, activists, non-government organizations and researchers the work palpates how we position ourselves in the world. These are spatial questions. Space is something we produce rather than it being empty, a void we fill with objects / artefacts and architecture. Space is physical, material, linguistic, conceptual, perceptual, ephemeral, nomadic and fluid.

He has worked with residents in a favella in Sao Paulo whose milieu operate within informal economy and architecture. Together they built a Nomadic Kitchen where urban negotiations are made while cooking and eating in this ephemeral structure.

His strategy could be described as post-studio practice. Choosing an economy of means his minimal aesthetic works with the situation at hand and the appropriation of systems and methods used to represent concepts and ideas. He painted a gallery white. Uses photography and text that explores how we construct meaning through arbitrary associations of signifiers. Or acts of withdrawal, sandblast text from a glass window in the art college where he worked, provoking questions of how representation of ideas in real time is an impossible challenge. 

Current work explores the brain not only as the engine that drives our desires but as the object of the artwork through the creative imagination. Working collaboratively with neurologists, scientists and persons living with cognitive impairment, transfer their (EEG) into a stained-glass window and installed to their living room. To create a space where the owner of their brain circuitry sees their thought return through the cosmic rays of the weather, creating transformative spaces that stimulate the senses for one’s milieu and wellbeing.


Appears in

Photography books with contribution by the artist

  • 2016, Encountering the City, Manchester University, editors – Jonathan Darling & Helen F Wilson
  • 2013, Barefoot Architects, Journal of Architecture, Chandigarh, India
  • 2010, Social forum of Architecture, Ankara, Turkey
  • 2006, Vitruvius Architectural Magazine, San Carlos USP, Brazil
  • 1997, Magie der Zahl: Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, 01.02.1997-19.05.1997, Publisher Die Staatsgalerie, 1997

Awards and honours

  • 2022, Global Brain Health Institute Pilot Project Award
  • 2003, Arts Council of Ireland, Special Projects Bursary
  • 2000, Arts Council of Ireland, Visual Arts Bursary
  • 1996, Arts Council of Ireland, Post Graduate Award
  • 1996, California Institute of the Arts, School Scholarship Award
  • 1992-93, Arts Council of Ireland, Artist in Residence Award
  • 1987-88, Arts Council of Ireland/Dublin Corporation, Visual Arts Bursary
  • 1985, NCEA Scholarship, Ireland
  • 1984, National College of Art & Design Scholarship, Ireland


Solo exhibitions

  • 2019, VISUAL,  The Aesthetics of Labour, Carlow, Ireland Emma Lucy O’Brieen
  • 1999, Orchard Gallery, Orchard Street, Derry, Northern Ireland Liam Kelly
  • 1996, Galerie Françoise Knabe, WeckMarkt 7-9, D-60311 Frankfurt, Germany 
  • 1992, Gallery of Photography, Wellington Quay, Dublin, Ireland 
  • 1992, Santa Monica Community College, Santa Monica, CA, USA 
  • 1987, Garter Lane Arts Centre, O’Connell Street, Waterford, Ireland
  • 1987, Wexford Arts Centre, Corn Market, Wexford, Ireland
  • 1986, The Pentoville Gallery, 7-9 Chalk Farm, London, England
  • 1985, Crescent Arts Centre, 2-4 University Road, Belfast
  • 1984, Grapevine Arts Centre, North Frederick Street, Dublin John Carson

Group exhibitions

  • 2013-2016, The Map is Not a Territory, Washington DC, USA
  • 2012, Art and Activism, THE LAB, Dublin, Ireland
  • 2012, Poetic Landscape, OPW Exhibition, Farmleigh Estate, Dublin, Ireland
  • 2005, NCAD Fine Art Staff Exhibition, Melbourne, Australia
  • 2001, The Drawing Show, City Gallery Limerick & Crawford Gallery Cork, Ireland
  • 1999, Whose Day Book, Irish Hospice Foundation / Missing Persons Helpline
  • 1999, Nous Sommes Tant Aimés, Beaux Arts, Paris, France
  • 1997, The Ideal Academy, RHA, Dublin, Ireland
  • 1997, L’Imaginaire Irlandais, École Nationale Supérieure Des Beaux Arts, Paris, France
  • 1997, The European Face, touring Scotland, Denmark, Hanover, Gdansk, St Petersburg & Vienna
  • 1995, Gallery of Photography, Dublin, Ireland
  • 1993, Northern Contemporary Art, Sunderland, England
  • 1993, EVA, Pery’s Square, Limerick, Ireland
  • 1992, Shifting Borders, Laing Gallery, Newcastle Upon-Tyne, England, UK
  • 1992, Gateway to Art, Aer Rianta, Dublin Airport, Ireland
  • 1991, European Large Scale Print Exhibition, Guinness Hop Store, Dublin, Ireland
  • 1991, Irish Contemporary Art Exhibition, RHA, Ely Place, Dublin, Ireland
  • 1990, A New Tradition, Irish Art of the Eighties, Nature and Culture, Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin, Ireland
  • 1990, EVA, City Gallery, Limerick, Ireland
  • 1989, ‘A Special Place’, The Arts Council of Ireland, Touring Exhibition
  • 1987, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ‘People in the Workplace’, Dublin, Ireland
  • 1987, GPA, Douglas Hyde Gallery, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland
  • 1986, The Decade Show, Guinness Hop Store, Dublin, Ireland
  • 1987, GPA, IMMA, The Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin, Ireland
  • 1985, Divisions, Crossroad, Turns of Mind : Some New Irish Art, Touring Exhibition, USA
  • 1984, Irish Exhibition of Living Art, Guinness Hop Store, Dublin, Ireland
  • 1984, New Artists / New Works 2, Orchard Gallery, Derry, Northern Ireland


Urban Interventions

  • 2022 Stained-Glass Window installation in a patient’s home in Redding, California, USA. A collaborative work with Neurologists, Scientist’s and patients with cognitive impairment. Transferred a person’s EEG into stained-glass and installed to their home.
  • 2021 Consider the Object of Art, Sandblasted Text on Glass Window, NCAD, Dublin, Ireland. An exploration on the (im) – possibility of representing ideas and concepts. 
  • 2018 Aesthetics of Globalization Journey from Hamburg to Shanghai on a shipping container Vasco de Valdez. Made a photographic document of this journey.
  • 2013-16 Bee Structures and Urban Spaces Collaborative project with residents of Ballymun, Ireland. We built Bee hives to scale that resembled the Ballymun Tower Flats and installed them in a community garden. Commissioned by Breaking Ground.2005-07 Nomadic Kitchen, Urban Negotiation, Vila Nova, Sao Miguel, Sao Paulo, Brazil. Collaborated with a favella community and NGO Mudanca de Scena and built a Nomadic Kitchen. Urban negotiations where made while cooking and eating for self-managed and self-organised spaces for social encounter.
  • 2003-05 An Artwork for an Imperfect World, Temple Bar Gallery and Merchants Quay Dublin. Transferred the galley into a space of hospitality and sociability where homeless men and women were invited to dinner each evening over a 14 night period. Following the gallery event the altered van was used by MQI as part of the outreach program.
  • 2003 Five Hours, video of a person rough sleeping. Taidepanimo, Päijänteenatu 11,15140 Lahti, Finland
  • 1999 Immigrant Vehicle, Temporary time-based nomadic artwork, Ireland. An articulated truck with recorded voices of migrants narrating their displacement and foreignness. Like the pilgrim, trying to find a new life and better quality of living in a foreign land. 
  • 1996 L’Imaginaire Irlandais Printemps Celte, La Grande Halle, La Villette, Paris, France. Large scale photographs of men and women dealing with cultural and political identity.
  • 1994 Genus commissioned by Heathrow Airport Pier 4A BAA PLC, Public Art Development Trust, London, UK. Large format portrait photographs of men and women with shave heads with bar codes installed in the arrival / departure area of Heathrow Airport. Conceptions of subjectivity and political and cultural identity were the currency of joining the European Economic Community later known as the EU 1991.