RHA Learning Event

Miriam O’Connor, interview with Ruth Carroll, RHA Curator
18 May 2020 - 18 May 2021

RC: Hi Miriam, how are you?

M O’C: Hi Ruth. Am good – bearing up. Waiting patiently for the dust to settle. It may take some time it seems.

RC: I feel like this pandemic has made us all pause and consider certain things. Is this pause beneficial to your practice and what does it mean in practical terms?

M O’C: Hmmm.. at the beginning of all ‘this’, I was thinking about artists in a general sense being rather good at isolating and indeed often being isolated from the greater 9-5 working culture. I still hold this belief and feel that artists are resilient creatures, capable of adapting and coping in ways that others might find more difficult. For me, this period has fostered more opportunities than hindrances, for now at least.  I do realise that I am lucky, in that I have ample scope in which to use my everyday surroundings as both the source and subject of my work.

RC: Describe a typical morning for you?

M O’C: No morning is complete without a decent coffee to consider the day at hand. There’s a headspace that just belongs to the morning that’s so important to salute and cherish. Once these precious moments have elapsed, frankly, I’m always busy – juggling the farm, art practice, lecturing commitments and anything else that might come my way in between. But always, farm first, especially in the morning, making sure the cattle are ok is top of the list. I tend to commit the mornings to farm-work and the afternoons to art practice, editing, applications and so on. One constant is our darling cat. According to him, he is the first and only real priority of mornings, afternoons and evenings, all year around.

RC: What are you reading at the moment?

M O’C: These days, I am going around the Internet when time permits. I’ve been over to David Campany’s website where there are a bunch of essays on various shows and books he has been involved in. Then, I’ve been reading around Land Art, concepts and approaches and thinking about them in relation to everyday farming practices. Sometimes, I find myself on the department of Agriculture website, looking at the language of Agriculture, pondering on potentials and crossovers that might emerge between these disciplines. My favorite thing to read is the farming paper on a Thursday from the Irish Examiner.  Dear Linda for farmers – it really is a must.

RC: What do you miss?

M O’C: Right now – not that much. I am savoring the time for research, making pictures and little videos of daily life with my camera phone. Because I am already pretty isolated here, things are not that different, plus, it’s a busy time of the year on the farm.

RC: Give me a Netflix recommendation

M O’C: I don’t know anything about Netflix because of the ‘rural broadband’ narrative. Since the lockdown though, I’ve become a bit obsessed with looking around churches on live webcams while attempting to find masses for my mum online.

RC: Your forthcoming RHA exhibition has been moved to 2021.  Does this additional preparation time have consequences?

M O’C: Naturally this reschedule is disappointing, but completely unavoidable. Still, I feel rather lucky that it can still happen in 2021 and will use the extra time to rethink and reedit this work and consider new ways of engaging with it. Currently, the work is hibernating in a solo show at Sirius Arts Centre in Cobh, closed like all others since March 12th.  In 2019 I spent the entire farming year doing a series of self-portraits and showed only one of those at Sirius. I’d like to think that I can find an interesting way to present these at Ashford Gallery.

RC: What can we do on a practical level to support artists and creatives through these times?

M O’C: Facilitating the rescheduling of cancelled shows is a key measure without doubt. Equally, staying in touch with and informed on what artists are doing, through Initiatives such as these interviews, is a welcome step. From longer-term perspectives, there’s a fundamental need to recalibrate the gallery experience, considering artist, visitor and staff safety in revised ways. While it’s an overwhelming and sobering reality, finding new ways of working, adapting and engaging with audiences remains imperative. More broadly, I do hope that arts and cultural funding will not be relegated and that meaningful measures that serve to support the arts sector during this challenging period are a government focus. The Arts Council need to really fight for artists now in a way like never before and make sure they don’t get left behind.

RC: Give me one piece of advice to help get through lockdown.

M O’C: Where possible, use this time in a productive manner, whether that’s for refueling, reflecting, researching or planning in some way. I think its important also not to be too hard on yourself as collectively we are all try to find new ways of working things out during these unsettling times. But a glass half full is, I feel is a useful thought and no harm to ask yourself the question – how can this time be used in a positive and smart way – until a new normal emerges in the weeks and months ahead.


Miriam O’Connor is an artist based in Co.Cork and will exhibit in RHA Ashford in March 2021.

Ruth Carroll is the Curator at the RHA and has been working from home since March 12th, 2020.


Images: Miriam O’Connor, A Farmers Journal #193, November 14th, Digital Photograph, 2019, Image courtesy of the artist.

Miriam O’Connor, 77 Farm Buckets, 2018, Digital Photograph, Image courtesy of the artist.

Miriam O’Connor, A Farmer Journal: Notebook Extract, 2019, Digital Photograph, Image courtesy of the artist.

Miriam O’Connor, Farming Glossary(Page Excerpt), 2018, Handmade Book, Image courtesy of the artist.

Miriam O’Connor, Wordsearch, 2020, Image courtesy of the artist.



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