O’Connor, from Bishopstown in Cork, hit on this method of working towards the end of his degree course in CIT Crawford College of Art and Design.
“The drawings I was working on at the time were very personal to me and I wasn’t comfortable with the idea of exhibiting then. By chopping up the images and concealing the surface I could explore subject matter close to my heart without exposing myself or making myself vulnerable,” he says.
In his artwork ‘Contents’, O’Connor used papers he had kept throughout his life, no longer of use but too precious to be consigned to the dustbin. However, the use of such personal materials has become less essential.
“I couldn’t chop up every paper in my life, so a certain amount of filler has come into play. Friends and acquaintances now call me up when clearing out their attics, and I use newspapers and anything I can get my hands on. I sometimes hit it lucky and get a call to see if I would be interested in encyclopedias or unusual coloured paper.”
O’Connor has been commissioned to turn other people’s keepsake papers into artworks. He finds this throws up challenges as he doesn’t want to invade their privacy, but a certain degree of inspection is needed to assemble the work.
Pattern has also become more important to him. Spirals, herringbone and brick patterns are among those he favours. “I have used pattern in my work since college but have definitely become more honed in on it in my environment. As a young child I hated stripes, things have changed dramatically since then.”
The pattern is the most striking aspect of his current work. Some of the pieces are small and behind glass, while others are large and dominate the room. While most of O’Connor’s work is in 2D, he has quite a few pieces of furniture in his back catalogue. One of these, ‘Ponder’, was acquired by the OPW from his degree exhibition in 2012. The beech wood bench has two seats which slide over an expanse of brightly coloured spiralled paper pattern.
Next week at CIT Wandesford Quay Gallery, O’Connor’s work will be paired with that of the well-known painter John Kingerlee. Kingerlee’s collages, which he rarely exhibits, complement perfectly O’Connor’s intricate, sculptural works in paper.
In the gallery’s vaults, O’Connor will create a new artwork from copies of the Irish Examiner over the course of the exhibition. “I have been meaning to track down a space to use for an installation for some time, so this invitation came at the right time,” says O’Connor. “I have done small areas of rooms previously, but it has been a long-term ambition of mine to take on a big room and really challenge myself. I can’t wait to get in and get started, I have already began cutting up material in anticipation.”
* Layers & Layers runs at CIT Wandesford Quay Gallery from Tuesday, February 11 until March 1. Colin O’Connor’s finished installation will be launched on Thursday, February 27.