Orla Jackson has a multidisciplinary art practice and lives and works in London. She is influenced by her early life growing up in the West of Ireland, with its attendant light and colour and her training as an orthodontist. This background imbedded with ritual and rhythmic work informs her aesthetic and material choices. She has undertaken an MA in Printmaking receiving a Distinction in Research.
I’m interested in the persistence of traces of the cultural and social past in the present, particularly traces connected to Ireland, a small nation that lies on the edge of a vast ocean. Irish people are part of the largest diaspora in the world, many of whom long for a sense of belonging.
To present my own feelings towards its landscape, stories, religion and history; I use elements of patterning - colour, light, geometry, repetition and seriality. Added to this, the visual vibrations of colour-field paintings intrigue me because they evoke an emotional response and are both restful and active simultaneously. In my work, I aim to offer space to reflect on bigger ideas that connect our present to a singular or collective past, the circularity of the human experience and time as a continuum. I believe that optical effects, rhythmic patterns and the action of rhythmic pattern making can act as portals for contemporary encounters with the past.
Of late, I’ve been inspired by letters from an Irish archive, relating to the underrepresented Irish diasporic experience. I've introduced text into my work that paradoxically intends to be playfully engaging whilst straddling more serious social and cultural concerns.
Hard lines in soft ground
This work is an interconnected web of triangles. Like many people I had fixed ideas about life and how it would turn out, but life hasn’t worked out as I thought it would. The ground shifts beneath our feet despite our efforts to maintain certain paths. Triangles as a shape and symbol connect to ideas of unity; for example, the mind, body and spirit and strength, growth and healing. Triangles are dynamic and directional, here they point in many different directions, towards the unknown. I used the medium of soft ground to give texture and atmosphere to the work.
Let there be light
This series of images are immersive; coloured light emanates from darkness. To me their glow likens them to the emotional, mythical and religious work of colour-field painters. They vibrate, giving a feeling of physical presence, it appeals to me that something two-dimensional can allude to another dimension. These are digital prints and infinite reproduction is possible but yet I feel they have aura – a presence in time and space.
Many thanks to Sophia Elger and the Lucerna Quartet (Royal College of Music) for playing at the inaugural exhibition Monophony at the Art Lounge Kensington and to the curators Marguerite Van Boetzelaer and Alice Zakharenko.
Medium:Archival pigment print on Somerset paper.
is she coming or going
For me this is contextually very rich. I want this phrase is she coming or going to be my epitaph. It plays with the idea of the continuum of existence and references a state of confusion. I've used the brash neon light of urban space. This contrasts with a partial optical illusion of a female form made from a distorted grid of finer materials, symbolic of the golds and blues of Catholic imagery. This image is about my push pull feelings towards the faith framework within which I grew up. I feel the work connects many historical iconographic and contemporary references.
are you coming or going
I’d been ruminating on written correspondence from the Archive of the Irish in Britain and this work is in part a response to that. This small flag book connects to the back and forth movement of letters across the Irish Sea and the numerous waves of Irish emigration. The scale of the book likens it to a prayer book and by repeating the phrase back and front I’m attempting to playfully probe the reader to self reflect and ponder the bigger idea of 'are you coming or going'.
Book, edition of 4. 7cmx10cm, waxed, inked tissue paper with UV print.
the highest form of hope
Archives are public entities but often hold very private and personal information. While reading and re-reading the letters from the Archive of the Irish in Britain I was cognisant of the responsibility of working with them. The material relating to the Irish female emigrant experience resonated most easily with me and the work 'the highest from of hope' began to emerge. The imagery was further informed by my reading of an interview with abstract painter Angela Heisch where she spoke about a vibrational force that ties us all together, alongside ideas from artist Idris Khan that images can capture cumulative experiences and collapse time. I chose to repeat 13 sentences taken from letters between Irish women and social workers in London in the late 1970s.
The following are my supporting notes about this piece of work
In the letters, the hopes and hardships of women are laid bare as is the material and emotional support offered by the social workers. Woven into an image of a solitary female form with arms outstretched are fragments of text that represent individual female experiences. However, these words reveal traces of much bigger stories whereby women transformed their lives during the many waves of Irish emigration. The missing pieces allowing the viewer to reflect on the complexity, fragility and vulnerability of their experiences that likely remains resonant with contemporary emigrant experiences.
The lines of text used to build the female form intends to be both visually seductive and reminiscent of the lines of written pages. The movement in the lines is illustrative of journeys forced and voluntary to and fro over the Irish sea to London by ferry and plane. The titling in neon contrasts with words on paper and draws attention to these women who took a leap of faith, hoping for a better life in the bright lights of London. Simultaneously this work is defiant and vulnerable.
Medium:Digital and screen print on Kozo Paper
Size:Neon LED title 120cm. Artwork 106cm x136cm
The Parting Glass
The Parting Glass is a folk song widely sung in Ireland when people are leaving the pub of an evening or at funerals. It's very often sung in homes and pubs when people were/are emigrating, mostly to the US or the UK. For this work, I sang the song and recorded my singing. Using the last 2 lines I transformed them into stencils of sound waves, embedding my own voice into the work. I printed the waves repeatedly using silver pigments to denote labour and money. I printed onto paper I stained inky blue. To add to the musicality I folded the paper into a concertina and it will be framed in a wooden box frame to resonate with the material of many musical instruments.
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all