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Into the Wild with Ellis O’Connor

Ellis O’Connor is a Contemporary Landscape Artist from Scotland living on the Outer Hebridean Island of North Uist working in the field of painting and drawing. The dynamic energy to be seen in the paintings are Ellis’ response to observed changes in the landscape; ‘the movement and rhythms of the sea and the land … the merging of sea with air, advancing rain and mist, ever changing light – elements that seem to be about something intangible.’ In order to immerse herself in the environment, Ellis makes much of the artwork on site where extreme weather and the elements find their way into the pieces. Ellis describes the process of working outdoors in wild weather as almost ‘performative’.

Some of the pieces made on paper on site become the basis for larger works on canvas painted back in the studio. Here, Ellis usually works with oil paint, building up the surfaces using natural substances like sand and dried seaweed. By producing the art work she hopes it will give people a chance to connect with that landscape and respect the nature that is so wild around us, to then cultivate a deeper understanding and inspire others to make a difference. 

  1. Do you consider yourself as an emerging artist in contemporary art ?

Ellis O’Connor : Yes definitely! I graduated from studying my masters degree of fine art in 2015. It’s been 5 years since I’ve graduated and I’ve been self employed for the past 3. Even though I feel quite established with my style and I exhibit frequently throughout the country and further afield, I still very much feel like an emerging artist as I’m still quite new to the scene and still have lots to do!

2. How would you describe your style ?

Ellis O’Connor : My style is elemental, gestural, expressive, chaotic and full of energy.

3. Does your scottish nationality impact your connection to nature ?

Ellis O’Connor : Having some of the most beautiful and varied landscapes on your doorstep is a massive plus of being Scottish. A massive percentage of the country especially in the Highlands and Islands are home to some of the most incredible landscapes, unique ancient geology and a varied eco system. I grew up camping in the highlands and when I was studying at art school I spent a lot of time travelling the short journey north to gain primary source material for my practise, it’s so important to explore your own country and I know I sound biased but Scotland really is an amazing one to explore!

4. Do you remember your first interaction with art ?

Ellis O’Connor : I remember being obsessed with art when I was in high school, working on these very detailed charcoal drawings and just loving the process, the method and how it made me feel.

5. What contemporary and historical artists influence you ?

Ellis O’Connor : I have a list that I always go to for inspiration, these artists have inspired me ever since I began my degree at art school. Wonderful Scottish Artists such as Joan Eardley, Frances Walker and other artists such as Anselm Keifer and Barbara Rae !

6. How do you feed your inspiration ?

Ellis O’Connor : I’m very fortunate to live in a place where my inspiration is literally right on my doorstep. Living on the Outer Hebridean Island of North Uist, the full force of the Atlantic lies right next to my house, the storms roll in off the west coast, the skies are ever expanding and the wind physically moves you. It makes me feel alive and it is this very energy and experience of being in this environment that fuels me and I aim to put across in my work.

7. What’s your relationship with color ?

Ellis O’Connor : I’ve always used quite a limited palette of cold colours within my work and that is because of the places that I have travelled to! I spent quite a long time travelling around Iceland and the arctic through the winter after I graduated and these palettes have embedded themselves in my mind. I’ve always been more drawn to the big skies and the elements over the fields and more colourful landscapes.

8. What materials do you use ?

Ellis O’Connor : I predominantly use oil paint as I enjoy the texture and layered effect that it gives my paintings.

9. What is your vision of painting these days ?

Ellis O’Connor : To build up an evocative and true experience of being immersed in a wild turbulent storm. To recreate the atmospheric feeling of being in the environments that inspire me so much.

10. How do you use the visual language to challenge assumptions about the natural environment ?

Ellis O’Connor : By using my own methods of painting, my own style and putting across my own representation of the land around me. I aim to put across a different way of looking at the landscape, a unique kind of imagery and overall produce paintings to challenge ways in how we normally view the land around us.

11. What about your future plans ?

Ellis O’Connor : I’m very happy working day to day in my studio on the island where I live but it’s always important to get away to gain some perspective and to challenge myself with new inspiration and environments. The place that is on the top of my list to go to is Greenland and that may be happening quite soon actually!

More about Ellis O’Connor

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