Object (im)permanence

Object permanence is the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be observed. It stems from early childhood developmental psychology to describe the stage when a child understands that objects exist and events occur in the world independently of one's own actions.

The longer I live at a distance from people I care deeply about, the more I have learned to deploy object permanence with them. While these relationships cannot be neglected – on the contrary, they must be carefully tended – they are reinforced by a fundamental belief that the ties can be relied upon to sustain the connection. Likewise, in our respective absences, lives unfold without our presence.

The work consists of disparate images – scenes from childhood, maps, and recent snapshots of the surrounding English countryside – incised, layered and machine-stitched over and into. Sewing over the blended photographs and other ephemera, I seek a form of seamless integration and permanence. It is a domestic act of mending together, of tacking the past to the present and the near to the far away. As a technique, it slows me down to feel at home with the images, what they represent, and the life I choose here and now.

The reverse sides of the pieces offer another perspective, more abstract and unpredictable in how lines and images intersect. The backs of these pieces were left to chance, perhaps an apt metaphor for how life unfolds, full of surprises and unforeseen outcomes. The work is framed to reveal both sides; larger pieces are left unframed and suspended for viewers to walk around.

New Country

"Kelly O’Brien continues to be a keen observer of her surroundings, offering us subtle narratives from the places her life leads her. Instead of documenting with the highest digital speed possible today, she lends us time through her art. Her hand painted photographs contradict the feeling of snapshots as she continues to paint onto them and therefore prolongs the process of capturing the image. Kelly O’Brien gives us more time, turning it back for us to see what she chose to collect and reflect on, a fitting artistic decision in the actual process of re-rooting, transformed into art." —Merja Herzog-Hellstén

Since relocating to the English countryside, I find myself captivated by rural living. Farm animals surround us. We have a paddock full of borrowed sheep, and get fresh eggs from the hens and ducks next door. Read more...


Geographical Cure

The geographical pilgrimage is the symbolic acting out of an inner journey. One can have one without the other. It is best to have both.  Thomas Merton, Trappist Monk

A geographical cure is the idea that we can leave problems behind by changing location. Be it a new town, job, or even a new partner, doing a “geographic” is a powerful force for temporary, distracted relief, yet solves nothing. As soon as normal life resumes, the problems return. Read more...



Postcards Series

The Postcards series is an evolving body of mixed media prints based on personal snapshots from my surroundings. They are a way to document not only where I live and travel, but also particular moments, relationships, and identity at a given point in time. They also explore themes of journey, home, and contentment.

Hard Tryer

"A light touch for heavy work." —Punggyeong, Korean Culture Magazine

Hard Tryer is a nod to the courage it takes to be vulnerable - to put yourself out there, even when unsure of the outcome. These paintings were started shortly after an overseas move, at a time when I felt way out of my comfort zone.

This work explores the tension between vulnerability and façade. What we share of ourselves with the world, and what stays hidden. What we are aware of, and what we remain blind to in the unconscious. My belief is that vulnerability takes great courage. Yet it is required for real connection with the world around us.


Artist Books

Archetypes: Journey to Self (2010). Three-level boxed set of thirteen books. Book cloth, binders board, washi, pigment ink, mylar, thread, garnet dust, nickel, glue. 6 x 6 x 6 inches closed.

Boxes are a metaphor for rich and layered psychological space. Through the lens of Jungian archetypes, personal stories and memory, this collection of artist books explores what lies beneath our conscious awareness – both light and dark.