Julia O’Connell is a visual artist exploring notions of collective memory, nostalgia and remembrance through the production and display of intricately crafted textile based works. She works with a range of fabrics, materials, stitches, texts and industrial craft processes over substantial periods of time in order to create art works that represent the importance of personal stories and treasured collections in understanding humanity’s shared past. Julia is a social artist, in that she works diligently to capture and understand the memories from people of all ages, working in many locations and responding to both people and site. These responses she will eventually share in a new form, as a textile based work, lending a new purpose, permanence and timelessness to a story that could’ve otherwise been lost in a breath.
More recently, as artist in residence for the Theatre Absolute ‘100’ project commemorating the centenary of World War 1 and as an a-n development bursary recipient, Julia has started to test range of different media, pushing her work into new artistic terrains.
As a visual artist Julia OʼConnell uses textiles and other forms in a rich and engaging way to create layers of meaning through surfaces. During her BA course in Surface Decoration at Coventry University, she became interested in mining her familyʼs own textile history and the sharing of making processes. Her video piece Green Shawl involved the un-making of a shawl made by Juliaʼs Grandmother connecting with her forebear through the same green wool.
Julia has used making as a way of gathering of stories and histories. She invited people via her blog to contribute stories and textile artifacts, which she then reinvented. There were some profound responses and the artworks had an abject beauty; particularly Straitjacket.
Julia is responsive to the creative ideas of others; as the Lead Artist on Godivaʼs Coat for Imagineer Production’s Godiva Awakes project, she led a team of five artists across disciplines and creating a coherent design for the six metre long coat, as well as visual impact through collaboration.
Her work responds to place, the everyday and the ignored. Her 3-year residency on the building site at Faculty of Engineering and Computing at Coventry University produced a series of photographs of small but beautiful details uncovered by the construction process. Her textile pieces were imaginative responses and demonstrated her commitment to finding the right approach; trying new techniques and collaborating with technologists.Anne Forgan