Ruairiadh O’Connell (b. 1983) completed his BA at Oxford Brookes in 2006 and attended Staatliche Hochschule Für Bildende Künste, in Frankfurt between 2008 and 2011. He now lives and works in London.
O’Connell investigates the interstices between chemistry, physics, history and psychology. His practice is experimental and his processes often lead to unpredictable and often surprising results while exploring and challenging the human mind and behaviour in relation to physical and intellectual experience.
The element of chance is at the core of his work: O’Connell combines materials with different properties, to draw out their reactive processes and better understand each component. The random mixture of elements, steel and aluminum, wax and pigment, silicon and fabric, coexist in different environments, as well as in the varied shapes, forms and patterns of his work. This gives a sense of confusion that leads the human mind to follow its own instincts rather than a mechanical analysis. As O’Connell comments, “I don’t want to explore professional production as I feel it could be too quick to resolve a thought. I enjoy a struggle, learning how to substitute one material or technique for another. […] I try and be honest in my method of production. I don’t do anything specifically deliberately — each part is a controlled accident”.
O’Connell’s recent work has delved into the realm of cognition; the way people learn from their relationships with each other and with their surroundings. He looks for instinctual reactions to uncover hidden facets and undertones, different stages of persuasion, and how the unconscious can be manipulated by design and architecture. This can be seen, for example, in his screen-printing of casino carpet patterns, which are created to keep gamblers’ attention and excitement high, while encouraging continued gaming, or through the artist’s use of 1950s airplane seat fabric – a pattern that was designed to distract passengers from the fear of flying or from a hypothetical emergency.