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For the first time ever, this year CREATE boasts work from critically acclaimed Irish artist, Orla de Brí. Sculptor Orla de Brí’s unique, elegantly stylised figures and objects are familiar to many, moulded in a variety of materials including bronze, steel, stone and fibreglass. De Brí has had six major solo shows, completed over 27 large-scale public sculpture commissions internationally and her work is housed in many significant private collections, including that of actress Hilary Swank.

Tell us about your pieces for CREATE 2021?

“‘Bound’ is a 7ft female figure suspended by branches tied tightly around her waist. Precariously balanced with her skirt of branches it emphasises our connection to, and our dependency on, the natural world. There is a symbiotic relationship between humanity and the natural world, they are bound together. She is a towering metaphor denoting our dependence on the natural world for survival. At the same time, the figure tapers into a sharp point, she is helpless without natural support, it alludes to a caution of future danger.

‘Rootless’ (6.5ft) features a bare tree, suspended from the ceiling, with an inverted figure of a women where the roots should be, this piece acknowledges that women have given birth to the human race from the beginning of time, they have an inner strength and an instinct to nurture and protect and so are very much in tune with the natural world.”

How would you like people to respond to your pieces in Brown Thomas?

“I think the response to art is very personal, I like when art stops me in my tracks ceases the internal dialogue and draws me in, even for a few seconds and makes me feel something. I hope that people enjoy the work and that the sculptures are thought provoking.”

What inspires your work?

“I think everything inspires the work, your life experiences, how you think, how you live, what you react to and feelings and emotions you go through as you navigate your life. For me sculpture is sometimes a three-dimensional manifestation of a thought or feeling that wants to be expressed.”

How has lockdown impacted your creativity?

“I was working on commissions throughout lockdown, I found it a very calm time with less distractions, so apart from not seeing friends and travel I enjoyed the time creating and spent with family.”

Are there ways as an artist you have become more sustainable in your practices?

“Yes, I am conscious of sustainability, I try to recycle as much as possible on large-scale public sculptures I often carve polystyrene as an armature. I have now found a company that compacts it and recycles this material.”

What is your experience as a female Irish artist?

“I have had mostly positive experiences, I love being female, Irish and an artist! But there is a gender imbalance in the art world. I think women have to work harder to get the same recognition.”

Tell us about your creative practices and daily routines?

“I work in both gallery and public art. I love to work on large-scale site-specific sculptures, I have 27 public pieces. I work towards a solo show every five years, where I delve into and explore one theme with many pieces. I mostly work to commission from a purpose-built studio beside my house, I am quite disciplined and work every day from Monday to Friday. I think sculptors are born not made, it is hard physical work but very satisfying, my studio is my sanctuary.”

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Orla de Brí's 'Quiet Listening', Belvelly Castle, Co Cork, Irelan

You have created some outstanding commissions for many influential clients. Any favourites?

“One of my favourite commissions was to make ‘Quiet Listening’ a sculpture for the roof of Belvelly Castle, Co Cork. It was quite daunting, the castle is incredibly beautiful, so the sculpture needed to be strong but also to sit quietly in the space. When you walk into a castle more than any other building, you think of your ancestors, and you quietly listen to stories of a different time. I wanted to make a piece that would reflect that feeling and so I made a human figure quietly contemplating a tree. The tree captivates the figure there is a visual connection between the two, human with nature, present with past. I like to think he is pondering the bigger questions; Who am I? Why am I? Past and present, man and nature. The five metre tree is 24ct gold leafed and the three metre figure is patinated a rich dark green.

I was commissioned to make a piece for the Sabanci Family in Istanbul for their International art collection. It was site specific, a nice location beside a river. I spent some time with them to get to know them before making a very personalised sculpture, a piece called ’Flow’ an eight-metre vivid blue quarter ellipse with a female figure where her legs elongate into drops of water, she is seated over the river. I made the sculpture in Ireland and then shipped it to Istanbul for the installation.

The sculpture I made for Hillary Swank was commissioned by Cecelia Ahern when she was working with her on a movie.”

The female figure is very important to your work; can you explain more about this motif?

“I am female so that is my perspective, it is natural for me to use the female form to express something, as that is the way I see the world. I also love the concave / convex nature of the shape of a woman.”

Tell us about the materials you use in your work and why you use them?

“I like playing with and exploring different materials, I mainly work with bronze, steel, and fibreglass I enjoy combining elements that may seem incompatible at first, but yet express something in the piece, for example I use corten steel with polished bronze, the industrial with the precious.”


Inspired by Orla’s work? Check out the collections and work from the rest of the CREATE 2021 lineup in Designs for Life.