Dublin City Arts Office
The LAB, Foley Street, Dublin 1

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Past Exhibition

RETROFUTURE

Hazel O' Sullivan

May 24 - June 11 2024

The First Floor Gallery 

Co-Curated by Julia Moustacchi and Clara McSweeney 
Exhibition Preview: Thus 23rd of May 18:00 - 20:00

Retrofuture brings together elements of three projects from 2023 by Hazel O’Sullivan. Topia exhibited at Trinity College Dublin, Cladding exhibited at Catalyst Arts, and Harvest Gold exhibited at The Solstice Arts Centre.

Resembling household features, mechanical objects and retro apparatus, O’Sullivan’s collective works explore mid-century functionalism and vernacular Irish decor. These imagined artefacts confront tensions between past and future and refer to the weight of history and global modernity on defining contemporary Irish identity. Her faux nostalgic narrative addresses modern history in the wake of commodification and commercialism, using retrofuturism as an aesthetic tool to reimagine homogeny and alienation in contemporary Ireland.

Upholstery, wallpaper and control switches are amongst the paraphernalia that animate O’Sullivan’s sculptures. Her application of classic decor to mid-century apparatus incorporates several overlapping time periods, rendering her uncanny artefacts in liminal space. She imagines her works unearthed from transitional and dormant spaces such as empty shopping centres and quiet bus stations which feel between and outside of time, housing moments for introspection, ambiguity and apprehension. She draws parallels between nostalgic uncertainty and the collective experience of defining a decolonized identity, focusing on the disconnection she feels with her direct history and undefined future. Her works portray a clash of Irish, American and British influences derived from her generation’s exposure to the growth of global commercial homogeny, filtering her relationship with her cultural identity and the unique characteristics of Irishness.

Although she uses multi-disciplinary processes to reflect the specificity of each project she investigates, her works collectively remain within a consistent realm of liminality and retrospection. Topia made in response to the theme ‘essence of student life’, was approached from her experience commuting to NCAD daily from Co. Meath. She took forms and components from the architecture of a bus and designed artefacts that could exist in the past and the future. Reflecting on the significance of her time spent on public transport where she had time to rest and contemplate betwixt responsibility and inevitability, her works combine the uncanny with the all too familiar bus seat moquette.

Confronting retro-culture Harvest Gold derives shape and colour from populuxe consumer culture in the American space age. Designed for an era where anticipation for a technological future was optimistic; fridges, televisions and radios were modified with bakelite plastics and pastel colour schemes. This kitsch design paired with vernacular furnishing in Panelboard and Stacking Unit acknowledges this transatlantic influence on O’Sullivan’s recollection of the past, developing her faux nostalgic narrative. She hopes to rewrite this narrative in future work by developing the concept of ‘retro-Ireland’ with reference to Irish Mythology and Celtic design.

From patterned couches, rugs and curtains to textured wallpapers; sculptures Crank and Dispenser play with the decorative vocabulary of Ireland. O’Sullivan’s overlapping embrace of ornament and utility reflect on what she has known as common decor alongside Art Deco and Americana aesthetic. Her choice of mixed-media materials are representative of certain eras, and form an idealisation of future technology with a tactile finish. Incapsulating time they appear familiar and alien, vernacular and modern.

About the artist 

Hazel O’Sullivan is a multi-disciplinary visual artist from Co. Meath working in sculpture, painting and textiles. She explores vernacular modernism and retrofuturism to create imagined artefacts.

Hazel is currently based in London after completing a Masters in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Arts in 2023 and has since completed artist residencies at PADA Studios in Portugal, and at Hypha Studios, Good Eye Projects and Acrylicize in London.

Previous solo exhibitions include Inner-City at The Wilton Gallery and Harvest Gold at the Solstice Arts Centre where she was also awarded the Solstice Visual Arts Award. She has exhibited at Catalyst Arts and Platform Arts in Belfast with duo exhibitions. Across London she has exhibited with numerous group exhibitions such as at San Mei Gallery, Collective Ending and more.

Found out more here.

Past Exhibitions

Living but a Day: Encounters

Living but a Day: Encounters

Chloe Austin

May 24 - June 11 2024

Same but Different

Same but Different

Bernadette Doolan

May 24 - June 11 2024

Emergency Knowledge: The Missing Archives

Emergency Knowledge: The Missing Archives

Vagabond Reviews

April 12 - May 11 2024