Ellis O’Connor is a landscape artist working from her studio on North Uist. Since graduating from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in 2015 Ellis has undertaken numerous residency programmes, including ones in Iceland and Norway. In 2016, as part of the annual Arctic Circle Residency she was one of a group of artists who sailed around the Svalbard Archipelago in the High Arctic making work about the landscape and environment.
Ellis’s attachment to the natural environment stems from a childhood spent camping in the Highlands, and visiting family in the remote South West of Ireland where ‘the rugged and untamed beauty of the land embedded itself in my mind and has inspired me ever since.’
Like many artists, Ellis is captivated by the energy of ‘the North’.
I'm drawn to extremes, places that are raw, where the elements are unforgiving. It feels real to me and I'm fascinated by untamed lands and how they make me feel alive. Being in nature gives me perspective and it is this feeling of awe, and my own experience (of being) immersed in a wild place that I aim to put across to the viewer, so they too can feel the sheer significance of the landscape.
The dynamic energy to be seen in Ellis’s paintings is her response to observed changes in the landscape; ‘the movement and rhythms of the sea and the land … the merging of sea with air, advancing rain and mist, ever changing light - elements that seem to be about something intangible.’
In order to immerse herself in her environment, Ellis makes much of her artwork on site where extreme weather and the elements find their way into her pieces. She describes the process of working outdoors in wild weather as almost ‘performative’. When outdoors she mainly uses water-based materials such as inks, combined with charcoal, conté and lots of rain!
Some of the pieces made on paper on site become the basis for larger pieces on canvas painted back in the studio. Here, Ellis usually works with oil paint, building up the surfaces using natural substances like sand and dried seaweed.
From conveying the texture and lines of the geology of the landscape to portraying the power of the elements, Ellis O’Connor wants to enable the viewer to connect with the landscape and respect what is sacred. She sees her practice fitting within the area of contemporary land and environmental art.