Very Common Glory

Sarah O'Brien

Pallas Contemporary Projects is pleased to present Very Common Glory, the first solo exhibition by Cork born artist Sarah O’Brien. For this new body of work the artist has been allowed an extended period of time on-site in which to test and try out ideas, allowing work to evolve in relation to the idiosyncratic specifics of the gallery space. The predominant subject of these resultant new drawings and installation is cloud formations, or plumes – clouds built of terrestrial explosions, like volcanoes, or bombs of war, or the gaseous explosions of distant places in our universe.

O’Brien looks to the work of Romantic painters, namely Caspar David Friedrich and W.M Turner: “the non-scientific nature of their work is relevant to me, when challenging the depiction of things quite… scientific”. Friedrich fell out with Goethe when, asked to illustrate the latters’ meteorological studies, he refused to reduce his emotionally driven, forceful cloud formations to scientific correctness. The antagonism between various conceptions/perceptions of ‘beauty’ is a core consideration of O’Brien’s work. Indeed the title of the show is a comment on the Romantics’ low regard for the desire to analyse the workings of the world, through examining its smallest components, making a dull catalogue of common things . This is greatly opposed by the often rhapsodic language of science, ‘glorious’ and ‘wonderous’ to mention a few. The ‘glory’ is the name for the part of a cloud which is illuminated by the sun opposite.

O’Brien’s seeming haphazard yet balanced installation and her use of materials, contrasts with the aspirational subject matter, her work transcends these composite materials – both the architectural space in which they are exhibited, and of that which she has contrived and placed there (e.g recycled linseed oil soaked paper, scraps of wood, trace and so on).


Sarah O’Brien studied at Crawford College of Art and Design, Cork 1999 -2003 and M.F.A Painting NCAD 2005-07. She was awarded the Thomas Damann Student Travel Bursary by the RHA, 2006. Previous exhibitions include: Tulca (Galway) and Broadcast (DIT Portland Row), both 2007. She is a member of artists group – VillaK – involved in projects with Cork Caucus, Cork City of Culture 2005. Ongoing projects include a fax project, ‘Fax ON, Fax Off’ for the Artist-Led Archive, (currently at Catalyst, Belfast). She currently teaches drawing at University College Dublin.