Playing With Fire No53 by Kelly O'Brien for Modern ArtBuyer

Playing With Fire No. 53 (Edgy 7)

Kelly O'Brien

Paper with gold leaf and flame with oak frame. Artwork size 20 x 20cm, framed size 36 x 36cm. Delivery within 1-2 weeks.

360mm x 360mm

Price: £950

Plus £20 for UK delivery Buy

About the Artist

Kelly O’Brien is an American mixed media artist who lives and works near Bath, England. Kelly is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Art at Bath Spa University with an expected degree award in 2019. Throughout two international moves, Kelly has maintained a disciplined pursuit of her art education, all the while building a steady record of exhibitions and collectors, including work placed in over twenty public collections to date.

Materials and personal narrative play important roles in Kelly’s work. The impact of where she has lived is evident in her work over time. She works primarily with paper, attracted to its paradoxical qualities of ephemeral strength. Even when manipulated in seemingly destructive ways - scoring, burning, sewing into, tearing, repairing - what emerges is often more interesting and beautiful than the original form. She is interested in how her materials can transform and reinvent themselves into something new, not unlike an adult who continues to learn and grow – coming full circle in her work from the earlier career.

Playing With Fire is an ongoing series of burned paper sculptural objects. The work consists of a shallow wall sculpture made of paper. The paper has been incised, torn, punched, and burned with touches of gold leaf added to emphasize certain marks. The paper is arranged in floating layers, creating an illusion of a landscape. The work is either framed in a box frame of hand-waxed European oak to protect the materials, or left to be custom framed as desired.

Through this work, Kelly explores how to let go of expectations and outcomes. Over time, she has learned how to “control” the materials, as well as to appreciate the power of surprise. When she lets the flame burn as it will, there is a point before total destruction when beauty happens. Some of the most interesting and unexpected effects happen when the paper burns freely, without trying to control it. This element of surprise sparks creativity. Fire is destructive, transformative, and necessary for new growth. That’s when the flame is potentially dangerous, yet the results are usually worth it. The game she plays with herself is: how much potential destruction of the materials can she tolerate to allow for unexpected outcomes to happen? It is this edge that she is exploring in the work.

For Kelly, using fire as a medium makes things interesting. Up until she was in her 20s, she was afraid to even light a match and has always been slightly hesitant to take things out of a hot oven. In 2013, she started experimenting with this series by simply lighting matches and using candle flame. Today, she uses a variety of tools, including a blow torch and branding iron. Because the technique is dangerous, she must be completely present in what she is doing. She cannot be distracted or let her mind wander. It is a form of meditation, where she must clear the workspace and her mind of clutter and noise. She must be absorbed in what she is doing and nothing else. Which, she explains, is good practice for living life beyond the studio - to not get all caught up in what might happen in the future or to ruminate over what has already happened in the past. It is an interesting metaphor for living life in the here and now.

Kelly works extensively with professionals that serve the designed interiors market, including hospitality, healthcare, corporate, and high-end residential projects. She creates large-scale bespoke versions of her Playing With Fire series for projects around the world including Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, Kimpton Hotels, Hilton Hotels, Marriott Hotels, Taj Hotels, Norwegian Cruise Lines, and more.