Laura O'Connor (back row, second from left) is from Killeshandra, and a member of the Belfast-based Array Collective

Cavan artist part of Turner winning collective

Laura O'Connor from Killeshandra is a member of the Belfast-based Array Collective

A Cavan artist is part of a collective from Belfast that has won the 2021 Turner prize.

Laura O'Connor from Killeshandra is one of 11 members attached to the Belfast-based Array Collective, a group of artists from across the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland.

The group have been collaborating since 2016, and their work focuses on responses to issues such as welfare, access to abortion, mental health, gay rights, as well as the gentrification of areas.

Photo by Laura O'Connor

The prestigious £25,000 prize was awarded at a ceremony at Coventry Cathedral on Wednesday evening.

For the first time ever this year’s shortlist was made up entirely of collectives. All of the projects selected had an emphasis on social engagement.

Array were nominated for their work, The Druithaib’s Ball, an art installation centred on an imagined shebeen.

The Druithaib’s Ball

The installation was installed with a floating roof created from banners that had been created for protests and demonstrations Array were part of.

It was described as “a place to gather outside the sectarian divides”.

Alex Farquharson, director of Tate Britain and chair of the Turner judging panel, said Array had made their work in a “difficult, divided sectarian context. They deal with very important issues but bring a sense of humour, pleasure, joy, hope and hospitality – often through absurdism, camp, theatre, to an otherwise very tense situation. They bring a sense of release and a post-sectarian way of thinking.”

Farquharson added that the jury was “really impressed” by how Array “totally embodied the spirit of what they do, what they’re about, in a gallery space a long way from home.”

The other collectives shortlisted for the award were Black Obsidian Sound System (B.O.S.S), Cooking Sections, Gentle/Radical and Project Art Works.

Array Collective described the win as “surreal”.

They stated they were were “so proud to be from Belfast and of Belfast”.

The prize money will now be used to secure studio space, they said.

Laura O'Connor recently qualified having undertaken a practice based PhD at the University of Ulster.

Her work focuses on the representation of women on screen, specifically the parallels between gender performativity in online self-representation seen in the screens of the ‘digital everyday’.

Some of Laura's past exhibitions include, The Pensive Spectator at Trans Art Cavan 2013, A (brief) History of Looking for Culture Night Belfast 2012, In View at the Golden Thread 2010, and Sweetheart in Cavan 2016.

Read more:

We feel like we've already won - O'Connor (May 2020)

Laura's all consuming art (2016)