Introducing our first artist in residence for 2015, Laila O’Brien


30upstairs would like to introduce you to our first artist in residence for 2015, Laila O’Brien. Laila graduated with an honours degree in Fine Arts from Masey University College of Creative Arts in 2013. Her practice is typically painting based, explores abstraction and the relationship painting has with the body and space through watercolour on paper.


This is the story Laila told us when first applying for the residency and that she is using as the basis for her residency project and her exhibition here in April 2015.

“My Grandmother was a Madame. After school I would catch the bus from St Patrick’s primary school in Kilbirnie to the city, walk to Ghuznee Street, and then through the open front door of the Albermarle. In the reception room I usually found my Mother, Grandmother, and a square silver dish full of peppermints. In the back lounge I was given a mug of milo and asked if I wanted to play cards. Slender arms would deal us each a hand, while simultaneously adjusting negligee straps and hair strands. Mostly I played Go Fish with Gigi. I was pretty good for a 6 year old. “

Laila has been with us for two weeks now so we thought it was time to check in and see how she is settling in.



A room in the old Albermale


Why did you decide to apply for the residency here? Is this your first residency? And how are you feeling about the next few months?

I wanted to do a residency in Wellington as the Albermarle is widely recognised here and it ties in well with the history of Wellington and other beautiful buildings we have in the city. This is my first residency and although I felt a little overwhelmed in the first two weeks I am settling in well now. I think with it being the start of the year and having this beautiful weather has made it a great time to be working on something new.

You mentioned in an early meeting with us that this is the first time you will have examined this part of your childhood and family background in your work, why have you decided now is the time to do this?

I guess it has something to do with getting older, and looking back at the decisions that I have made, as well as others, that have influenced and directed me in my life to where I am now. When I was younger I was afraid of people finding out about the Albermarle and judging my family, which did happen from time to time. Now I’m not concerned, and instead feel proud of my Nana and Mother for being driven, authentic, and engaged with the world around them.



Untitled, 2014


Boulder Bay, 2013











Your previous work has mainly been varying forms of abstract gestural paintings with watercolour. Will you continue this exploration?

I may, however the work in this project will be determined by the imagery and memories I associate with my time at the Albermarle. This is new territory for me and will likely include aspects of my previous work as well as completely new media and materials.

How are your ideas evolving for your new work?

I have a lot of ideas that are both interesting and surprising. I usually work with a known medium first, where as this project is based on a narrative with the work growing from that. It feels a bit like I am working in reverse and is an approach that I feel is teaching me some beneficial skills.

Without giving away too much, what can we expect from your show?

My ideas aren’t fully resolved yet, but you might see a film/performance work, lots of fabric and perhaps a bit of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

I won’t be replicating the space or my time in it, rather trying to play on the tensions around being a naive child in that environment compared to how I view that time now as an adult. Also I find myself asking how I was influenced by that environment, and what traces of that experience linger unconsciously in my understanding of things and my decision making. Questions that may never have a definitive answer are always the interesting ones.


You can view more of Laila’s work on her website here:


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1 Response to Introducing our first artist in residence for 2015, Laila O’Brien

  1. Pingback: We farewell Laila O’Brien from the 30upstairs residency and discuss her exhibition Wynken, Blynken, and Nod | 30Upstairs

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