We farewell Laila O’Brien from the 30upstairs residency and discuss her exhibition Wynken, Blynken, and Nod



You have just finished your 3-month residency at 30upstairs culminating in an exhibition that includes a large-scale video projection, paintings and a ceiling installation. How are you feeling about the residency and your show?

It was a really productive and positive experience. Being adjacent to the gallery space allowed me to make work that suited both the project I was working on as well as the gallery spaces.

I feel happy to have finished the residency and see the finished work existing on it’s own, out of my hands. As with all shows it’s fascinating to see the dialogue/relationship people have with the work. This forces me to think about how the work is viewed by others in ways that I may or may not have expected.


We spoke to you at the beginning of your time here (view recent blog here). How did the last part of your residency go?

The first month I was just settling in and getting used to the space, as well as wrapping my head around the project I had proposed. The second month was quite stressful because it meant being at a mid point and having to make some concrete decisions about where the work was heading. Although the final month was busy making and finalising the show, all the decisions had actually been made and I was able to just get on with the making.



Was the three months long enough for you to develop this project or would you have liked to have more time?

The 3 months was long enough to challenge me to make decisions quickly without thinking too much.





Your work has changed quite a lot from before your residency, how do you feel about this and will continue making multi-disciplinary works?

I am happy with this new direction my practice has taken in order to unpack this project. The residency challenged me, as well as enabled me, to explore my ideas in whatever way was necessary. I wasn’t limited by my past practice. I will definitely continue to unpack this concept. I do see my previous work as partly about space and movement so in that way this isn’t too large of a departure.





Did you encounter any challenges along the way? 

Moving from mainly a studio-based practice to more multi-disciplinary work meant more problem solving, sourcing items and the involvement of 3rd parties. This isn’t something I am used to and struggled with it at times. I also tried not to overthink what I was doing, to just let the work happen and trust my decisions.


How much time did you spend at the studio and what advice would you give to future residents? 

I spent about 25 – 45 hours a week here, which is in the range of what I was planning. I would often come down to the studio when I wasn’t planning to do work, just to think and edit my ideas. Also being in the space helped me to work more productively at other times. Part of being an artist is allowing yourself this time to be relaxed and open to ideas even when you are not making something.


What’s next for you?

I am really keen to do another residency while I still have flexibility in my schedule. I feel I am now open to opportunities that I may not have been able to do in the past. 

There were lots of ideas I had during the residency that I either chose not to explore or didn’t have time. Now I have the time and am excited about where they could go.


Do you have any advice for future residents or people applying?

I would suggest they be open to new ideas and new ways of working that might come out of the environment.

Talk to the people around you, Mal, Jhana and Pauline were always there to chat about ideas and get some feedback.

Work out a schedule that fits you and stick to it – think of it as a job.

Take some risks. Make them big ones if you feel so inclined.


laila_7 laila_6


What else did you gain from your time here?

I really appreciated being around the gallery and seeing how the space functions, how they pick artists, how they build those relationships and how they prepare for exhibitions. It’s also nice to have a constant stream of artist coming and going, and be exposed to the energy of different people and how they make and talk about their art.

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