Tim has developed an eclectic working practice that is rooted in the overlapping spaces between art, science and literature.
Tim studied painting at Leicester Polytechnic and printmaking at Chelsea College of Art and Design where he received an MA in 1992. He went on to complete a PhD at Chelsea in 1998 and was awarded an Arts and Humanities Research Council Fellowship between 2004–8. His work has been exhibited extensively at public venues including the Science Museum in London; Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève; Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon and PS1, New York. He has also exhibited at Galerie Olivier Houg, Lyon; Houldsworth, London; Rubicon Gallery, Dublin and Briggs Robinson, New York, and has work in various private and public collections.
For Tim O’Riley, research is a means of thinking, a way to generate a pool of knowledge or experience that can be drawn on and a structure that can enable new ways of thinking and doing. It is a process of looking for something outside one's everyday orbit, whether that thing is an idea, a place, a phenomenon or a process. Research affords the possibility of not necessarily being subservient to the status of an outcome but can foreground the quality of the investigation. While outcomes are of undoubted value, research in this sense nonetheless remains important. One can still be subjective or objective, rational, irrational or unconstrained.
Tim has published numerous articles and essays exploring the relations between art and research, science, digital media, and the role of speculation, narrative and serendipity in art practice. His practice has centred on digital technology – specifically modelling and animation – but is informed by a range of media and explores relationships between technology and subjectivity, fact and fiction, and the still and the moving image. Recent projects have been spurred on by a chance encounter with a memento from the Apollo 11 lunar mission, a small Irish flag which had travelled aboard the historic spacecraft and which resides at an observatory in Dublin. In the light of this serendipity, a recent book Accidental Journey brings together some of his associated research into science, literature, lunar exploration and narratives.Over the years O'Riley has been involved in various collaborations with scientists. He is interested in the scales and timescales of science, which are often far beyond human experience and yet are embedded in every aspect of contemporary life, practically and philosophically. Through accident or invention, he has looked at science almost as a subject: its impenetrability often leading him to focus on its human aspects.
A key project was based at CERN in 2000–1, with resulting works exhibited at venues including Centre d'Art Contemporain Genève and PS1, New York. Here he became less interested in the practicalities and the scale of the experiments than in the ambition of thinking that enabled such things: the foundations of quantum mechanics and how perceptions or conceptions of reality flow from thinking about matter at a minute level. He is struck by the imagination required to conceive of something that is beyond the realm of everyday experience but exists in a tangible sense. Tim has since continued to visit the experiments at CERN, most recently in early 2008, just before the much heralded switch-on of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
More recently, he has visited astronomical observatories around the world. These sites intrigue him in both a cultural sense (e.g. the life that surrounds them, what they seem to embody) and for what they signify in terms of theoretical and practical approaches to reality. Experiences like this have remained a touchstone for his thinking and generating ideas about the world and artworks: the connectedness of the large and small, inner space, incompleteness and serendipity, as a means to develop or generate work.
Current and recent projects
Building on an Arts and Humanities Research Council Fellowship he was awarded in 2004, part of Tim’s research and practice is realised in book form. The artist’s book or bookwork can be multiple things: a work in itself; a means with which to embody the thinking around the work; or a way of representing the research that can sometimes lead to work being made in the first place. As well as conflating the artwork with the means of its distribution, the book can also be used to document and represent an activity that exists as an inquiry, perhaps in an ongoing form. It can act as a container for the unexpected. It can also be used to realise and embody the idea that enabled it.
Recent bookworks include A Farmer’s Almanac, based around Native American names for each month's full moon (London: Ponsonby Press, 32 pages), and Accidental Journey, initiated as a result of a serendipitous encounter with an Irish flag that travelled to the moon on board the Apollo 11 mission in 1969 (London: Ponsonby Press, 108 pages).
Publications, exhibitions, other outcomes
Mäkelä, M. and O´Riley, T. (eds) (2012) The Art of Research II, Process, Results and Contribution, Helsinki: Aalto University Press
Bury, S. (2011) ‘Artists' Books: Brocade’, Art Monthly, 348, 38
O'Riley, T. (2011) ‘A Discrete Continuity: On the Relation Between Research and Art Practice’, Journal of Research Practice, 7 (1), jrp.icaap.org/index.php/jrp/article/view/257/238
O'Riley, T. (2011) ‘Accidental Journey’, in: Impact 7 Conference, Melbourne, Australia, 27–30 September 2011, Melbourne: Monash University
O'Riley, T. (November 2011) ‘Chance and Improbability’, Flusser Studies, 12
O'Riley, T. (2010) ‘(From) A to B (and back)’, Printed Project, 13, 18–23
O'Riley, T. (2009) ‘Speculative Object’, in: A. Kaniari and M. Wallace (eds), Acts of Seeing: Artists, Scientists and the History of the Visual, London: Zidane Press, 108–9
Nimkulrat, N. and O’Riley, T. (eds) (2009) Reflections and Connections: On the relationship between creative production and academic research. Helsinki: University of Art and Design Helsinki[e-book]
O'Riley, T. (2008) 'Technological Claustrophobia', in: media-N, 4(2)