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 is informed by a range of media and explores relationships between technology and subjectivity, fact and fiction, and the still and the moving image. Tim also uses artist’s books in multiple ways, both to represent objects that are resonant for various reasons—his most recent book, Endlessness (2020), reproduces a pair of skis (at actual size across several pages)used on Scott’s ill-fated 1910 Antarctic expedition—and to explore ideas or narratives associated with these objects. Another book, Accidental Journey (2010), was prompted by a chance encounter with a memento from the Apollo 11 lunar mission, a small Irish flag that had travelled aboard the historic spacecraft and which now resides at an observatory near Dublin.
Over the years Tim has also been involved in various collaborations with scientists. Going back to 2000-1 he was based at CERN, Geneva, with resulting works exhibited at venues including Centre d'Art Contemporain, Geneva and PS1, New York. 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. Tim last visited the experiments at CERN in early 2008, just before the much-heralded switch-on of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). A subsequent artist’s book, Twenty-Seven Kilometres (2013), is based on Tim’s photographs of the LHC as work was being completed on its installation.
Experiences like this have remained touchstones for his thinking: mulling over inner space or incompleteness, for example, or the connectedness of the large and small, can lay a ground from which future work develops.
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.
Books include Endlessness (2020), based around a pair of skis used on Scott’s ill-fated expedition to Antarctica in 1910—these are reproduced at actual size. It also brings together facts, borrowed text, and new and archival images relating to the expedition and Antarctica more generally. As well as recounting this famous journey, a series of visual and written interludes give a more speculative narrative on solitude, interiority, and vision (Eindhoven: Peter Foolen Editions). Also, Twenty-Seven Kilometres, which consists of photographs taken during the final installation of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland in 2008 (Berlin: Revolver, 2013); A Farmer’s Almanac, based around Native American names for each month's full moon (London: Ponsonby Press, 2011); 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, 2010).
AHRC Fellowship in the Creative and Performing Arts, Chelsea College of Art and Design, 2004–2008
Publications, exhibitions, other outcomes
O'Riley, T. (2021) ‘Feuilleton: Hope’ and ‘Feuilleton: Love’, in: J. Melvin (curator), (2021) Feuilleton ‘I Will Bear Witness, Piggy-backing from the Edicola’, Edicola Spoleto (2 July–31 August 2021), MACRO, Rome (6–7 July 2021), Edicola, Santa Maria in Trastevere, Rome (7–9 July 2021)
Editors (2021) ‘Publications Note’ on Endlessness, Print Quarterly, Volume XXXVIII, No. 3
O'Riley, T. (2021) Endlessness at BABE (screening), Arnolfini, Bristol, UK, https://arnolfini.org.uk/whatson-category/babe-2021-the-lost-weekend/
O'Riley, T. (2020) Endlessness, Eindhoven: Peter Foolen Editions (ISBN 978-94-90673-28-4)
O'Riley, T. (2017) 'Tailspin' (artist’s book) in: S. Johanknecht and F. Taylor (curators), (2018) Of Average Sunlight: A Display of Artist’s Books, National Poetry Library, Royal Festival Hall, London, UK.
O'Riley, T. (2017) 'M.C. Escher', Print Quarterly, Volume XXXIV, No. 1
O'Riley, T. (2016) 'The Unassimilable Image', Flusser Studies, Issue 22, December, http://www.flusserstudies.net/node/619
O'Riley, T. (2015) ‘Arts and Science: An Enlightened Approach’, seminar with fellow artist Emma Smith, chaired by National Maritime Museum curator, Richard Dunn. Event part of the Travellers’ Tails seminar series at the Queen’s House, Royal Museums Greenwich, a series of public talks related to The Art and Science of Exploration exhibition running concurrently at the Queen’s House, January 2015
O'Riley, T. (2013) 'Exactitude and Uncertainty', Impact 8 Conference, Duncan of
Jordanstone College of Art & Design, 23 August–1 September 2013, Dundee: Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design. In: Borders & Crossings: the artist as explorer, Paul Liam Harrison, Emile Shemilt, Arthur Watson (eds.)
University of Dundee: Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, 2014
O'Riley, T. (2013) Twenty-Seven Kilometres, Berlin: Revolver (ISBN 978-3-86895-294-0)Mäkelä, M. and O´Riley, T. (eds)
(2012) The Art of Research II, Process, Results
and Contribution, Helsinki: Aalto University Press
O'Riley, T. (2011) A Farmer's Almanac, London: Ponsonby Press (ISBN 978-0-9562286-9-7)
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, http://www.flusserstudies.net/node/287
O'Riley, T. (2010) Accidental Journey, London: Ponsonby Press (ISBN 978-0-9562286-0-4)
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)