NIALL OBRIEN’S ‘GOOD RATS’
TAKE RESIDENCE AT ART WORK SPACE
Photographer and Filmmaker NIALL O’BRIEN is to make his solo debut this February with an exhibition at ART WORK SPACE - a new independent gallery, recently launched in The Hempel Hotel, London. The show entitled ‘GOOD RATS’, opens on February 1st 2010 and marks the first substantial exposition of work from the ‘Superheroes’ series – an ongoing project that has seen O’Brien living alongside, and observing the lives of, a group of young punks from South-West London over the last three years.
During this time, the artist has seen the group begin to grow from adolescents to young men, following them on their adventures from Brighton to Berlin and documenting their exploits. O’Brien has created a series of photographs so strikingly beautiful that, at first glance, they might belie their raw, uninhibited and primal content. Gradually earning the trust of the group, which to others may seem entirely impenetrable, has enabled him to gain access to some particularly personal and poignant moments in the lives of his subjects. O’Brien captures these with an honesty and respect that makes these images and episodes all the more visceral and affecting. ‘There’s something beautiful about capturing the spontaneity of youth. It’s something everyone can relate to on some level, even if they can’t immediately identify with this mad group of punks.’ he says.
This trust not only comes with a responsibility to be truthful to the kids’ identities, but also towards the work - imposing on the artist a constant battle between his ability to build and sustain his relationship with his subjects and his duty to not influence the way they behave. ‘Basically my only rule is never to interfere.’ says O’Brien of the need to maintain this balance, ‘That can make it hard though, to balance the fact that I want the guys to trust me but I don’t want to do anything that would affect what comes naturally. There can be blood spurting out of someone’s hand, police bowling in or all kinds of sketchiness, but I can never step in. That distance is important and I hope that comes across in the work’. The resulting photographs succeed in drawing the viewer into the lives of the characters within them, but never really let one get past the point of voyeurism.
O’Brien’s talent and commitment to his subject is already recognised by his peers, with a number of awards including the Irish Professional Photographers’ Association Rex Roberts Medal. ‘Good Rats’ at Art Work Space is sure to see this recognition grow - giving the public an opportunity to enter the world of these young punks and a chance to catch the work of one of the Art World’s brightest emerging talents.