Whether painting, sculpture, audio or video, Sonia Shiel's work explores its protagonists' attempts to survive the odds of nature and the laws of their own creation, in scenarios that reflect back the processes of art- and promise-making as something the same. Within that, it explores its own artifice and the propensity of ‘art’ to be effective in the real world. Her works conjure surreal encounters between fictional characters and the illusory world around them as they struggle with what to say and how to be heard, with what they see and how to describe it, with what they want to make and how to achieve it, and to be better understood. Many of her works engage with each other symbiotically or con/sequentially within mixed-media installations, creating narrative sequences that share the central materiality of paint throughout. Their acmes are often achieved with mechanical, gravitational or trompe-l'œil tricks. While her video-works synthesise object, image and sound with hand-painted animation, performance and model-making. Sculptures pose or whistle; paintings are cast as life-size characters, objects, terrains, and as whole traversable landscapes; and low-tech special-effects cause the work to breathe, fall or climb, as if 'inhabiting' the space. Other collusions lead the viewer further into the tale with painted-on footprints scaled to induce distance; altered weights speeding-up and slowing-down time; or instructive and choreographic texts in legal, various or poetic form that consolidate a notional sequence of events.
Her project, Avocado, involves the development and materialisation of a text composed of dove-tailing short-stories, into a new video and other works. Avocado's characters are each longing for vision, articulation, power, acceptance or love. While non-verbal entities - objects with magic powers and latent or mythological histories - take on pivotal and executive roles. Part-musical score, part-scream - Avocado's physicality is both material and magic, made of landscapes sourced from the history of art and theatre, in which the characters must embrace a collective imagination that binds them together in a common make-believe.
Sonia Shiel has had recent exhibitions at The Crawford Gallery, Cork; The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin; The Lewis Glucksman Gallery, UCC, Cork; Rua Red, Dublin; ISCP, New York; The Kevin Kavanagh Gallery, Dublin; and The Oonagh Young Gallery, Dublin, among others. In 2014, Sonia Shiel received the Arts Council's Project Award, with which she completed the Art & Law Fellowship Program, at Fordham Law School, while participating on the International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) in New York. In 2015, she was artist-in-residence at the Irish Museum of Modern Art and received Arts Council Visual Artists Bursary 2015. She has been the recipient of many competitive awards including the (HIAP) Helsinki International Artist-in-residence; Culture Ireland and Arts Council funding; the Centre Culturel Irlandais Award; the TBG+S Frankfurt Exchange Program; Banff Centre for the Arts, Leighton Residency Award, Canada; the Hennessy Craig Award (RHA); The Tony O'Malley Award; and TBG&S Membership Residency, among others. Her works are in public and private collections including the Arts Council of Ireland and the Office of Public Works. She is represented by the Kevin Kavanagh Gallery, Dublin.