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From Hastings to Paris – a month in Ornagh’s life

The ever expanding world of ORNAGH

Ornagh is an extended reality artist who is based in Hastings and stirring up a global storm with her hand-painted, digitally-created world called ORNAGH. Erica Smith caught up with her when she was fresh back from NFT Paris – a conference celebrating and exploring the cutting edge of digital technology and art.

At the beginning of February, Ornagh was explaining extended reality to a sell-out audience at OBX in Hastings’ Observer Building and she ended the month as one of only five artists selected by New York’s SuperChief Gallery. This weekend her work was ‘dropped’ at their digital gallery space in Paris as part of the world’s largest Web3 event. Extended Reality is a catch-all term which refers to Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR).

Ornagh at OBX

Ornagh in front of a green screen – one of the tools of her trade. Taken by DV8 student, Summer.

Ornagh is a very 21st century world citizen. She was born and grew up in Ireland but has spent time living and working in London and Paris. Her entry into the world of extended reality was not the typical route through video gaming. She has always been a creator of fantasy worlds and fantasy characters – starting with a love of underground music and nightclub sub-cultures. She would trawl Paris for amazing outfits, bring them back to London, customise them and create club nights with fantastic themes.

2014 was a key year for her – she left the world of fashion and music to work for a renewable energy company across the road from St Paul’s. At 6am every morning she visited the cathedral before work and it became an important ritual in her day.

As a result, Ornagh began to question societal expectations and her value system, using art and performance as tools to raise awareness and political engagement. She formed a collective of artists called The Nave that chose to work on socially conscious projects in unusual ways and in unexpected places. It was a practical community, challenging established values and encouraging personal responsibility. It was a forum to explore sustainable fashion, body politics, climate change and activism using installation, digital media and club culture.

A long-standing theme in Ornagh’s work is to use drag and dressing up to explore the pressure on young women to look a certain way. Recently she has been working with costumes from legendary Teddy Tinker’s Vintage Emporium to create looks and outfits for her mixed reality videos.

She moved to Hastings during the Covid pandemic and it was here, in a locked-down world, that she started exploring Virtual Reality as the perfect tool to continue to create new and fantastic worlds. One of her first major pieces of digital work is Ode to Him. It’s a love story about a break-up. She used photogrammetry to scan objects and herself to build a 3-D world. It’s a narrative journey through fields of blue flowers which thrive whilst pink flowers wilt and fade away. The medium is clearly contemporary, but there is a strong surrealist flavour to Ornagh’s imagery.

Ornagh has become fascinated with mixed reality where you can see her as a character in a digital world. Filmed in her studio in front of a green screen, you can see her pick up digital elements, shape them and shrink or grow them into digital sculputural objects.

This ‘extended reality’ is explored more in her latest project Ode to Her – a positive response piece to Ode to Him – it’s a female empowerment journey.

Ornagh has just been working with young people from DV8 college in Bexhill. “It was really cool to see kids embracing technology, but also exploring and engaging with causes that were important to them.”

What next? Alongside mental health advocate and travel genius Sharon Rhodes, Ornagh is co-organising a creative retreat and exhibition in Albania. “I spend a lot of time on my own tackling technical issues and I really wanted to create an opportunity for artists and get back to the real essence of art”. It’s a return to The Nave – an opportunity to stop over-thinking – she’ll be leaving her IT behind and working in the moment. “It’s really important to be able to create and hold a unique space for artistry that isn’t directed by deadlines and technology.”

When she gets back from Albania she’s going to launch into a heavy period of work using motion capture to record the movement data from dance and performances. She will align the data with different characters to explore choreographing extended reality dance sequences.

Ornagh wearing a costume from Teddy Tinker’s Vintage Emporium. Photograph © Toby Shaw photographer

You can explore Ornagh’s work for yourself on her website and Instagram. She has just launched a series of prints from the world of ORNAGH which you can buy online.

Another locally-based artist working in the world of NFT’s is Kim Wan. Read about him here.


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Posted 19:32 Tuesday, Feb 27, 2024 In: Hastings People

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