Una O’Grady was born in North Belfast in 1976 and graduated with a degree in Fine Art from the University of Ulster.
She has always been passionate about depicting on canvas, her home city. The people, the characters, the craic. The humour and banter that she believes is unique to Belfast. Observations from the city’s black taxi ranks and St George’s markets feature repeatedly in her earlier work. Cityscapes, be they unusual snippets from around the town, or the iconic docks area remain common subject matter to which she continually gravitates. Una’s interest lies in the shapes, atmosphere and vibrant colour of these busy docks. She’s interested in how these elements reoccur in her ‘Docks’ scenes – each time in a slightly different manner, in these instinctively painted studies.
Una’s style involves energetic, vigorous movements and brushstrokes as she aims for a result that looks fresh and effortless. This bold application of paint requires palette knives, brushes, charcoal and even finger-painting. ‘Excavating’ on canvas must convey an immediacy and spontaneity.
Una expanded her range of subject matter in recent years to include not just urban but rural too. This came about after meeting her partner John while travelling in Australia. They relocated to his small family farm in County Waterford. While living in a mobile home there during their house build, Una began observing her new neighbours. These cows and calves in the next field began to interest her as she absorbed their idiosyncratic movements and characteristics. A seminal moment was probably a sunny morning when she observed a chunky, copper coloured bull calf munching on hay. The sun reflected off his coat and a glorious array of colours seemed to glow from his bulky, moody stance. He was captured on canvas and titled ‘The Red Fella’. Una was ‘hooked’ and other members of the herd were scrutinized too. Paintings such as ‘The Shy Fella’ and ‘The Bould Fella’ ensued. She’s delighted that since then, a trail of original ‘Una’ cows and calves now adorn walls across Ireland and beyond!
Una continues to spend her time between county Waterford, Belfast city and summers in wonderful Donegal. Her work continues to be a direct response to these rural and urban environments.
Una gets such genuine enjoyment from the process of oil-painting which she does almost every day. It ‘anchors’ her.
She has exhibited in the Royal Ulster Academy, achieving a special award there is 2001. Una has had numerous successful solo shows over the years, carried out many commissions and her work is included in collections such as the Queen’s University and Ulster Bank Collections.
Una is always delighted to hear from anyone that has an interest in her work and enquiries are always welcome!