2021 RDS Awards to feature emerging Irish Trans artist Roibí O Rua

The RDS Visual Arts Awards moves to the RHA and runs from November 25 to December 19.

Roibí O Rua, nominee for the RDS Visual Arts AwardsClose up of a woman's nose and eyes saturated in emerald green
Image: Roibí O Rua

The 2021 RDS Visual Art Awards will take place in the RHA Gallery (Royal Hibernian Academy) from November 25 to December 19. The exhibition will showcase the work of ten of Ireland’s brightest graduates from colleges across the country.

This year will be the first time that the show has been displayed outside the RDS. The move to the RHA on Ely Place in Dublin will see the first extended showing of the RDS Visual Art Awards exhibition. 

As well as gaining invaluable exposure, the shortlisted artists will be in the running for one of 5 prizes, totalling €30,000. A much-needed boost as they move into professional practice.

The showcased artists have gone through a highly competitive two-stage process to get their work into this coveted show, which this year is curated by artist Vera Klute. 

Among the selected artists is Roibí O Rua, a Trans artist hailing from Waterford. Roibí’s work incorporates music, animation, video and social media.

They explained to GCN, “my practice kind of centres around the use of the cyberspace by queer youth to inform their identities and help shape them, kind of using it like a sandbox or simulation of who they might be in real life.”

Woman wearing white boob tube and white knickers with blurred image super imposed across her body

They went on to explain the concept behind their work, titled Digitran, a term Roibí coined. “My final year piece was a website that hosted my album, and then kind of the archetype of what a Digitran is. So a Digitran is a trans person whose identity was informed online. It’s kind of a subsection of cyborg. So a Digitran is a cyborg, their identity is the digital part of themselves. And their identity was formed through their use of the cyberspace.

“I come from a working-class background and fine art was not important to our lives growing up. I was on the poverty line as a child and you know, we didn’t go to galleries. We didn’t do anything like that. And what I considered to be art, what I saw and what made me want to be creative, was music videos, pop stars, and cool blogs… and that resonates with me far more than a lot of fine art that I’ve seen.”

Screen shot from website - Green and black screen with digital text

When asked what it means to be part of the Award, Roibí replied, “If you had asked me, four years ago, when I started college, if I would be in probably the biggest exhibition and award for graduates in this country, I would have laughed, and I wouldn’t have taken you seriously. Because as a queer working-class person, I really felt that it would be extremely difficult for me to get my foot in the door, in fine art, and especially with the kind of work that I make that maybe goes against what people are used to seeing in a gallery or used to considering fine art. 

“I just wouldn’t have believed you, and it’s such an invigorating and kind of confidence, giving thing. I feel seen, in a way, and embraced and really, really thankful and lucky and privileged, all the words to have this platform, where I thought I would have to fight and fight and fight for years down the line, to even be considered for something like this”.

The results of the RDS Awards will be announced at the launch of the exhibition on November 25. We wish Roibí and all the other artists the best of luck! 

You can check out Roibí’s work here.

© 2021 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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