Eilis O’Connell was born in Derry, N. Ireland in 1953. She studied at the Crawford School of Art, Cork, Massachusetts College of Art, Boston and the Crawford School of Art where she received the only award for Distinction in Sculpture that year.
Other awards followed - the GPA Award for Emerging Artists in 1981, a fellowship at The British School at Rome in 1983-1984 and a P.S.I. Fellowship for New York from the Irish Arts Council. While in New York she won a two-year residency at Delfina Studios in London and was based there until 2001. From her London base she exhibited widely and won many public art commissions, She received the Art and Work for her sculptures at 99 Bishopsgate from the Wapping Arts Trust, and in 1998 won a Royal Society of Arts Award. She has represented Ireland at the Paris Biennale in 1982 and the Sao Paolo Biennale in 1985. In 2002 her large bronze, Unfold, was lent by the Cass Foundation to the Venice Biennale and her smaller sculptures were shown at the Guggenheim Museum, also in Venice. O’Connell is a founder Director of the National Sculpture Factory in Cork, a former member of the Arts Council of Ireland, a member of Aosdána and a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy.