Rowley began making films in 1995. Since then he has completed more than 30 shorts, feature films, video installations, and documentaries. His work has been funded by NYFA, Irish Arts Council, Irish Film Board, Culture Ireland, and others. He has received fellowships from MacDowell, the Bogliasco Foundation, and Atlantic Centre for the Arts. His most recent commission, Local Time, is a 60-screen permanent installation at LAX airport.
Seaview (a documentary about asylum seekers living in an abandoned holiday camp that he co-directed with Nicky Gogan) premiered at the Berlin Film Festival (Forum), was awarded a special jury mention at DMZ docs Korea, and was nominated for an IFTA (Irish Film and Television Award).
His short Suspension won a Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival. Rowley was also awarded the Irish American Art Award (under 35 and overall prize), the New Langton Arts Award, and the Glen Dimplex Artists' Award ( the Irish Museum of Modern Art's annual contemporary art prize). He recently completed a second feature documentary as director, Build Something Modern, an Irish Arts Council Reel Art commission. The film premiered at the Dublin International Film Festival and examines the unknown history of Ireland simultaneously exporting Christianity and Modernism to West Africa in the 1960s. His 2010 feature length experimental film, The Rooms, premiered at the Pompidou Centre, Paris, in 2011.
Rowley serves on the selection panel for the Bogliasco Foundation, was a juror at Sheffield doc/fest, and was director of programming for GAZE, the Dublin LGBT Film Festival in 2011. He is currently developing two new feature films.