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Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Hughie O'Donohue Excavations

I went to see an exhibition of Hughie O'Donohue's work at Trinity Hall College Cambridge. Huge paintings cramped the walls of a small dark room and the only prints on display were obscured beneath glass so that detail was lost. Can you detect my disappointment already? I have encountered O'Donohue at the Fitzwilliam museum; his epic Crucifixion triptych and a series of Caborundrums of the corpses of Mussolini and his henchmen, subtle, visceral prints. I hoped to see more of this.
His paintings, which are a combination of photographic elements and abstract layers of dirty paint, are not as beautiful or understated as his prints. They are huge works, and as the Porter pointed out, very expensive. The print above advertised the exhibition; the richness of colour is surprising and exciting. But I can see all this from my computer screen better than I could behind reflective glass.

‘O’Donoghue’s working method, in repeatedly building up and breaking down a paint surface, so that it is as if an image is, as it were, discovered or unearthed within it, brought to light, might be compared to a process of digging and probing the land. It is figuratively speaking equivalent to a kind of archaeological excavation‘ Aidan Dunne

The glass case which contained this print and accompanying sketchbooks was my highlight, a glimpse in to working practices and the development of ideas and experiments. I can see from this that O'Donohue is a collator and excavator, he is an archaeologist.

'Archaeology as metaphor and the theme of collective human memory has been at the centre of Hughie O’Donoghue’s practice as a painter.'

When the paintings were at their best they disorientated perspectives in their incorporation of figures in to the murky painted landscape. The paint suggests a kind of recognisable terrain but never confirms it leaving the lifeless figures lost in ambiguity.

Finally, here is the crucifixion triptych which is displayed in the Fitzwilliam; atmospheric and raw, it commands its size.

1 comment:

  1. An amazing discovery, Thank You!

    Fallen angel ..."Are things necessary and eternal subject to the Eternal Law?"

    “By that sin fell the angels.”

    William Shakespeare quotes (English Dramatist, Playwright and Poet, 1564-1616)

    “The desire of power in excess caused the angels to fall; the desire of knowledge in excess caused man to fall.”

    Francis Bacon, Sr. quotes (English Lawyer and Philosopher. 1561-1626)