Hughie O'Donoghue Exhibition at Abbot Hall Gallery

An exibition review of Hughie O'Donoghue's 'Vivid Field'

Hughie O' Donoghue's Vivid Field concludes the work of both private and selected works over the past thirty years. It also presented one of the first opportunities to see some of his most recent work. Themes in the exhibition consisted of motifs such as memory, myth and matter, which the artist has been strengthening a language on consistently throughout his practice as an artist. The human figure immersed in the landscape is a continuing reoccurrence in Donoghue's paintings. For O' Donoghue the figure is vessel to communicate and uncover a thought. The figure is usually always a sign of previous memory so in turn this draws on our ability to be empathetic with the lives and experiences of others. O' Donoghue conceders his spiritual and cultural home to be in Ireland. He uses his family's collective memory (memories being passed down through generations) as a point of reference in his work. Sufferings, depravations and stories of the Irish famine create a division between myth and reality.

Cumae Labyrinth (2011) is an outstanding piece of work that embodies all the elements of O' Donoghue's language and carries seduction and contemplation. This huge canvas holds an image where the figure acts almost like a volcanic eruption in the landscape. This large-scale work depicts the human figure standing with arms stretched painted hazily in bright yellows and oranges.The image appears to be visually aggressive but at the same time its scale and turbulence draws the viewer in to have no choice but to become part of it. O' Donoghue is making an historical reference to the idea of 'the bather' which is explored through the renaissance, impressionism and beyond.For this piece the painter was depicting memories of his father at war, he discovered a set of photographs of soldiers relaxing on the beach and swimming in the sea at Cumae. With references to the history of art and the history of his father this piece is rich in myth and memory, which is what this exhibition was aiming to communicate. This piece is one of the main reasons I wanted to create large paintings in my own practice as an artist, I wanted to create the same sense of 'awe' in people as I felt viewing this painting. Please comment and let me know if you have had a similar experience through visiting an exhibition or event.


Kashmini Shah

Kashmini Shah Contributor

Hi, I'm a Politics and English Literature student based in London!

I love to do deep-dives into the political, psychological, or social messages projected by media, both overtly and subliminally. I'm a huge fan of books, and can most likely be found hiding somewhere in a library with a fantasy or feminist book in hand.

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