Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Excavations by Hughie O'Donoghue

An edited version of this review appeared in the Sunday Times Culture magazine on 18 December 2016.

Hughie O’Donoghue frequently mines the personal for his epic paintings. His father’s involvement in the Second World War informed his early work and of late he has found inspiration in his ancestor’s homeland, the bleak and deserted landscape around Erris in North Mayo. The crumbling stones of an ancient furnace near Bellmullet is the source of most of his latest show. Photographic images of the ruins are painted over in rich reds and hot whites, simulating the flow of liquid metal. The transformative power of the furnace also stands as a metaphor for the alchemy of art. The furnace was named after an infamous landlord Sir Arthur Shaen, so perhaps the artist is also having fun with the suggestion of Hell fires that point to the old brute’s ultimate fate. A childhood visit to Inis Oirr is reimagined in the other paintings on view. While walking around the island with his father he encountered the great rusting hulk of the MV Plassy - driven onto the rocks during a storm in 1960. It has appeared in the guise of the Medusa and as the doomed troop ship Lancastria in earlier work by O’Donoghue.  Here it becomes the ghostly Demeter - the ship used to transport Dracula’s coffin to Whitehaven.

Oliver Sears Gallery
 Dublin 2

 John P. O’Sullivan