Hughie O'Donoghue: Deep Water and the Architecture of Memory

November 10, 2021 - January 15, 2022

At the core of this new body of work is the artist’s deep-rooted interest in interrogating the way memory is forged through generations. Drawing on his own memories as a child, the substantial works on tarpaulin exhibited in the show depict the MV Plassy which was wrecked in a storm off the coast of Inisheer in 1960. The shipwreck, which has been a recurring motif in O’Donoghue’s practice for over twenty years, has an imposingly theatrical, almost sculptural presence. Glowing with phosphorescent shades of rusty reds and yellows, the ship seems to witness its own slow demise whilst the sea around it remains a continuously moving yet immutable force.

Materiality is a focal aspect of this striking body of work. Primarily using repurposed materials such as sackcloth and sandbags, O’Donoghue creates an idiosyncratic tension between the realism of his imagery and the physicality of the works. This contrast is achieved through a complex superposition of photographic images with layers of resin, acrylic and oil paint whilst also embracing the irregularities of the materials. The subtly nuanced hues of his compositions are testament to O’Donoghue’s interest in the tradition of oil painting and were inspired by the lavish colours of Old Master painters such as Titian, whose works he studied as an artist-in-residence at the National Gallery in 1984.

Deep Water and the Architecture of Memory celebrates the artist’s unique ability to excavate history in an almost archaeological manner in order to investigate contemporary questions of memory and identity. Charged with metaphorical, though never fully formulated subject matters, the works in this exhibition invite the viewer to immerse themselves in the artist’s thought and working process, ultimately challenging them to confront their own relationship with identity.

Born in Manchester in 1953, Hughie O’Donoghue lives and works in London and County Mayo, Ireland. He obtained an MA in Fine Art at the Goldsmiths College, London, and was an artist-in-residence at the National Gallery, London, in 1984 and at St John’s College, Oxford, in 2000. O’Donoghue was elected a member of the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in 2009. His work has been widely exhibited in Britain and Europe. An exhibition of his work will open at the National Gallery of Ireland in March 2022.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue featuring an introduction by Thomas Marks and an essay by Hughie O’Donoghue.