Monday 27 January 2020

What Lies Beneath: Abandoned Colours by Roisin O'Donnell

Abandoned Colours by Roisin O'Donnell, Oil on canvas; courtesy of the artist

Abandoned Colours by Roisin O'Donnel
Abandoned Colours by Roisin O'Donnel

Niall MacMonagle

Though from Killybegs, on the edge of the wide Atlantic, artist Roisin O'Donnell's NCAD degree show featured quiet, indoor scenes depicting people she knows, including her own self. She captured "snapshots of the stillness of life, moments in time in a subdued environment", work in which "each brushstroke, whether expressive or delicate, holds significance". It earned her a well-deserved First Class Honours.

The largest work, a portrait of her brother Jack, she called Abandoned Colours.

"I like to paint people that I know or have established a connection with" and then "it's up to the viewer to interpret my paintings however they wish".

Seated beside an empty armchair, is this solitary figure at ease? About to order in a pizza? Planning a night on the town? He's hardly watching Daniel & Majella's B&B Road Trip? But then, that glum expression? Maybe he is.

The serious gaze, the relaxed hands, the left ankle resting on the right knee, all suggest quiet composure.

The muted clothes and furniture, the silvery grey and blacks and pale wooden floor deliberately drain this striking portrait of anything that could be called exuberant. O'Donnell didn't call it Abandoned Colours for nothing and yet she "wouldn't consider that the dark tones and colours signify bleakness. In fact I feel that the absence of colour works and sends out a message that the painting doesn't need colour to be powerful".

An acrylic medallion orange mixed with white gesso forms the basis of her work. "I prime my painting while the gesso is still wet, sketch the painting with a pencil and this quick, sketchy method lets me see the life and energy in it. I like my work to be loose and free, both technically and visually," she says.

The portrait took O'Donnell two weeks and "Jack, though normally reluctant to be in a photo", agreed to sit.

Always "creatively curious", while a pupil at St Catherine's Vocational School, O'Donnell was "greatly encouraged by Ms Anna Kee, my art teacher".

O'Donnell's "next adventure" is a degree in Graphic Design and a career in painting. She's 20; she's already on her way.

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