Monday 19 August 2019

What lies beneath: Oswald Glitch by Craig Donald

Oswald Glitch by Craig Donald

Oil on linen Courtesy of the artist and RHA Annual Exhibition

Oswald Glitch by Craig Donald
Oswald Glitch by Craig Donald

Niall MacMonagle

A 24-year-old man shoots a 46-year-old. The killer is shot two days later. Those fatal shootings were live on TV and the deaths, the motives, of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby are still discussed. Oswald, a clerk at the Texas School Book Depository, claimed he was a "patsy", the blame guy.

For Belfast artist Craig Donald, born 1987, "history is all-encompassing". But his subject matter looks beyond Northern Ireland: "despite the tribalism that still exists, I think there has always been a slightly developed sense of nuance regarding history and identity here. I turned to more 'grandiose' parts of history, the world wars, the cold war. However, I was aware of my avoidance. I still have a slight block regarding the history of this island but the themes of the conflict were weaving their way through my focus on more global history: conspiracy, assassination, bombings, political intrigue and conflicting narratives. While things are moving forward slowly in Northern Ireland, as a gay man I have to point out the denial of marriage equality and abortion rights."

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This brilliant, painterly work began with a photo. Donald had "a semi-informed knowledge of Oswald's life viewed through the lens of the Kennedy assassination. It's one of those 'whirlpools' of history, it refuses to stay 'fixed'. I used a close-up of Oswald being led by policemen. The composition had a sort of 'pin-up' feel, something that strangely linked into the tension between fame and infamy. I placed him on a neutral background (the T-shirt was his own!), gave him the spotlight. However, I wasn't setting out to produce something iconographic. I wanted to imbue a feeling of instability in the figure, the instability in his narrative, his character, his sanity. His name is synonymous with violence (a journalist questions him about an eye injury and he claims a policeman hit him), most evident in the violence of the bullet which ripped apart JFK's skull. I wanted to layer this into a single image. Is the amorphous forming itself into the figure of Oswald, or is Oswald deteriorating into fleshy abstraction?"

Why Glitch? "I thought the word applied well in the sense of a visual glitch, something very ephemeral and undesirable in the digital world but useful as a metaphor in terms of a glitch in the narrative."

His left eye, his lips, are blocked out; is that grey-blue eye of his looking down the barrel of a Mannlicher-Carcano with a telescopic sight?

RHA Annual until August 10 Facebook: Craig Donald Visual Artist Instagram: @craigdonaldartist

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