Interview for STUDIO CRITICAL by Valerie Brennan

on Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Enda O'Donoghue - The Wet Collections
The Wet Collections ( 2013 ) Oil on Canvas , 200 x 200 cm
What are you working on in your studio right now?
Most recently I was working on a triptych which was just shown in a group exhibition in Berlin. The work is a somewhat unconventional arrangement for a triptych, made up of two realistic pieces and one abstract piece. It is all oil on canvas and the hanging size of it is just under three meters in length by one and a half in height.
The main painting, the largest of the three, has an image that is derived from a still from a video clip found online from a 1970s concert and the other realistic piece is a smaller work coming from a found photograph of a record player. Then the abstract piece is a very structural motif, almost mathematical, that is made up of a grid overlaid with layers of flat colour in block like shapes and is playing off the structure and colour in the other small painting.
With the three pieces I have been working with glazes which is something that I hadn’t touched in many years but it is proving to be very rewarding and presenting me with a lot of ideas and possibilities for future approaches and future work. Actually this technique is an idea I’ve had in the back of my mind for a long time but for some reason it has take me years to properly tackle it and it was with a previous work about 12 months ago using acrylic on aluminum, another triptych but on smaller scale, when I tried it out first. I should say that I am not using glazes in any traditional way as they are used as layers of masked structured shapes, squares and rectangles, in translucent colour rather than the more traditional a more blended way.
This work is somewhat of a departure from what I had been doing previously especially in a technical way and actually I think I have spent this past year making a number of departures from my previous work, going off in a number of differing tangents all at once and a lot of this has been about trying to marry this more structural abstract approach to work that lies on the more realistic end of the spectrum. But actually when it comes down to the actual working process for me there is very little difference even if the end result can seem to be pointing in different directions all at once. Right at the moment I am on a residency at the Golden Art Foundation in upstate New York and while there I am mainly experimenting and exploring different materials which so far is proving to be a very rich and rewarding experience.
?Undef'd Function 3495 ( 2014 ) 
   Enamel & Acrylic on Wood , 24 panels - 120 x 168 cm
Can you describe your working routine?
The beginning of every day in the studio for me involves tidying up from the previous day’s work. I tend to almost always leave the studio at the end of a day in a hurry, normally running late for something or having lost track of time so there is often a lot to tidy up when I arrive the next day. I like to start every day of work with a clean slate and a clean palette, so this has become a kind of ritual for me, maybe not one that I like very much but I think a very necessary one for me. Often I spend quite a bit of time during the clear up and after just looking at the work that is currently on the go and also planning what comes next and how best to tackle it. Most days when I am in the studio I arrive between 9 and 10 am and stay until 5 or 6 pm and I think most of that time is devoted to actual painting. I really value the time that I have in the studio and I try to always fill it with as much work as possible. Somedays of course that doesn’t happen but I think that in generally I think I am very disciplined about how my time gets used.

enda o'donoghue - studio berlin

Can you describe your studio space and how, if at all, that affects your work?
My studio is currently in the Atelierhaus Mengerzeile, a former piano factory which was occupied by artists just over 21 years ago and developed into an independent studio house with its own gallery space called the Kunsthalle m3 and a guest studio to allow visiting artists to come and do residencies in Berlin. There are currently about 35 artists working in the building and I have had my own studio there for just over 9 years now. It has been a great place to work, partly because of the amount of space that I have but also because of the daily interaction with some of the other artists. It is a place which enjoys a very strong work ethic, a lot of the artists have been in the building for 10 years or more and I think by-in-large they all take what they do very seriously and on top of that there is a disproportionately large number of painters working there which is great for me and has been a fantastic source of knowledge and learning over the years both technically and conceptually.
It seems absolutely amazing to me to think that I have been there for 9 years now, I can’t quite believe how quickly that time has past. Working there for so long has of course had an immense impact on me and my work so much so that it is difficult to pin-point any individual aspect that I can say has come out of that. Sadly though it looks almost certain that we are going to have to leave this building in the near future. It was sold earlier this year and there are plans to turn it into apartments, which means that all of the artists will be searching for a new spaces quite soon. We’ve tried to save the building as an artists’ studio house but it seems that there is very little we can do and actually over the past couple of years this has been happening all across Berlin to many other studio buildings. The rents are rising and the spaces are becoming more scarce.

 Fuzzy Memory ( 2012 ) Oil on Canvas , 70 x 95 cm  
Reno ( 2011 ) Oil on Canvas , 180 x 240 cm
Tell me about your process, where things begin, how they evolve etc.
My process has changed a lot over the years but I think one thing which has remained constant is the almost mathematical nature that runs through it. This is something that has become even more prominent for me in recent years. I studied computer programming for a few years before going to art college and this has been a major influence not only on what I paint but also how.  So for me the process is often a very defined by a structured set of procedures. I realise of course that this can seem like a very alien approach to painting which is so often defined by ideas of expression, intuition or spontaneity. For me all of these things still exist within my process but they take place at the micro level rather than the macro. And I think on that micro level my process has be defined by a very slowly developing love affair with the very material of paint.
The process in my work is something that is always evolving and changing. I will spend months or years establishing a way of working and developing what can often be a very elaborate process and then once I feel comfortable with it I will switch to something new or make some dramatic shift in my approach or process. This is not something that I do consciously but I have become aware that it is definitely a pattern that has developed. It is a contraction in a way because I don’t make this change because I am dissatisfied with a certain approach but rather because I am happy with it. I am always striving to find a process where each and every work suggests new and previously unthought of possibilities for the next work and it is when those suggestions stop happening that I make more dramatic shifts.  Also for me it would seem that the longer I have been working the more restless I begun to feel about all of the ideas that I want to try out and recently I have felt more comfortable about following multiple tangents at the same time. For me a big part of it is about defying expectations, both my own and those of people that know my work and together with that it is about breaking the rules, even the self-imposed rules, especially the self-imposed rules.
What are you having the most trouble resolving?
I have almost always been working with and from found images and the most perplexing issue for me has always been the choice of subject matter and source material. I have approached this from a number of angles and using different strategies but it is something that for a long time I ultimately was very unsatisfied with on a whole. I guess that this must be an issue that many artists are challenged by especially artists that work with found source material and especially now with the abundance of possibilities available on the internet. I have never been someone that can just keep making work using one or two motifs, I have always found the idea of working in series based on a single distinct theme to be unsatisfying and simple arbitrary selections have always seemed too uncommitted. I think what I have been chasing for a long time is some sense of narrative that can inform the selection process and that can be eluded to in a very open-ended way in the resulting body of work. The exhibitions that excite me are just like that, when an artist mixes styles, motifs and even different media, and the individual works play off each other in such a way that there is a thread, a hinted narrative that runs through it which can be read in any number of ways. I think with my current work I am getting close to something like that but we'll see how it develops.
I try going forward but my feet walk back - Moon / Horse / Cow (Automatic Return),
2014, Oil & Acrylic on Canvas, 140 x 280 cm
(Triptych: 140 x 170 cm, 60 x 80 cm & 60 x 80 cm)
Do you experiment with different materials a lot or do you prefer to work within certain parameters?
Over the years I have worked with video, photography, sound art, text, books, and even public art installations but painting has always remained the central focus. However within painting itself for quite a few years I tried to concentrate on a developing a single style, using a single medium of oil on canvas and allowing the style to evolve slowly and naturally with each new piece but over the past 3 or 4 years I have become less pure about it and far more experimental in my approach to using different mediums and materials. So yes at the moment I do a lot of experimentation with different mediums and material. Most of those experiments may never see the light of day but they have been the source of many ideas.
I’ve always had the idea that art making is about invention and part and parcel with that is the idea of problem solving. Experimentation for me, is mostly a process of making things difficult for myself or creating challenges and then trying to figure things out and a lot of the experimentation in my painting work is actually informed by the things that go on around it such something as mundane as cleaning brushes.
Also one thing I have been doing recently, while I am working on one painting I will have a smaller canvas on the go beside it, a little brother or sister for the main painting, and I try to allow them to feed off each other while also using the smaller piece to try out experiments in a more unplanned way and then using that to inform the process of the large painting. The funny thing is that a couple of times at the end the two paintings work so well together that I don’t separate them and always show them together.
Omega_b ( 2014 ) Acrylic on Canvas , 80 x 60 cm   
What does the future hold for this work?
This current work is part of the first stages of a new body of work. At this point it is hard to say how that will develop but I would hope that within maybe the next 2 years I can have it at a point to exhibit it in a solo exhibition. I have started some work on an accompanying book project that gathers together items of the research for the current work and I would like get back to that at some point and develop it further.
October, 2014