Enda O'Donoghue - Paintings

From DONTPOSTME #9 Summer (Experimental) Issue - 2014
online here: http://issuu.com/dontpostme/docs/dontpostme9sum

Born in Ireland in 1973, Enda O'Donoghue is now living and working in Berlin. In his work Enda uses photographs sourced from the Internet and plays with random throw-away moments of everyday life, merging them together in various interconnected themes. The painterliness of his technique works with the disposable nature of his subjects to make the work sometimes poignant and melancholic, or alternatively brittle and harsh. His work is deeply influenced by the digital high speed reality we now live in and he transports these seemingly meaningless sound-bite images from a place of apparent futility to one that questions and searches for meaning through the transformative act of painting.

DPM: Enda, tell me how did you become an artist? Why did you choose painting in glitch style?

EOD: How did I become an artist? Well, it certainly wasn't a very direct route. I was never brought to galleries, museums or anything like that growing up but I used to draw a lot and eventually progressed on to painting. I think, as far as I can remember, the first things I was interested in drawing and painting were images from comic books and I have a vague recollection of using a notebook to draw and meticulously catalogue every superhero that I could find. I became interested in computers around the age of 8 or 9, first with a Sinclair ZX81 which I think had just 16 kilobytes of memory and then, my very first upgrade a year or two later, to a ZX Spectrum which introduced colour graphics, 8 colours in fact and a whopping 48 kilobytes. As limited as they were it was through these first computers that I became very interested in computer graphics and also programming. So actually when I left school first I went to university to study computer programming and spent about 3 years completely immersed in that world but eventually realised that it simply wasn't satisfying me. So I left and then more or less on a whim enrolled in an art course which led onto to studying painting in art college a few years later and from the start that just felt right.

I guess it is quite natural that the influence from my time studying computers would be very present in my artwork. Although initially the idea of painting seemed to be the complete opposite to the structure and logic of programming languages and the mathematics that I had come from but it didn't take long before all of these past influences began seeping out and infecting the way that I approached painting and art. Over the years I worked professionally teaching multimedia applications and as a web designer, developer and programmer, so I think there is no way for me to avoid dealing with the digital world and the technology in a very direct way.

My interest in the digital errors and glitches is partly an aesthetic fascination, coming from a love of their purely abstract qualities and also it comes from interest in the hidden structure underlying digital images. We live in a world that is increasingly reliant on computers. They are like a hidden presence underlying everything. Like the noise of any machine, the glitches expose or remind us of the presence of the technology. The invade and obscure the perfection of the image, break down and interrupt the normal flow of communication and challenge us to fill in the blanks or to put the pieces back together, while also offering a reminder, a brief flash, of how the visual information has been interpreted, manipulated, reduced, compressed and ultimately transmitted.

DPM: How did you create recent projects - Entropy, Is Feeling Lucky and etc? Did you take a special photographs for this project? And, please, describe your method during painting.

EOD: Almost all of my recent work has used found images, I rarely if ever use photographs that I have taken myself. Instead I have been collecting and cataloguing images from various mostly online sources for years and I continue to add to that collection on an ongoing basis. In general I have been drawn to the more low quality images where there are obvious signs of pixelation, noise, static, transmission errors or visual artefacts. Often these are unprofessional photographs or images from the early years of digital photography and a lot of the images have originated from mobile phone cameras. So something that started off being viewed through that little window of the screen on a phone is eventually blown back up to life size through the painting process.

With these recent projects the mix and selection of the images I've used and subject matter has been crucial. I have always tried to avoid an arbitrary selection or purely aesthetic selection and generally the idea of working in straight series based work bores me. So I have been attempting to guide the selection in a more deliberate and defined way with an open-ended underlying narrative thread that runs through everything and this is something which continues to evolve with my work. Right now I am generally guided by subject matter which results from ongoing research into different areas of interest that I have and currently I am looking at images and videos mainly dating from the early 70's, so some of my future work could look quite different.

When it comes to the actual painting process I have tried to define a set of procedures for myself so that instead of simply copying the image it is more like a translation, with painting, as a visual language, in the mix as an active element and where the process itself plays and important role, so it generates its own errors, or manual glitches and in a way it celebrates the idea of human error. It typically begins on paper where I manually divide up or dissect the image into irregular block-like sections based on some pre-determined system, sometimes defined by shape and colour or the detail in the image and sometimes this is more game or puzzle-like in structure. Then the image is reconstructed by painting these isolated pieces one by one building together almost like a jigsaw-puzzle over a period of weeks and sometimes months. It is a very slow process, in fact it intentionally exaggerates the slowness normally associated with painting. So the element of time is very important in all of this, the painting in a sense stretching the image out over time and even though the final painting could easily be described as representational or realistic, it is built out of individual pieces that are often very abstract in nature. For me the act of making art has always been a little like inventing a game with its own the rules and then, isolated within that system, in that world, as the sole player of the game following those rules, playing along and all the while pushing at the self imposed boundaries just to see what happens.

DPM: Could you characterized a glitch art as a special type in contemporary art now?

EOD: I have been fascinated to watch the community build up over the past few years around the idea of glitch art and I have met a few of the people who are really into all of that in a big way and it is really amazing to hear the various ways that they try to manipulate the technology, and in some cases to almost break the technology, so that they can get a particular effect or introduce a particular uncontrollable error into the system. I think that idea is really interesting and there are many parallels between that and both music and painting, particularly with abstract painting. But I think that there is a danger that as time goes by what you might call glitch art ends up being very empty and that the images or works produced are seductively beautiful but noting else, flat, pretty and empty. I this it is more interesting when I artists use those ideas, the possibilities and that way of working and then transform it in some way or else use it with a solid idea running through it. In that way often we don't see or think of it as glitch art any longer, it is simply a device or a by-product within something else, it serves a greater purpose.


DPM: Is there anyone who has recently astonished you in art?

EOD: Most recently an exhibition that grabbed me was a show of paintings by the Romanian artist Adrian Ghenie. Quite different work to what I would normally gravitate towards but some of the most interesting painting that I've seen in a long time. It's one of the great things about living in a place like Berlin, the amount of art that you get to see on a regular basis and particularly for painting it is of course important to see the work in the flesh instead of simply in books or on the internet.

June, 2014