Painting Caserta Red: Hughie O'Donoghue At The Imperial War Museum

By Richard Moss | 19 June 2003

Photo: Monument in Rouen, 2003. Picture courtesy, Imperial War Museum © Hughie O'Donoghue

Painting Caserta Red is a major exhibition of works by the painter Hughie O'Donoghue showing at the Imperial War Museum until September 7, 2003.

Drawing on the themes of memory, identity and history the paintings take as their subject the exploration of history both personal and universal.

Photo: The Skeleton Town of Cassino, from Anabasis 2002 (The March up Country) Picture courtesy, Imperial War Museum © Hughie O'Donoghue

O'Donogue's father saw active service during the retreat from France in 1940 and the Italian Campaign 1943 - 45 and it is these experiences that inform the work.

Utilising letters written by his father to his mother between 1942-46 as well as snapshots, postcards and images taken from the Imperial War Museum Photograph Archive, the artist has created a hauntingly impressive body of work.

Photo: I too: in Arcadia: have lived, 2000 (detail) Picture courtesy, Imperial War Museum © Hughie O'Donoghue

The pictures, often on a monumental scale, are constructed in a multiplicity of layers to create a rich and complex relationship between of colour, tone and surface.

In a series of works entitled 'For The March Up Country' O'Donoghue has created a single work consisting of 24 paintings made on the 1937 edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Photo: Baia, from Anabasis 2002 (the March up Country) Picture courtesy, Imperial War Museum © Hughie O'Donoghue

'Baia, from Anabasis' features a faded snapshot of his father bathing in the sea during the war outside Naples, whilst 'The Skeleton Town of Cassino' takes one of the bloodiest battles of the Italian campaign to paint a powerful picture of the destruction and desolation of war.

Elsewhere triptychs reveal old snapshots of the artist's father eerily peering out beneath the layers of colour and paint.

Photo: Baia, 2002. Picture courtesy, Imperial War Museum © Hughie O'Donoghue

It's an affecting collection of over 20 works that trace the wartime experiences of an individual caught up in exceptional times.

After it's tenure at the IWM in London the exhibition will move to the IWM North in Manchester; here the artist will add a major new work painted for the opening of Daniel Libeskind's exhibition space in September.

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