I write and research ideas from a female perspective on the 'female gaze' feminist theory. I examine ideas around quotidian experience, draw from a diverse range of sources from my personal life to contemporary culture.
Reading Phillip Guston's memoirs, I was struck by how he returns to the imagery he used at the start of his career, this sparked the idea of going back to my earlier memories as subject matter. My painting concerns involve the processing of feelings around solitude and vulnerability, often conveyed in a humourous and confessional manner. The subject matter outlines a narrative around scenes of intimacy. I work with a sense of urgency and immediacy, this brings a certain rawness and sometimes crude quality to the work.
A Mind's Eye
Olivia O’Dwyer paints with a blend of imagination, memory, instinct, and insight, drawing on ordinary experiences that have imprinted in her mind as extraordinary or distinct in some way. Intimations of intimacy combined with a Bad Painting* style mean these new, small canvases are sometimes funny, sometimes awkward, nearly always unsettling. O’Dwyer is happy to tell us she is making paintings about women’s health (including her own) and relationships, and processing memories in ways that are not always explicit. But when she talks about her work, she says, “I hope other connotations come to mind.” They do, and that is the point.
The Pool and The Pool II offer the opening to a story you will have to tell yourself. Ladder handles glow like disembodied angel wings, or cartoon frog eyes, on the line where poolside meets a drop into the blue. She paints the ballet shoes of Swan Lake, placing them alongside Heels Together, a composition which at first glance could be mistaken for a swimming image too, but instead depicts the moment just before the invasion of a medical examination. Adult vulnerability: a specimen, splayed, frog like, bare from the hips down, nude like a baby on a changing table.
I'm Just Resting My Eyes is a painting of her dead father in cool wraparound sunglasses, lying prone on peat-briquette-coloured sofa with deep-set upholstery buttons winking white. The implied narratives of the titles set off more associations: dogs copulating at night in Consternation in the Neighbourhood; the bare implication of flesh and forward movement beneath rust-coloured water in Just Keep Swimming, the Zepplin-like floaters in Ex Bomb. O’Dwyer draws you in as she pushes you back, stopping short of overtly confessional. You must approach the work in the spirit with which it is made: looking for a near-primal response.
Text written by Cristín Leach
* The artworld term Bad Painting arose from a 1978 group exhibition at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, curated by Marcia Tucker. It refers to a deliberately raw style of figurative painting, rejecting traditional ideas of draughtsmanship, mixing art historical, popular, and personal sources, offering a counter gesture to Minimalism and Conceptualism.
Online solo exhibition, A Mind's eye at Kevin Kavanagh Galleries, Dublin, October 2022.
'Lockdown Diaries', Wexford Arts Centre, 2021.
'Recurrence' Creative Hub Studios, Wexford, 2019.
‘Landlines', Wexford Arts Centre, 2015.
‘Art Out West’, Cwtch Arts Centre, Pembrokeshire, Wales 2014.
2023, RuaRed, Spring exhibition, Dublin.
2022, Cairde Visual, Hamilton Gallery Sligo.
2022, Beep Painting Biennial, Swansea Wales
2022, Summer Open, Courthouse Gallery Clare.
21/22, Hambly and Hambly, Fermanagh.
21/22, Winter Open. Courthouse Gallery, Clare.
21/22, Open Call, Dunamaise Arts Centre,
21/22, ArtForm, 44 The Quay, Waterford
2021, Meet, Peripheries Space, Gorey.
2021, Painting of the Day, Contemporary British Painting, @paintbritain, Instagram.
2021, Invited artist, HANDS project, in association with IMMA.
2021, featured artist ICE gallery, Instagram.
2020, Composition as a construct, BOS Gallery, Dublin.
2019 'From the Mountain' with Selected works from the Arts Council Collection of Ireland, Wexford Arts Centre & Wexford County Council.
2018, exhibition and residency funded by Culture Ireland, in association with Wexford Arts Centre,
Siddhartha Gallery, Kathmandu, Nepal.
2018 Vital Material, Creative Hub Studios, curated by Mary Ruth Walsh, Wexford.
2018 Invited artist, All 'Opera, Cultural exchange exhibition, Velletri, Italy.
2018 ’Between the Sea and the Sky’, Two person show, Ranelagh Arts Centre, Dublin.
2017 Wexford Opera Festival, supported by Wexford Co. Council Arts Department.
2017 ‘Last Month's Rent’ Invited artist, with Limerick School of Art and Design, Sailors Home, Limerick.
2017 Cairde Arts Festival, The Model, Sligo.
2017 Kfest Arts Festival, Killorglin, Kerry.
2016 Galway International Arts Festival, Galway.
2016 'Stranger than Fact’ (Curator and exhibitor), Wexford Opera Festival.
2016 ‘Insert Title Here’ (Curator and exhibitor) The Pigyard Gallery, Wexford.
2019, 2020,21/22, 44 The Quay, Waterford, (Artform)
Agility award, Arts Council of Ireland, 2022
Making and Momentum artist prize ( In conversation with Eileen Gray) funded by Richard Malone.
Residency at Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Co.Monaghan, 2022
Artist Correspondence course, Peripheries, Gorey ,2021
Artlinks professional development Bursary, 2020/22
Living Arts Project with Wexford Arts Centre and Wexford Co.Council, 2022 and 2016.
Artist in residence, 19/20, Creative Hub Studios, Wexford.
Feature in 'What Lies Beneath' Sunday Independent by Niall MacMonagle
Commissioned writer Visual Artist Ireland news sheet, 2022.
Independent.ie 'Recurrence' solo show.
Review of Recurrence solo show.
EU Ambassador, Head Office, Kathmandu, Nepal
Suzhou International school, Suzhou, China.
Wexford Arts Centre, permanent art collection
'Last Month's Rent', Limerick 2017.
Copyright © 2023 Olivia O'Dwyer - All Rights Reserved.
Design: Angela T. Carr.