Hughie O’Donoghue was born in Manchester in 1953. He gained an MA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths College, University of London in 1982. He has exhibited in Britain, Germany, Spain, Italy, Australia and the United States.
Hughie O’Donoghue’s paintings are highly abstracted figure paintings, an approach that is said to demonstrate the respect he has in his own practise for the history of art. His method is derived from a knowledge and understanding of the methods of both abstract and figurative painters of the past which he attempts to synthesise in his own work. This respect for the historic methods of making art has led to O’Donoghue being praised not only for his painting skills, but also his emphasis on the importance of draughtsmanship in the making of a painting. His application of paint can be thick and heavy, reminiscent of American Abstract Expressionism.
Hughie O’Donoghue has long been preoccupied by the experience of war and its legacy – not the grand military moments that formed the subject – matter of traditional history painting, but the story of the individual. The starting point of O’Donoghue has been an engagement with his father’s experiences as an infantryman in the Second World War, in France, Britain, Italy and Greece. O’Donoghue sees his body of work on the theme of war as ‘a visual equivalent of the Classical epic poem, with individual pictures functioning like chapters, verses or lines’. The analogy is carried through into the works themselves, many of which tell their often complicated story in a strikingly visual, semi-abstracted way through metaphor, symbolism and references that derive from ancient Greek mythology. The story of the individual, of the artist’s father, thereby becomes the story of Everyman – a story at once intimate and anonymous.
O’Donoghue’s paintings are forceful, complex and profoundly moving. In their exploration of death and rebirth, suffering and redemption, war and aftermath, departure and journeying, they confront some of the most compelling themes to challenge the human spirit. The depth of their expression, their submerged narrative, indeed the artist’s own evident uncertainty, give any coherent group of O’Donoghue’s paintings a sense of a journey underway, of transformation, of symphonic twilight.