“I have a fascination with the sculptural aspect of oil paint - texture, color and expressiveness of the medium to depict the shape, color and quality of flesh. It is important to portray the body in an as honest a way as I can, irrespective of whether it would be considered classically beautiful or not.”
As a child, O’Donovan began drawing and using watercolor while holidaying in Pembrokeshire, Wales. She used to paint wildlife and landscapes and it was an avid passion of hers right into adulthood. It was then that she discovered oil paint with its rich color and texture; she found it to be the perfect medium. The thick sculptural aspect of the paint allowed her to work in a three-dimensional form which she found more expressive. The shape, color and quality of flesh are something that she constantly tries to attain. It is always a battle to manage the color and texture of the oil, a balance of which she feels is never quite achieved. O’Donovan tends to paint people who are involved in her life, as an emotional attachment often drives and influences her work. She claims that painting is a fairly self-obsessed process: often painting in order to work through her own issues and those relating to the subject.
Her painting in the present day is driven by a fascination with the human body and the feelings that this invokes. For her, it is important to portray the body in as honest a way as she can, irrespective of whether it would be considered classically beautiful or not. She is aware that the motivation behind this is probably a kickback against the social pressures of achieving the perfect figure. She believes this can be seen in her work both in technique and the emotion that it produces.
In 2008, O’Donovan suffered a serious brain injury. She experienced coma, recovery in hospital and long-term rehabilitation to bring her back to health. There was a long break from her painting which she found very difficult, as without her work she found it challenging and made her despondent. However, after a long period of rehabilitation, she resumed her work which has brought relief and gratification. In some ways, it appears to have altered her technique, although mostly her approach and subject matter is unchanged.
Lucy O’Donovan was born in Liverpool, England 1975 and lives in Glasgow, Scotland. She has taken a number of workshops including at Glasgow School of Art, Scotland - Life Drawing and Figurative Painting, 2001 - 2005, a Woodcut Printing Course at Trongate 103 and Art Therapy workshops.
This review was published by Circle Foundation for the Arts © CFA Press ∙ Images are courtesy of the artist