Catherine O’Donnell’s drawings depict the suburbs as full of connection and disconnection, sameness and difference; examining urban living as a site of complexity. It is an exploration of the architecture, culture and history in the uncelebrated ‘everyday’. She is particularly interested in the way that vernacular architecture and general street scapes of places we regularly inhabit become recessed into our minds like wallpaper – they are at once visible and invisible.
The absence of people in her drawings encourages viewers to consider the architecture from their own view-point, perhaps igniting their own memories of suburban living. O’Donnell’s drawings, whilst uninhabited, still capture traces of human intervention with narrative elements embedded in the commonplace structures: an open window; a door ajar.
The hyper-realism in O’Donnell’s works is not a mere reproduction of the visible, but the elevation of the abstract form, the underpinning geometry and the distillation of the spatial composition that interests her. To this end she extracts the building from its surroundings, deleting extraneous information, in order to emphasise the simplified form and obtain the final image. She uses the representation as a catalyst to ignite the imagination of the viewer and invite them to look beyond the mundane and banal. To revisit these spaces imaginatively and find the aesthetic poetry embedded within the suburban landscape, while at the same time disrupting cultural prejudices which prevent people from seeing the underlying elegance of these simple buildings.
O’Donnell has held solo exhibitions at; Carriageworks, Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre, Grafton Regional Gallery, Blacktown Art Centre, Murray Art Museum Albury, Penrith Regional Gallery, and Shoalhaven Regional Gallery, and the National Art School. She also held a solo exhibition at the Pataka Museum in New Zealand as a part of the NZ International Arts Festival (2010). O’Donnell has been awarded the Gosford Art Prize (2020), Waverley Art Prize (2020), Terrence and Lynette Fern Cité Internationale des Arts Residency Fellowship (2017), Hazelhurst Art on Paper (2015), City of Hobart Art Prize (2011), and the Albury Art Prize (2009) where she was awarded First Prize International Art Residency.