Custom House Studios and Gallery

The Custom House Studios

The Quay, Westport, Co. Mayo, Ireland

T +353 (0)98 28735

Memory of the Sea

Hughie O‘Donoghue

Opens 26 September 7.30pm, runs until 13 Ocotober 2019

Custom House Studios at Westport Quay are pleased to present   Memory of the Sea – recent paintings by Hughie O ‘Donoghue,  opening Thursday September 26th  at 7.30pm.  Opening remarks by author Kate Kerrigan.  Exhibition runs every day until October 13th   2019.


Memory of the Sea Selected recent oil paintings and multiples

Several groups of my recent paintings foreground the sea as the site of memory. The sea has always been a subject that has attracted painters, particularly painterly painters from Titian to Turner, the vast, formless, constantly moving sea challenges the painter to find an equivalent form within the liquidity of paint yet ultimately to produce a still image of something that is never still.


This subject has become more central to me since living by the Atlantic coastline of Mayo and although my practice is studio based many days are spent walking the deserted beaches and shorelines of the Barony of Erris. At the furthest extremity of The Mullet peninsula is the Blacksod Lighthouse, a squat yet beautiful structure, made of dull red stone, from where it is possible to look out to the Atlantic Ocean but also back across the sea to the coast of Erris. It was on a visit to this lighthouse that I had the idea to use it as a motif, one image amongst a sequence of paintings which engage with mankind’s precarious relationship with the sea. My paintings are about an idea of the sea as the site or arena of events, not simply something observed or picturesque.


The lighthouse’s function is to guide navigators, to provide a known point of reference on the journey and indeed it was from this lighthouse at Blacksod that the break in the bad weather in early June 1944 was signalled and a decision to launch D.Day was made. In this painting and others, the imagination, rather than observation, is the essential ingredient

in my process. The painting endeavours to establish a mood which may be picked up by the viewer and so by stimulate their own imagination and memory.


The other three large paintings in this exhibition take as their subject the great battle fought at Jutland in the North Sea just over one hundred years ago, a battle witnessed in its entirety by nobody, not even the sailors who fought in it.The paintings were deliberately made, constructed from wood, canvas and metal in a manner that might be evocative of the steel hulls of the battleships and the improvisational skills of the ships carpenter, but also mimicking the way that memory works, that is, the careful piecing together of fragments, a bit like how an archaeologist might reconstruct the broken contents of a tomb in order to learn about its occupant. In one painting, The King’s Ships, the names of the principal or capital ships are scored into the surface like engravings on a stone.


The ocean off the coast of County Mayo is dotted with small islands, many of which have long histories often associated with early monastic settlements and the traces of these early occupants are still visible in the land scape, promoting a sense of a direct link with the past, something that is more difficult to glean from living in a modern city. Many of my

paintings made in Mayo tend to ruminate on this past as it is still so starkly visible in the present.

Hughie O’Donoghue August 2019


Hughie O’Donoghue

Hughie O’Donoghue was born in Manchester, England and now lives and works in Erris, Co Mayo and London. Solo museum exhibitions include Painting/Memory:Artist’s Laboratory, Royal Academy, London, A Moment’s Liberty, Abbot Hall Gallery, Kendal, 2012, The Road, DOX Centre for Contemporary Art, Prague, Czech Republic 2011, The Journey, Leeds City Art Gallery, Hughie O’- Donoghue, Recent Paintings and Selected works from the American Ireland Fund Donation Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin 2009, Lost Histories: Imagined Realities Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, Netherlands and Parables Centre Culturel Irlandais, Paris, France 2008.


His work is in public collections throughout the world including The Irish Museum of Modern Art and The Hugh Lane, Dublin, Ulster Museum, Belfast, Art Gallery of South Australia, British Museum, London, Dallas Museum of Art, USA, Michigan Museum of Art, USA, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven USA. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from University College Cork, Ireland in 2005 and was elected to the Royal Academy, London in 2009 and Aosdana in 2013.