Ikon presented the most comprehensive exhibition of work to date by British artist Rita Donagh comprising paintings, drawings, collages and sculptural pieces. Her various series of works centre on particular themes that combine personal and political concerns. Donagh’s most recent project, for example, takes the Black Country as its subject, a place significant as the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, where she was born and grew up.
Throughout the 60s and 70s, Donagh’s work became increasingly conceptual. Her first major project, Figure Compositions, consists of a number of pieces based on a photograph of young gay men striking poses to taunt a police camera in New York. Taking this image as the basis for a series of studies, Donagh uses various materials including graph paper, silver foil, oil paint and tissue paper to create a synthesis of silhouettes and interlocking outlines. Finally, this project resolves into Contour, an elegant assemblage of canvas, silk screen and neon tube.
Donagh’s subsequent work was more explicitly concerned with current affairs, often conveying a radically political stance. Reflection on Three Weeks in May, for example, is her response to a collaboration with art students during which news of the riots and shootings at Kent State University shockingly intervened. Another body of work is concerned with ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland. Imagery of death and destruction caused by terrorism, maps of the six counties of the province, the perspective drawings of the H-blocks for prisoners are repeatedly presented and re-worked, in the artist’s meticulous and painstaking style. From the 1990s, Donagh produced a number of works that touched on her predicament as a woman artist. Slade is the title of her most ambitious project from this time. The artist’s self portrait appears alongside a minimal arrangement of concentric squares.
A fully illustrated catalogue is available, priced £12.95.
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