Susan O’Doherty | Pinned to the Wall

There is a unnerving topic that echoes throughout Susan O'Doherty's latest series of assemblages, paintings and sculptures. Whilst the works at first glance appear ornamental as their 1930s and 40's materials were, this is offset by the menacing inclusions of knives and broken objects that emerge upon closer inspection.

In Pinned to the Wall O’Doherty is dealing with the often unspoken victims of family violence. Playing upon the “pinned” nature of her assemblages – and the dark meaning of the expression – O’Doherty evokes the hurt and scarring of this trauma through her domestic wreckages.

A personal topic for O’Doherty, in the series she responded to her mother’s own psychological and physical abuse from her father that resulted in a troubled childhood in the 1930s and ’40s. As a result her mother always had a cloud overhanging her according to Susan.

An issue that is sadly not limited to the 1930s or ’40s, what balances the delicate nature of this exhibition is O’Doherty’s sensitive and softly spoken works. Playing with pattern, geometric flatlays, as well as form and depth, there is an entrancing pull by the works, with their decorative and bright colours offset by their titles. Pulling from the cultural vernacular – ‘One Argument too Many’, ‘It was meant to be a good day’, ‘One Punch’ or ‘Behind Closed Doors’ – if the initial subject is lost to the viewer it comes to fruition with reading these sadly universal expressions.

On her consideration behind the series O’Doherty states, “I made these works as deliberately beautiful as I could to echo the perfectionism of the roles being depicted. The paintings relate to the assemblage with interlocking repeated patterns. In bedspreads, floorboards and fabric table cloths the design of the home and the repetition of life infers the repetition of behaviour, across families and across history.”

Knives inserted into decorative vases, arranged as wall flowers or lurking under beds, O’Doherty has carefully created a series that explores every facet of the domestic space, one that is assumed to be a space of privacy and safety.

Scenes that are initially assumed to be images of perfection are now deeply flawed by their deconstruction through violence. O’Doherty has created a thoughtful and evocative series for the silent victims of family violence.

Susan O’Doherty | Pinned to the Wall
23 November – 4 December 2016
SPOT81, Sydney

Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery
3 March – 22 April 2017

Courtesy the artist 

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