Presenting Cyclical Narratives by Lisa O’Donnell

Thursday evening saw the launch of our first solo artist exhibition, Cyclical Narratives by Lisa O’Donnell.

In one of the last fine Summer evenings, The Art Shed Gallery welcomed a steady stream of visitors – parents, children, pupils, staff, art lovers and artists alike – who mingled together and engaged the artist with questions about her work. The exhibition reflects Lisa’s ongoing investigations into the nature of personal and collective memory and features painting, Polaroid photography and video animation.

Born in Galway, Ireland and now living and working in London, Lisa O’Donnell has herself experienced, albeit in a contemporary context, her concern with the migration of the Irish people. Cyclical Narratives centres largely on the lives of the Irish Diaspora in London during the 70s/80s. Additionally, there are two other narratives strands that complement that of the individual and collective stories of the Irish in London: photos taken during Lisa’s residency in a seaside town near Galway so succinctly encapsulate nostalgia, whilst video footage of events in Ireland in the 80s provide a sense of the political and social backdrop of the times. Time, we are reminded, is cyclical and not linear, and stories handed down from generation to generation – history itself – tends to be repeated. In the universal desire of human nature to seek better prospects, more adventure, a safer community, a chance to carve out a new existence, and a hope for the future, the stories of the present, past and future repeat, overlap and amalgamate. We see a newly married old couple –  who’ve known each other for over 40 years; the vertiginous view of a man on the top of a high-rise building – who made a living installing aerials all over London; the exterior of a dancehall – whose interior has provided the community with a home away from home.

The universal theme of the work was reflected in its appeal to a wide cross-section of ages, whilst the specific nature of the colour palette proved arresting to the eye. To quote one visitor: ‘Lisa’s work is a profound investigation of memory… how we look back at the past from the eyes of present. It is a reminder that when the future becomes the past, we will, once more, look at it differently.’ For more information on Lisa O’Donnell and her work, please refer to the press release.

Over the next coming months, Lisa and the organisers of A Bigger Picture Project will be conducting workshops with Year 6 pupils on the wider theme of the nature of history and its construction. These workshops will culminate with the pupils’ very own exhibition in response to Cyclical Narratives. In addition to the finished exhibition, this blog will cover the endeavours and outputs of these workshops: what the children learnt in their investigations around the theme of history, and through the process of collaboration, what we learnt collectively as a group, and indeed, what the children taught us as artists, curators, educators and writers.

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