Olivia O’Dwyer/Creative Hub Wexford

Olivia O’Dwyer’s engagement with light remains an epic struggle on a par with Hercules subduing Antaeus. We are accustomed to her swaths of chromium sun, the ravishing cochineal blossoming, or indeed a landscape of woad-layering hinting at a subcutaneous pulse. The eponymous Recurrence (number 8) is suffused with an amplification of colour which engages the physical parameters of the canvas, but what might be a simple expression of a complex thought is not negated or affected by the black delineation. It is not difficult to imagine the artist juggling the bifurcation of colour and, yes, light. Light for O’Dwyer is an eternal unmasking, a profound spur in the overwhelming grounding of paint and its application. O’Dwyer doesn’t dilly dally with the materials at her disposal, and whether it is Recurrence or the more modest Ravine (number 10) or Making Molehills Out of Mountains (number 3), the application of oil is never less than painstaking. Addition. Erasure. Addition. Erasure. The smaller works, which focus on the rhythm, pattern and repetition of compositional motifs in painting, are geometric volumes of monochrome that are not interrupted by colour, though colour, very subtly, can find its way. The light is as shy as filigree. ‘The primary objective is to allow the painting to develop through a process of accident and discovery,’ suggests O’Dwyer. The temptation may be to focus too much on O’Dwyer’s raison d’etre at the expense of how she impressively builds a bridge between the accumulated impressions and sensations, with her precise and deliberate evocations.
This exhibition, small in scale, is a stepping stone, but it derives its power from the artist’s concentrated act of searching, concentrated act of probing and concentrated act of painting, what Ilse D’Hollander described as ‘a convergence of thoughts, and the act of painting itself.’ Intense observations always lead somewhere, but the most obvious reward of O’Dwyer’s work is the engagement with the self, the fruit of prolonged consideration and questioning. To stand before each painting in Recurrence is to wade in O’Dwyer’s subtle resonances, where the gravitational force is so strong that each has a commanding presence; it is to embrace the visceral attraction of the relationship between the symbiotic materials, paint and canvas, segued by an artist of intense thought.