Artist Lucy O’Doherty first found inspiration in cherished childhood doll houses built by her Grandpa. Later, it was vintage advertisements or postcards from the 1950s and 1960s. Her more recent suburban-focused scenes, however, are fictional composites, imagined in tribute. ‘I really can’t remember being interested in depicting anything other than domestic settings,’ reminisces the graduate of Sydney’s National Art School. ‘Except, maybe, when I went through a phase of drawing fairy villages at five! I guess they were still forms of habitations in a way.’
Shelter, the artist’s latest exhibition of oil paintings and pastel drawings, opens today at Edwina Corlette Gallery in Brisbane. ‘Isolated bush shacks, suburban settings, and 1960s inspired motel interiors… they’re all places you can shelter from the outside world,’ says Lucy of her eight works, which include the largest she’s painted yet.
Last year, the young artist was awarded the Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship, and will be soon taking up a three-month residency in Paris, before heading to a Cill Rialaig retreat in Ireland. ‘This body of work was influenced by the fact that I was going overseas, and that my subject matter will likely change; I wanted to give the Australian architecture subject one last look in, before leaving Sydney for a while!’ she says.
Many of these latest pieces have taken on an almost post-apocalyptic slant, with several showing eerie crimson skies. ‘When layering a certain colour, I’ve tried to darken it by the slightest amount possible each time leaving the lightest shade to come through only right at the colour’s limit,’ Lucy explains. ‘I think this scrambles the edge of a line, making it soft and harder for your eye to settle on it, more dreamlike.’
The mysterious mood that permeates Lucy’s art is not entirely intentional. ‘I definitely don’t set out to make isolated and melancholic paintings. I’m not sure why those emotions end up coming out, I guess I’ve been prone to feeling lonely from time to time, like a lot of humans do,’ she says. ‘We live in such a busy, rapidly-progressing world that I find it therapeutic to create a still, quiet place that I have some control over.’
Do these preferences extend to the real spaces in Lucy’s life? The block where she lives and paints from once housed the wardens of the Old Darlinghurst Gaol. ‘It’s a beautiful old apartment with lots of character,’ describes the artist. ‘But my dream home would probably just be a shack, in an excellent location, with a really comfy mattress!’