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Lucy O'Doherty


A passion for creatively archiving Australian architecture is at the heart of Lucy O’Doherty’s surrealist paintings.

The Sydney-based artist’s works evoke a strong sense of nostalgia, depicting modest coastal shacks and isolated sanctuaries. We’re not the only ones transfixed on them either; Lucy has recently collected a mantle of local awards, and is about to head off on two residencies overseas. Her latest exhibition Shelter opens today at Edwina Corlette Gallery in Brisbane.

20th June, 2017


Sydney-based artist Lucy O’Doherty. Artwork on wall, ‘Velvet Hills And The Sunken Dunny’. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

oil painting

Lucy’s latest exhibition brings together eight oil paintings and pastel drawings. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

home studio

Lucy at work in her Darlinghurst home studio. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.


A pastel artwork coming together. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.


Art and inspiration in Lucy’s home studio. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.


Lucy has some artistic genes,  popular artist and musician Reg Mombassa (Chris O’Doherty) is her father. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

The artist’s studio space is in the living area of her apartment, a building where the wardens used to live, when the National Art School was the old Darlinghurst Gaol! ‘It has an excellent view of the National Art School in Sydney and the Ibises that sit on its roofs… and the light from the big windows is excellent for painting,’ Lucy saysPhoto – Nikki To for The Design Files.

For this show, Lucy has been learning how to navigate painting on a larger scale. ‘It has forced me to consider the foreground and background more so that they’re not just a field of colour for the buildings to sit in the middle of,’ she tells. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

For Shelter Lucy experimented with layering dark tints of colour, for their affects on the overall mood and light of her works. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Isolated bush shacks, suburban settings, and 1960s-inspired motel interiors appear in Lucy’s art. Artworks (from left to right) ‘Before The Deer Shooting Hours’ and ‘Cul-de-sac Of Love’. Photo – Nikki To for The Design Files.

Elle Murrell
Tuesday 20th June 2017

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.’

Shelterthe 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!’

Shelter’ by Lucy O’Doherty
June 20th to July 11th
Edwina Corlette Gallery
2/555 Brunswick St, New Farm, Brisbane

‘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.’


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