thought it was a new promotion for lizard handbags.‘
From simple juxtapositions like the trout and the stream. ()‘Donnell‘s sets developed into complex. elaborate environments. Ramases. an Egyptian tomb in a derelict room. the photograph now a museum piece itselfhaving just recently been purchased by the V 8; A. is a good example. It took longer than most to set up and shoot. though two weeks from scratch seems no time at all for such detailed attention. ‘The hieroglyphs there create a story. It took a long time to get it right. I used to nip out to see the Egyptian stuff
a they had in the museum next door 3 (he was near Chambers Street).
When you looked at the real thing with a critical eye. you find that
' they‘re quite sloppy a lot of the time.
a bit dodgy. I loved that. It meant I didn‘t have to be too precise either.‘
1 He adds. ‘I could never have been
Michaelangelo in the old Sistene Chapel. I‘d have got sick ofit half way through or started painting the floor or something. I‘m always three jumps behind the pictures that I want to do. so I like to work quickly and move on.
Perhaps because of this need to deliver the punch line before it dies. O‘Donnell has recently reverted to a
simpler style. The Surf Arch. sister
. to Ajax Acrow Props and Corinthian ' Columns. is a perfect arch built of
. Surf Powder boxes sited in a idyllic
woodland setting. This time the
; boxes were donated by a bemused
2 Lever Bros. who delayed delivery specially so they could give him the
newly designed package not yet on the shelves. They might buy one for their boardroom. ‘I‘m interested in parody right now. There‘s lots of people doing things in wood, Richard Long, David Nash and I love all that. but there‘s a sort of devilment in me that wants to parody it somehow. It‘s medieval — wooden sculptures in woods. Just behind the
backdrop there might be a ‘ supermarket or motorway. You can
go into an old wood and kick over a
can of export or a bag in those old
woods. I want to say something about living today. You‘re restricted
j ifyou‘re a photographer on the street.‘
‘Comedy is my vehicle.‘ he says and humour does hit home. The fear of nuclear war can be transferred with a touch ofcomedy right into the front room as a cardboard cut-out mushroom cloud. O‘Donnell has that sixth sense ofjust how far you an go with the ridiculous. the absurd, the humorous. in common with a line
. .__FEATQBE_I:I§I ._
ofScottish performers and artists — the comic Chic Murray. the performer Ivor Cutler. the sculptor George Wyllie. The tip of the indigenous surrealists. ‘Somebody said to me that these are very Scottish pictures. I hadn‘t thought of that. But Scottish humour is very visual isn‘t it? Scottish people who tell a good story are totally visual — wait till I tell you what happened today . . . It‘s dry, totally humorous. I like that.‘
Ron O‘Donnell is exhibiting at Stills in Edinburgh this month and next (see Art Listings) with Calum Colvin, a young Scottish photographer only a year out of college.
Colvin too, devises his own sets, collecting junk from skips (high class rubbish in South Kensington where he lived in a student flat) and produces large format colour prints. But his style and mood are very different.
Each set is built in the same corner of his studio and then dismantled. ‘I put them back in the skips, with a little extra paint on,‘ he says. His world is one of large. looming faces. painted on and disguising odd bits of . furniture, a bed, achair. ‘Some people see the furniture first, others
the faces. Some look thoroughly
Far Left and Above, two examples of Ron O'Donnell’s inimitable style. Ron says, of Down on Manor Farm, ‘I got quite attached to the pig. When I took it back to the butchers, I asked it he still had the rest at it.’
Lelt, Calum Colvin's The Death at Venus. Note the presence olthe Calum Action Man — ‘I felt like a foreigner living in London, I missed home. I brought all my old toys down here, suitcase by suitcase.’
‘Constructed Narratives’ opens at the Stills Gallery, Edinburgh on 20 September and runs until the end at October.
confused. As long as they are not bored.‘ he says.
His painted faces inhabit a mini-toy world. In one picture. a kind of homage to Botticelli‘s Venus and Mars, the putti are replaced by action men. one with an axe. ()ld records and film. postcards and a pile ofstudent cards surround the faces in another. Nostalgia is ever-present. ‘I felt like a foreigner. living in London. I missed home. Ibrought all my old toys down here. suitcase by suitcase.‘
Colvin started out studying sculpture at Dundee. He loved photography at the time. He went to the Royal College in London to study photography but began to feel bad about it. ‘I was always getting into trouble when I took photographs on the street. People would tell me to piss off. I decided not to photograph one old man lying in the road and helped him to the
'side instead. He tried to punch me.‘
Colvin has also been attracted to painting.
He seems to have discovered the art ofbringing all three together without getting into any more trouble, producing work ofgreat complexity of meaning and an odd beauty in the seclusion of his studio.
-_ -.___- __._.__J me List 19Sept—2 Oct 3