Painter Richard McDonough in New London


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NEW LONDON — Grids, patterns and the color pink are a few of the themes that artist Richard McDonough explores in his solo show, “Two Turloughs,” at the Catherine Fosnot Gallery

McDonough, who is 25 and lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., is a painter who likes to construct objects, whether as sculpture or as surfaces to paint on — and to him, they are on a continuum.  

Near the window of the first gallery is his tall, skinny, house-like sculpture, “Choir House and Choir Singers,” with a prominent wooden grid visible on the back surface. Around a corner, “Boys Toys,” a constellation of wooden toys and figures that McDonough created, is stacked to form a wall, blocking passage between areas of the gallery. 

But McDonough said he sees them both sculptures as dimensionally similar to his paintings.

“They’re both kind of flat. As far as sculptures go, I’m coming out of a full-on just painting background. That’s what I studied in school and that’s what I’ve always been thinking about,” he said. “I have ventured into sculpture a little bit here and there. But my concerns with it always seem to end up in this like, dimensionally more or less flat space.”

McDonough said he favors “collapsed perspective” in his paintings, which flattens out the three-dimensionality of an image — and he uses grid and patterns tools to achieve his desired effect.

On the wall near “Choir House” was “Gridlock,” a dark painting depicting a figure obscured by the pattern of a chain-link fence.  McDonough chose to paint the negative spaces instead of the steel fencing material, creating a patterned effect that pushes back the planes in the space and emphasizes the isolation and imprisonment of the figure.

In the second gallery is an array of small paintings that he created using plaster imprinted with grid patterns or strips of lath. While the paintings are three-dimensional in texture, the grid patterns serve to flatten out the perspective of the images. 

 A number of paintings include pink, which he said he has discovered as an important and potentially signature color. 

“Pink has an ability to kind of morph into a lot of spaces and moods. From a scientific standpoint, you could push any color in a number of directions, but just something about pink leading into yellow or orange or red or even becoming a lot cooler — it kind of has a sharpness to it, a lightness. It’s always mixed with a white so it has a kind of buoyancy to it.” 

He said the name and inspiration for the show came from his earliest pieces made in 2015 during a semester at the Burren College of Art in Ballyvaughan, County Clare, Ireland.

“In this region, turloughs (or turlachs) — disappearing lakes — seasonally bubble up through limestone pavements. Each rainy season, these large temporary ponds form across the land, traversing roads and filling valleys. Where each body forms, a shape is delineated by repeated release and retraction — a kind of worked-over-surface that reasserts itself each year.” 

McDonough said he imagined each gallery in the show as its own turlough, “a momentary docking place for the works before re-entering the karst limestone.” 

“Two Turloughs,” runs through May 1 at the Catherine Fosnot Gallery at 165 State Street. For more information, call (860) 444-8765

Photos courtesy of Catherine Fosnot Gallery