C – Block: Drawings by Catherine O’Donnell

6 August- 16 October

Exquisite charcoal drawings exploring the ‘institutionalised’ modernism of Nepean High School’s architecture.

Catherine O’Donnell creates charcoal drawings with a strong emphasis on geometric form; resulting in sophisticated renditions of the everyday environment. O’Donnell’s highly refined drawings craft an exquisite mise-en-scene in which everyday buildings are architecturally valorised.


O’Donnell was inspired to document elements of the school environment following a recent residency at Nepean High School, as part of a Penrith Performing & Visual Arts: Artists in Schools project. Subsequently, this series of drawings place a familiar setting under scrutiny; the schoolyard surroundings are put under close examination to reveal a familiar, yet often overlooked, setting.


Habitual exposure to locations that are commonplace has a tendency to hamper clear observation. Familiar settings become invisible, unnoticed backdrops to routine events. O’Donnell’s detailed renditions of the everyday environment invite a reconsideration of these otherwise mundane buildings as key settings in the construction of our cultural identity. Built in 1963, Nepean High School is representative of the many educational institutions that were built during a time of rapid urban development. To take a lingering inspection of these institutional buildings is to revisit our own experiences of similar sites.


Light and shadow become tools with which to represent presence and absence. The evident exclusion of people from the setting is replaced by more discrete signs of habitation. The ubiquitous information signs, boxes of papers, stacks of books, open windows and partially drawn blinds suggest the existence of recent or pending activity. These settings are devoid of people but not devoid of human activity and, as such, are suggestive of multiple narratives.


Click here to read Catherine O’Donnell’s Artist Statement size PDF

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