Private Thoughts: Amanda Donohue

A dreamy poem and the idea of a secret wish inform Amanda Donohue’s Private Thoughts.

6 June 2022
In Exhibitions,
Printmaking, Q&A

From top:

Amanda Donohue:

Three Sisters, 2021, linoprint, 30 x 30 cm

Kitchen Dreams, 2022, reduction linoprint, 17.5 x 17.5 cm

Wishing, 2021, zinc plate etching, 12 x 9.5 cm

Two Goddesses, 2022, lino and relief print, 35 x 15 cm

Q: What were some of the foundation ideas for this exhibition project?

A: Initially conceived as part of a group exhibition called Dreams, I started to create the body of work in 2020. My artworks developed tangentially to the concept of night time dreams, to those where we daydream about how things should be. The idea of dreams is epitomised and executed by the dandelion, a tool from folklore which provides the key to accessing our private thoughts. I reminisced about the childhood act of taking the seed head, closing my eyes, making a secret wish and blowing the seeds to the wind.

The discovery of a poem about buying and selling dreams (Dream-Pedlary by Thomas Lovell Beddoes) linked to the concept of wishing, in particular, how we constantly crave unattainable objects and experiences.

Other thoughts about how we use our breath to achieve those unrealistic private dandelion wishes began to develop with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the danger of our breath to others. Masked up, we could not make “real” contact with our loved ones for fear of hurting them by being too close or intimate.

Overall, the idea that we live in a society where many of us need for nothing, but we still demand more, formed the foundational concept for the exhibition, despite what some might see as the apparent naivety of some of the images.

Dream-Pedlary (extract) by Thomas Lovell Beddoes (1803–49):

If there were dreams to sell,

What would you buy?

Some cost a passing bell;

Some a light sigh,

That shakes from Life’s fresh crown

Only a rose-leaf down.

If there were dreams to sell.

Merry and sad to tell,

And the crier rang the bell,

What would you buy?

Q: How did the artwork selection take place?

A: As this is a solo show, the selection was my responsibility alone. The works selected for the final exhibition are those which I considered were resolved sufficiently and which adequately expressed the underlying concepts behind the collection.

Q: How does the exhibition manifest – what do visitors experience?

A: The exhibition location is at the original Newcastle railway station, Make Space Gallery. The space is approximately four square metres with framed works on paper on all sides and unframed works on plinths in the centre. Images showing the processes, together with lino blocks, etching plates, and other items used to create some pieces, are on display to inform visitors about printmaking. There is also a short explanation on the wall explaining some of the concepts behind the exhibition.

Q: What are some of the key works and what subject matter do they deal with?

A: Three Sisters features three dandelion plants with flowers and seed heads at various stages of growth. This work symbolises me, my two sisters and their children, separated by geography and rarely able to meet physically. My private thoughts revolve around how we could have more time together; however, circumstances make that unlikely, so I continue to dream.

Great Expectations is a collage including my linos and etchings, together with 1950’s text concerning differences between men and women. This tongue in cheek title reflects the idea that men’s thoughts about women and their expectations of women role within society at this time were absurd.

Kitchen Dreams and Domestic Wishes are two works that reflect on women and, in this case, the domestic role that women are required to perform. Ironic works that reflect on the thoughts that went through the minds of ‘housewives’ as they waited wistfully in their kitchens for their male breadwinners’ arrival home each night with “exciting tales” of the outside world.

Q: What is it about the printmaking experience that you most appreciate?

A: My images are usually a reduction or simplification – of an object, a scene, or a thought. I love the planning and preparation of creating the matrix and the layering achieved with different matrices, papers, and inks. Each time the paper is pulled away from the matrix, the reveal is always a moment of despair or delight; it is never dull.

Private Thoughts is at Make Space Gallery until 26 June https://fb.me/e/3M6Vq97Bs

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