Graduates 2020: Oonagh Quinn: Painting

My practice focuses on depicting a more accurate representation of the female form.

In a society where women are constantly criticised and judged by their appearances, I feel that it is necessary to normalise bodies that do not conform to society’s expectations of beauty. I am interested in the female gaze and how women can reclaim their bodies, and so paint my figures in confident poses, showing all of their curves and folds of ‘flab’.  My paintings place women within fairly bare environments, whilst hinting at the sort of spaces they are in: bedrooms; kitchens; changing rooms. These environments are where they are most comfortable, and thus they are unbothered by the viewer and their possible intrusion.

My paintings often consist of women looking confrontationally back at the viewer whilst showing off their ‘imperfect’ figures.  This assertive eye contact between the women and the viewer is a way for the women to take back control and leave the spectator feeling as though they themselves are being viewed. In doing so, the women take ownership of their bodies; they are not afraid or ashamed of their curves. Historically, women have been used as objects of lust and often sexualised throughout the history of art. The women portrayed were often ones with idealised features, with bodies that would be considered ‘perfect’ or ‘sexy’. My practice aims to break this stereotype and reveal that women of all shapes and sizes should be able to feel beautiful within their own skin and, most of all, feel comfortable within it. The women have grazed knees and skin discolouration, as natural features of their appearance, which do not distract but actually add to our fascination of their bodies.

My work is loosely based on imagery I have gathered of women of all shapes and sizes; photographing and drawing my friends in their natural environments, as well as drawings taken from images of inspirational women on social media. My paintings are often a collage of different girls I have drawn, sketched or taken photographs of, as I like to play around with composition, and how each figure interacts with another. I enjoy working wet on wet, allowing the paint to move around the canvas as I work. This enables me to paint instinctively, without attempting to perfect the figures, resulting in a buttery texture with their form broken down by simple brush strokes.


How have you found your time at Brighton?

I have really enjoyed my time at Brighton and felt that the course has allowed me to explore my own interests within my practice whilst learning about the history of art and the modern art world. Over the three years my tutors have taught me not how to paint ‘perfectly’, but how to express my thoughts and ideas through paint on canvas. I have been given the freedom to make mistakes and explore different methods of painting in order to find my own painting style. I have loved living in Brighton throughout my time at University as it is full of artists and beautiful places to take inspiration from. Being so close to London has meant that I have been able to visit art galleries easily. 


What are your plans after graduating?

I plan to stay in Brighton for another year, using the time to get a job and carry on painting in preparation to applying to a MA in Fine Art. 

Follow Oonagh on Instagram 

Find out more about BA(Hons) Painting

See Oonagh’s work in the Graduate Show 2020

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