Australian – Born 1960

Susan O’Doherty is a contemporary Australian artist known for assemblage, painting, collage, sculpture, and installation.  She appropriates and recycles everyday materials, textiles and household implements, utilizing these discarded found objects to create a myriad of provocative, ironic, thought provoking and at times sinister works commenting on gender, consumerism, violence, memory and history.  Born in Brisbane Australia in 1960, O’Doherty studied film prosthetics and make-up in Sydney, beginning her early career in film and theatre.  In the mid 90’s she was working as an artist, painting in figurative and abstract idioms, expanding her practice with a variety of media in the early 2000s to include mixed media assemblage, sculpture and collage.

Susan exhibited 450 painted portraits of visual arts practitioners ‘900 Eyes, Domestic Lives’ in 2008-9 at Manly, Tweed River and Maitland regional galleries. She participated in Macquarie University Gallery’s ‘Reimag(in)ing SomaSex’ and in ‘Diarama’ at Wollongong Art Gallery.  In 2014-17, she collaborated on major Regional Gallery Touring Exhibition ‘Moving House’ with artist husband Peter O’Doherty, incorporating assemblage and painting.  Marking the centenary of the Anzac Gallipoli landing, the artist participated in commemorative exhibitions ‘Contemporary Gallipoli’, ‘Your Friend the Enemy’ and ‘Wept, Wait and Be Worthy’ at Macquarie University Gallery, S.H. Ervin Gallery and regional galleries in Bathurst, Goulburn, Cowra, Hawkesbury and Grafton NSW.  Her exhibition ‘Pinned to the Wall’, looking at sexual politics, domestic violence and consumerism travelled to Ballarat, Sydney and Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery NSW 2017-2018.  In 2021 a series of her textile sculptural heads referring to hospital staff is included in a group exhibition A Conspicuous Object/TheMaitland Hospital at Maitland Regional Art Gallery.

O’Doherty was selected for the 8th Beijing International Art Biennale in 2019, also participating that year in the Hong Kong Art Fair and at the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre for the Everyday Madonna exhibition focusing on contemporary depictions of the Madonna and Child.  Susan has been a finalist in the Glover Art Prize, Portia Geach Memorial Award, Fisher’s Ghost Art Award, Redlands Art Award, Mosman Art Prize, the National Still Life Award and KAAF art prize.  Her works are in the collections of the National Art Museum of China in Beijing, the City of Sydney, Smorgon Collection and Regional Art Galleries throughout NSW.  The artist currently lives and works in Sydney Australia.

Susan is represented by Art Atrium

A Poetic Thrift

Assemblages and constructions, are at the centre of Susan O’Doherty’s practice. Wooden boxes, capsules and wall pieces reconfigured with ready-made objects and items scavenged are collected and associatively re-presented.   The placement of these objects tell new stories and form new visual images. As the artist states her themes relate to trans gender issues, social equality, the passing of time, the ethereal nature of time, recollections, experiences – lives lived and awareness of mortality.

Susan O’Doherty’s work presents an allusive circuitry of recollection and connection, of collection and re-connection. As Bakelite dominoes remind us of childhood and old age games memories unite and implicitly combine in this literal pastime to punctuate our sense of searching for a lost time. These, and similarly the other identifiable objects, remind us of lost experience and of a conditional urge to attempt to piece these sensations information back together. Another means of marking time, with our predilection for measurement, for comparability, for observation and record.

Her work connecst to an extensive tradition of women artists using the ready-made to forge potent association, from Meret Oppenheim to Sarah Lucas; and also something of the confessional. A consistent thematic is elicited through these diminutive and portable tableaux, conveying a direct and vivid presence through their sense of miniaturised and domestic theatre. The associations of poetry and music that permeate the earlier work continue from her previous exhibitions, A Perfect Woman to It’s a Man’s World, and facilitate a further layer of reading and association that punctuates the experience of time passing and facilitate recollection.

These diorama-like passages of time present a clash of quantitative and qualitative information that bridge a need to integrate experiences, to demonstrate an understanding in these assembled vignettes of incident, re-enactment and embodiment. A piecing together of signs to reinforce or re-engage with the present. This is an artistic practice by which ecological and ethical concerns are realised through a constructed commentary and association. Susan O’ Doherty crafts new from the old, pours tenderness and empathy on the discarded and abandoned, and seeks to revive and regenerate once-loved, once-essential items of the past. Her thrift aesthetic conveys something more pressing about our paradoxical time than each piece in isolation, as she persistently roves and gleans in pursuit of creatively imbuing new life and meaning, and embracing the past within the present.

“Thrift is the really romantic thing: economy is more romantic than extravagance…thrift is poetic because it is creative…”   (G.K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong With the World)

Professor Anita Taylor