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Western Sydney's landscape inspires latest crop of artists at Parramatta Artists Studios

The Sydney Morning Herald
12 February 2016
Andrew Taylor

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The alternative is a garage that is Saharan in summer and arctic in winter. So it is easy to understand why Catherine O'Donnell took up a residency at Parramatta Artists Studios.

"It's also nice to leave my home and my garage to get away from the cooking and the cleaning," she says. "You know, grabbing washing off the line because it's going to rain. It helps me focus."

O'Donnell's gaze is focused on the urban landscape of hardscrabble suburbs in western Sydney, which she documents in intricate charcoal sketches.

"Essentially my artist practice is what I see as the beauty in the uncelebrated and the ordinary," she says. "It's really the abstract forms and underpinning geometry that interests me and the configuration of the doors and windows and fibro sheeting."

O'Donnell began working at the Parramatta Artists Studios last year after a three-month residency is Rome.

She says she favours charcoal for its sensitivity: "It's a very forgiving medium. You can have a lot of drama; you can have a lot of softness."

O'Donnell's drawings focus on the architectural details of the predominantly low-income housing areas, such as Green Valley, where she spent part of her childhood.

Her art also captures a part of the city's history that is disappearing as western Sydney's fibro housing is torn down and replaced.

She is one of six artists whose work will feature in this year's Dobell Australian Drawing Biennial, which begins July 30, at the Art Gallery of NSW.

O'Donnell has fond memories of the area, built up after WWII to accommodate returning soldiers and migrants.

But she says: "Very quickly it became a place that people didn't really want to be. You're stuck out the back of Liverpool and there's not much to do and no jobs."

"There was quickly a stigma attached to that, which I still think in some respects is still there." O'Donnell is one of 14 artists in residence at the Parramatta Artists Studios, which has hosted more than 110 artists since 2006. The artists are the heart of Parramatta's cultural life, according to the coordinator of Parramatta Artists Studio Sophia Kouyoumdjian​. "As the only Studio facility in Western Sydney, it is absolutely a unique place for artists in the urban centre of Parramatta.

"The artists become ingrained in Parramatta's culture, not only making work here, but exchanging ideas, collaborating and connecting with our communities."

READ ONLINE: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/western-sydneys-landscape-inspires-latest-crop-of-artists-at-parramatta-artists-studios-20160211-gmqcr8.html

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