Creepy, ominous, entangled clouds of energy form McDonnell’s three-dimensional objects and environments.
Ballpoint pen is used to redact till receipts and psychiatrist’s letters. Heaps of crushed tissue paper crawl up walls and over domestic objects. Clothes are tightly bound with string and thread. Black paper is twisted into tortured garlands. Angry words are disgorged and then scrubbed away.
In her practice, ephemeral matter is rendered worthless by overworking and near-destructive actions. It’s a cycle of redacting, tearing, twisting, crushing and erasing – purposeless and laborious activities – underpinned by regret, shame and wasted time.
Through McDonnell’s repetitive processes, paper and work-a-day materials start to become deceptive, looking like something other. She treats familiar things in unfamiliar ways. Paper looks like metal and tissue paper becomes like rock.
There’s a domesticity about the works. Clothes rails and household objects like pasting tables and chairs become supports or are swamped by black creeping clouds. Discarded clothing and studio detritus is gathered together in awkward accumulations.
McDonnell’s practice is firmly rooted in process art and influenced by postminimalist artists such as Richard Serra and Eva Hesse.
McDonnell was a Porthleven Prize and SANE Creative Award winner, and won the 2021 Gilbert Bayes Award. She is a 2021 ArtConnect Artist to Watch and was shortlisted for the New Emergence Art Prize.
Born in Birkenhead, Liverpool, she now lives and works in Bath, from a studio in her top floor flat overlooking the city.