Artist Statement

First and foremost my paintings are about words and the beauty of language. But beauty isn’t simply the construction of pretty or well-crafted sentences. The beauty is in each writer’s truthful expression of some aspect of the human condition.

We are defined by, and we define the world, by the words we speak, the words we read, the words we write. The better our grasp on language the better we are able to understand the world and our place in it. Of course, the opposite is true as well. 

In George Orwell’s novel, 1984, Big Brother “updates” the dictionary each year by removing words. Orwell’s authoritarian figures knew the power of language, knew that words can be weapons. In 1984, by removing words from the language, the authorities hoped to control thoughts and eliminate discussions.

In dictatorial countries, the press is often shut down and writers are imprisoned. In America, there are no such direct threats or visible Big Brothers, but that doesn’t mean language isn’t continually assaulted. Advertisers, politicians, and the mass media have all done their best to reduce the complexity of the world to sound bites and meaningless banalities.  Every news story must be explained in thirty seconds or less.  Every movie or book must be summarized in a single sentence. Anyone who questions the prevailing viewpoints is an Anti-American traitor and should not be trusted. 

The writers I have chosen to paint aren’t overtly political (if they are political at all) because the truth(s) they are searching for are not bound by political parties or ideologies. They are seeking deeper and more profound meaning. More often than not, there is a lone voice speaking about or questioning what it means to live in a particular time and place in history. Through the fictional worlds created a universal truth emerges.

Each writer chosen is a pillar in the citadel of literature or art. Unfortunately, more and more, literature is seen like the Parthenon, or some other Greek ruin: a historic relic that may have been useful in the past but has no value today—except perhaps for a handful of stubborn individuals. When the voices of writers (and artists in other guises) are silenced and replaced by the conmen and charlatans of Washington, Wall Street, Madison Avenue, and Hollywood, a spiritual darkness descends.  My paintings are an attempt to shine a little light against the darkness; a candle in the encroaching midnight.

Terence Donnellan

(For more on the paintings, see the interview with Gwendolyn Sangeeny)