“Lost Modernist” returns to Harlow

Lifestyle / Wed 25th Sep 2013 am30 05:56am

‘The Lost Modernist’

By Jess McArdle

AT the Gibberd Gallery, Michael O’Connell’s innovative work from various decades hangs on the walls. oconnell

Memorabilia of his life is thoughtfully displayed, inviting the viewer to step back and really think about the life of ‘The Lost Modernist’.

Professor Harriet Edquist, author of the ‘The Lost Modernist’ came all the way from Australia for the opening, and gave an insightful walk and talk around the gallery on Saturday afternoon. In attendance were family members and friends of the textile artist; making it an intimate and personal exhibition.

Michael O’ Connell last had an exhibition in Harlow in 1973, held at Harlow Playhouse. Professor Edquist mentioned his fondness of Harlow as a growing town, and that O’Connell very much saw art as fundamental to re – building a society.

Professor Edquist moved from one piece of his work to another, each had a story behind it, and one couldn’t help but notice the wit and charisma of the artist infused in his work, Edquist said: “He was an extraordinary design genius.”

Iris Sheridan, a colleague of O’Connell’s said of the artist: “He was a true gentleman. A bit eccentric, he used to wear corduroy trousers tied up with a tie. He was just a very nice man and I liked working with him very much.”

An essential art piece was The Festival of Britain mural called ‘Variety of British Farming’. O’Connell did extensive research talking to farmers across Britain, which is reflected by the sheer size of it. Corinna Dunlea, gallery curator said: “We had to get the accountant from upstairs to help us to hang it up.”

O’Connell was described as a man before his time, reflected in the unusual techniques he used, and the images he portrayed. Videos of the artist using his methods are displayed in the gallery, along with photo’s and notebooks.

Paul Harwood, from Bishops Stortford said of the exhibition: “It was absolutely fantastic. The work can stand on its own.”

Family, friends and keen members of the public were happy to contribute to Professor Edquists talk. Some of the work exhibited has been lent to the gallery, including a piece from O’Connell’s granddaughter, which her partner said she is used to seeing ‘hanging up in their apartment.”

Corinna Dunlea said: “We arereally proud to showcase his work. He was a man ahead of his time. It creates a revival for the gallery.”

The talk ended but people did not immediately disperse; they went round a few more times to have another good look at the ground breaking work of Michael O’Connell.

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