“I’ve been a bit obsessed with kid’s art recently, the Way that they draw and make shapes, its mad, when they make swirls, and circles and all that sort of thing, there’s a logic to it you know, what it’s probably easier if I just show you” With that Donal Sturt picks up a pencil and starts drawing on the floor, swirls and circles that are unmistakably child like. Not child-like in the overly quoted Picasso “a lifetime to draw like a child” sense but in a genuinely simple, scribbled way, the kind of thing that anyone vaguely remembers doing themselves, that every little cousin or nephew does, random shapes that aren’t nearly as random as they would seem.
This long standing interest in children’s art has been informed by a chance finding of a book by Rhoda Kellog called “Analysing Children’s Art” a slightly forgotten figure of psychological and artistic theory that proved a huge jumping off point for Sturt “She Spent 20 years working with nursery school aged children all over the world, and repeatedly noticed that similar marks and shapes were being produced at similar ages regardless of where the children were from. Essentially she’s suggesting some reasoning can be found as to how children progress from scribbling, to drawing recognisable figures and objects. It appears that this process is also an innate part of cognitive development, and may be linked to development in other areas”.
His current work is taking a very applied route through children’s art, taking and recreating sets of his own childhood drawings, . ‘Luckily my mum kept loads of me and my sister pictures from when we were kids, I’ve got hundreds” the pictures are scaled up and redrawn on to MDF panels using acrylic, varnish, found plastic and recycled house paint. The paintings have both the familiarity of his earlier work as well as an uncanny resemblance to his very much earlier work with bits of paper stuck up round his studio with things like “Donal, 4” written in the corner. The childhood pictures often show a surprisingly developed sense of spatial awareness and colour. In an industry where there seems to be so much focus on the art world and the way in which the industry functions there is something incredibly refreshing about an open celebration of completely unpretentious and un self-conscious creation of art.
His current work follows in a similar vein to his previous major show: Now by Me which he termed ‘cheap immitations of the world’s most famous art’ an intentionally irreverent look of the art world. In the show a version of Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” called ‘Painting, book and film’ was rendered with what strongly resemble googly eyes yet is also disconcertingly recognisable, his work ‘Day Trip to Giverny Not Necessary” is a cartoonish take on ‘Water Lillies’ by Monet. Without a bitterness there is a mirror being held up to some of the absurdity of the art world: Sturt’s Instagram shows own version of ‘A Bigger Splash’ titled ‘A Smaller Splash for much less cash’ with the original painting next to the t shirt, pillow cover, and iphone case all available from the Tate giftshop. There is a feeling of revelling in the silliness of the whole thing which is energising, something like a feeling of childish glee.