Michael O’Donnell (1950) studied at the Royal College of Art in London and has lived in Norway since 1977. He works with sculptural installation, which utilizes a range of materials, photography, text and light. O’Donnell is associated with a generation of British sculptors who in the eighties established a new approach to sculpture.
The use of materials is one of O’Donnell’s strengths. He mixes the permanence and tradition of granite with fabricated and transitional materials such as foam rubber and rusting steel plates. He casts cement in modules, and mixes marble and rust, which are cast together to be chiseled and polished. O’Donnell’s artistic practice are aspects of playfulness and variation. He plays with the way our society uses symbols. He likes, in his distanced and ironic way, to disturb our fixed attitudes.
He currently deals with victims, monuments, spectacle and attitudes to spirituality. For the last decade, he has focused on a long-standing interest in how death is conceptualized via the material of wax, converging religious notions of the soul and testaments to mortality.
O’Donnell has used Dr. Duncan MacDougall’s early 20th century research for the material basis of the soul, to formulate a series of sculptures focused on the alleged 21 grams of weight loss measured at the point of death of humans.
Parallel is an on-going series articulated around the death penalty and the processing of the prisoner. In 2003, the artist accessed restricted transcripts of last statements by these individuals immediately prior to their execution. In an archive work, isolating only the final sentence, the viewer can witness THAT’S IT - I CAN TASTE IT - STAY STRONG among four hundred other memorials transcribed by the guards.
O’Donnell has had a number of international solo exhibitions and published a series of books, which gives a deeper insight to his artistic practice. He has carried out a several of large-scale public commissions in Norway and is currently Professor at the Academy of Fine Art in Oslo.