Abstract artist Glenn Donnelly to return to Bangor with solo exhibition

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Bangor-based artist and musician Glenn Donnelly is set to hold another of his successful solo exhibitions in the town next year.

Part of the colour field movement, Glenn is renowned for his action painting technique through which he can convey a wide array of emotions.

Glenn first became interested in abstract art as a teenager.

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“I went to art galleries and I was automatically drawn to abstract art. I find it thought-provoking, more so than fine art” he said, adding: “I like the way in abstract art you can look at a painting and see something different in it every time you look at it. Colour has always interested me and in every piece of work I do, colour is the main theme.

Artist Glenn DonnellyArtist Glenn Donnelly
Artist Glenn Donnelly

“I liked the idea of grabbing a canvas, some paint and going for it. I didn't have to learn a piece of software or anything like that which can be time-consuming. I was creating raw design on a canvas with paint. I felt I could build from there.”

Glenn’s influences from the art world range from Pollock to Rothko. He first exhibited his work in Belfast as part of an art group and since then he has been able to display his work as a solo exhibitionist.

He said: “An exhibition is great for giving yourself a reboot, to refocus and for the artist to work towards something with a deadline. It's great for me because artists would just float sometimes, but with an exhibition coming up, it's pure focus.

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“Creating a piece of artwork or a piece of music that I really like, it is amazing - the best buzz ever - and maybe what keeps me going is finding that next hit of excitement when I have created something I really like.”

Dance The Waters Edge. Picture: Robert MaloneDance The Waters Edge. Picture: Robert Malone
Dance The Waters Edge. Picture: Robert Malone

Glenn has maintained a signature style throughout his body of work, but has occasionally created one-off pieces such as his painting Truth, inspired by the colour red. Almost all of his pieces have been inspired by something.

“Sometimes I would see a canvas that I just love the size of and I know it would look great somewhere in the house, then the colour would come after. To be honest, I think my best work comes from pure instinct but then there have been times where I want to keep my instinct in the painting but have a story behind it. For example, Dance the Water's Edge is inspired by surfers riding the waves along the North Coast” he said.

“My most recent piece is all messy - again packed with colour - and six feet long. Not finished yet but I’m enjoying the journey with this one. It is on board and it's shaping up nicely so I am excited about it.”

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Glenn had the opportunity to work on the second series of HBO’s Game of Thrones after impressing the production team with his versatility and his art portfolio: “I had to prove that I could hit my targets each day. An experienced shield painter could paint between seven to ten shields a day. I was basically just off the street and I was hitting seven to eight shields a day. I was so determined to get the gig, I worked every second of the day. Each shield had up to eight layers of paint - purely hand-painted and purely authentic.

One of Glenn Donnelly's vibrant pieces.One of Glenn Donnelly's vibrant pieces.
One of Glenn Donnelly's vibrant pieces.

“You as a painter had to be perfect. The standard was amazing and I loved working on the film sets. This atmosphere is different from when I am working in my own studio, however, I like to keep up with the standards. When you have a lot of pressure on you, your back is up against the wall and it’s sink or swim, it's amazing sometimes what you can do when you're in certain situations.”

Glenn is also an accomplished musician. Learning to play guitar at an early age, he is a founding member of the band Phoenix 23. The group play a mix of classic and rock music, with their musical influences ranging from old school hip hop to progressive rock.

“We would get together, play Fifa, then get the guitars out. Then we recorded a few songs. A chance conversation with legendary Supertramp guitarist Carl Verheyen at one of his intimate gigs led to a demo being exchanged. After that we ended up in Sunset Studios in Los Angeles recording our first album.”

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The pandemic was a major setback for Glenn, interrupting the momentum he had picked up following a successful solo exhibition. He also lost a number of other opportunities to exhibit his work, including one in the World Trade Centre in New York.

“After that I only managed to do one painting in like six or seven months - it was a good painting, but my whole output stalled. This painting is called I am the Rain and it is exhibited in the Yard Gallery in Holywood at the moment.

“Sometimes when you think about something too much, it will hinder you and your creativity. I called it I am the Rain because when we were in lockdown it felt like back when I was young. We didn't go out because it was raining, therefore we didn't go out because of lockdown. In a weird way it plays as a metaphor representing my lockdown.”

Two years on and things are returning to normal. Glenn is now looking forward to his solo exhibition in Bangor next year and continues to explore new avenues within art. He is also set to be part of an exhibition in London.

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Glenn’s experiences over the course of his career have taught him lessons which will resonate with artists of all mediums. He explained: “Knowing when to stop is priceless when working on creative projects. Go with your instinct and listen to your intuition always and if you're flowing nicely on a canvas, don't stop until you feel you have completely finished. If you can do this you won't be far off.

“Just go for it, don't put any pressure on yourself - you do you and enjoy it. I went to university so naturally I treat it like an assignment. Have your aims and objectives as your backbone, get your best work and take it from there. Get people to engage with your work and get feedback as much as possible. It is amazing what you can learn from other people and other artists.”

Two of Glenn’s biggest paintings can be seen in the Yard Gallery in Holywood, with a further three on display in the Tile and Stone Emporium in Bangor. Examples of his photography can be viewed in McCully’s Furniture in Bangor.

Examples of Glenn’s work available to purchase and further information about next year’s exhibition can be found on his website: https://www.glenndonnelly.com/

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