Cornelia O’Donovan was born in 1981, and trained at the Royal College of Art, London.


O'Donovan plays with old folklore and poetry, but in a loose and dreamlike way. She draws particularly on tales native to the British Isles, and especially Celtic poetry and myth – from the tale of Prince Llewellyn’s grief at the sacrifice of his greyhound Gellert, to the figurative ballads of Ellen O’Leary and lines from WB Yeats.


I came across Cornelia’s work years ago when I was in the Anthropologie store in New York. She has designed ceramics for them in the past. Her paintings are flat, stripped of all perspective or realism, their surfaces hazy and meandering like an old tale retold a thousand times. Roughly rendered yet delicately arranged, she creates patterned compositions reminiscent of old tapestries, into which she plants naïve pre-Modern motifs. Outlines of old figures, ancient heralds, esoteric herbs and familiar animals all appear like inherited objects worn smooth by the touch of innumerable hands. 

They retain the homespun quality of medieval rustic artworks, flowing across the canvas like a stroll through a country garden. Recent shows include The Island Across the Sea, James Freeman Gallery, London (2013) Painters and Printmakers, The Art Shop and Gallery, South Wales, (2012) 


"A long time ago, before the Age of Reason, the world was explained through stories and imagination. People became animals; animals became spirits; good deeds were rewarded; naughty children were imprisoned, eaten, or worse. And while we may believe ourselves long removed from such fantasies, old narratives still have the ability to resonate deeply within us.”  

                                                                                               James Freeman