Exclusive Artist Interview With Enda O’Donoghue: Forgotten Digital Images as Fine Art

16 Dec

Artist Interview with Enda O’Donoghue who turns forgotten digital images into fine art.

Upon first examination of the paintings of Enda O’Donoghue, one notices something is off. With further inspection you realize there is a digitized effect peppering the canvas and immediately you want to why.


As stated in his bio, the images in Enda O’Donoghue’s paintings all come from the Internet. They are all other people’s images, digitally found images from searching through popular online social networks and blogs on an ongoing basis that he collects and catalogues.

The photos which he works with are most often the throw-away shots which otherwise gather digital dust buried away on hard-drives, camera chips, mobile phones or uploaded and then lost or forgotten someplace on the Web. With each image he paints he is meticulous about tracing the ownership and requesting permission, partly as a way of dealing with the anonymous nature of the Internet and also a reaction to the issues surrounding online privacy and copyright.

The way he immortalize and elevate ‘lost images’ from one medium to another highly creative and different. He takes subject matter that would normally be seen as unworthy of any further examination and turns it 180 degrees, into something of beauty, interest and speculation. We become a voyeur of a fleeting moment in time.


We had the pleasure of discussing the process with him…

Where did you study visual art?

I studied in Ireland at the Limerick School of Art and Design.

What led you to the idea of taking found photos and painting them?

Actually some years ago I began making paintings from a collection of photos and negatives that I had found on the street. The idea of what to paint is often one of the most difficult decisions and I really liked the randomness of using found images, it was like having that decision made for me. Also there was something fascinating in that these were lost or discarded moments from a stranger’s life. Then when I turned to the Internet as a source for images I wanted to play the same ideas of randomness and chance in using found digital images but because of the abundance of images online this became more about the ideas of searching and finding and maybe then questioning the very idea of “randomness”.

Is there a method to how you choose your photos?

It is a continually evolving process. I collect photos on an ongoing bases and they are selected both for their subject matter and their aesthetic quality. I tend to be interested in everyday subject matter and an aesthetic of low resolution and unconventional compositions. So it begins by searching with various starting keywords or subjects and then allowing links to take me wandering and collecting as I go. I have been collecting and cataloguing images found on the Internet for the past 10 years or more.

From the selection I find online I narrow these down and print some the images that seem to have potential as regular sized photographs. Then these photos are pinned to two walls in my studio. These two walls are now almost wall papered with hundreds of photos. As I spend the days and weeks working beside and looking at these walls of images, I again narrow down my selection again by pulling out images that I would like to work with. I tend to select them in groups of 2 or 3 rather than individually.

Are the subjects (people) you paint receptive to the idea of using their photos? Have you had anyone deny usage of their photo?

In general people are very receptive, I’ve so far never had any one deny me permission to use their photos. Sometimes people do make stipulations, such as “don’t use any of the photos with my husband in them” or things like that and very often people are quite baffled that I seem to have selected some of their worst photos and they offer me other ones that they think are better composed or better quality or that have a more “classical” painting subject matter. It can be very difficult to get in touch with people or get an answer from people and often there is almost a bit of detective work finding who owns a website or the photos, finding their email address and managing not to appear like another spam email when I make my request.

Do you have a preferred location where you usually find your best photographs to use? Or is it evenly random?

Over the past couple of years Facebook has become a treasure throve of photos and also recently I’ve been looking at Twitter photos but one of my most used sites has been Moblog.net, which allows its uses to upload photos to their blogs directly from their mobile phones. There was another similar site called Textamerica but once they started charging for that service it died.

Have you shown your work at any galleries?

In September I had a solo exhibition at Galerie Hunchentoot in Berlin and I have also had my work shown in a number of group exhibitions in Berlin and also in Toronto over the past year. Earlier this year some of my work was included in a showcase of contemporary Irish art at the Shanghai Expo and in 2009 I had a solo exhibition in New York.

Last but not least, who do you consider your favorite painter/artist?

One of my favourites at the moment is the Chinese artist Xie Nanxing.


On the One


Too Slutty

Wow My Stomach

Artist Background: Enda O’Donoghue was born in Limerick, Ireland, 1973. He has lived and worked in Berlin since 2002. He originally studied computer programming before changing to visual art and has worked professionally as a web-designer, Internet developer and in various dot-com businesses to support his art practice. His artwork is directly influenced by his experience working with digital technology and the Internet. As an artist he has continuously worked and exhibited in a wide variety of media: photography, video, net-art and interactive media but painting remains the backbone of his practice.

Visit Enda O’Donoghue’s website to view more of his inspiring paintings.

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