Night Cargo | Hughie O'Donoghue

Pre-book your free ticket to the Festival Gallery here. Your ticket allows entry to the Gallery to view both Hughie O'Donoghue and Bill Viola's exhibitions.

Hughie O’Donoghue has a long association with Galway International Arts Festival. His first exhibition with the Festival in 2006 was followed by major shows in 2011 and most recently in 2016, when GIAF commissioned the artist to create a major exhibition of new work, marking Ireland’s centenary celebrations: One Hundred Years and Four Quarters.

Considered one of the leading painters of his generation, his paintings frequently combine rich, expressionist colours and textures, verging on the abstract, when addressing a particular event or history. Night Cargo brings together a group of new and related paintings.

Planning Your Visit & Your Safety

Galway International Arts Festival is committed to prioritising your health and safety. The Festival Gallery complies with public health and Government guidelines (maximum capacity 50) to allow for social distancing. Please pre-book your free ticket to gain entry.

Please select a time slot at the 'Book Free Tickets' link and note that time at the Festival Gallery is limited to 45 minutes. Your ticket allows entry to the Gallery to view both Hughie O'Donoghue and Bill Viola's exhibitions. In line with HSE guidelines about face coverings in indoor settings, please wear a face mask in the Festival Gallery. For more details about planning your visit, please read our Autumn Edition safety information, and our FAQs.

Artist's Statement

The Cargo series of paintings were begun shortly after my exhibition in Galway during the 2016 Festival. A lot has happened since then and nobody can have really imagined the situation that we find ourselves in today but these images now look to me, strangely if unintentionally, prophetic. They were inspired by F.W. Murnau’s 1922, silent cinema masterpiece, Nosferatu. In the film a vampire arrives at the small German town of Wisbourg, on a trading vessel loaded with coffins full of earth, bringing plague to the town. I have always thought that the film was an allegory of the First World War, but it was also made in the years following the Spanish flu pandemic.

The best of silent cinema has retained its power. Because of the absence of dialogue, greater weight was given to images, their sequencing and composition, like painting it was a truly visual medium. Murnau was a particularly inventive artist /director and the images in his film have an eerie poetry and beauty. It remains for me the only really frightening vampire film ever to have been made. My paintings were directly inspired by it and their large scale and metallic tonality were intended to mirror the visual sensation of the early cinema’s audiences encounter with the ‘silver screen’.


This new exhibition,
Night Cargo brings together a group of recent and related paintings, all of which are made on re–purposed materials, tarpaulins and sacks – a reference to the ongoing crisis of global sustainability but also to the profound human dilemma of the ‘burden of memory’. The image of the sea appears as a metaphor for this condition, ever moving and changing its form, relentless and illusive but also timeless and constant.
Galway, situated as it is on the fringes of Europe and the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, is to a great extent defined by its relationship to the sea, on the cusp of the land and the uncertainty of the deep, a connection that, in my own spirit and memory, evokes freedom, poetry and connectedness.

Hughie O’Donoghue

July 2020