In this body of work there was a return to the more surreal expression of recurring themes of the familiar and domestic as well as the spiritual side of life. ‘Tablelands’ explores the motif of the meal table as a map for our suburban existence. Michael Donnelly does this with drawings in charcoal and paintings in oil, some of which are rendered on ‘decommissioned’ tablecloths.
These “Tablelands” are places where gum trees are munched on by guinea pigs, mugs and bowls are set amongst parklands and side streets resulting in striking juxtapositions of scale and purpose. The perspective of the works is an aerial one; a God’s eye view. And yet that view is cast no further than the edges of his adopted eastern suburbs in these unmistakably Melbourne landscapes. The majority of the drawings and paintings are tabletop reworkings of his local post-World War Two area, laid out on their square mile grid.
Titles for his recent paintings include ‘Ashburton Oval Tableau’, ‘Burwood Station Tableau’, ‘Ashwood Wetlands Tableau’, and ‘Summerhill Park Tableau’.
Michael Donnelly believes in investigating universal truths through the known and particular. He celebrates the seemingly mundane in perhaps the same manner as the painter Stanley Spencer did with his beloved Cookham in England and the gently satirical Dylan Thomas with his treatment of Laugharne, Wales in “Under Milkwood”. Donnelly’s drawings and paintings evoke notions and memories of childhood, its games and picture books as well as deeper, mythic memories such as the Garden of Eden where man was at peace with his Creator for a time.