(selected by Hannah Firth)
John's Country, 2003
From a large scale wall drawing to a small and delicate depiction of a single rose bush, drawing is central to Andrew McDonald's practice. Curator Rebecca Heald suggests that McDonald knowingly subscribes to the modernist notion of drawing as a mode of pure expression; with the immediacy of the process giving insight into the artist's inner angst and turmoil. If this is the case, then what are we to make of McDonald's visualisations: 'bleak, gravity-laden and filled with melancholy'. (Rebecca Heald).
Since 2000, McDonald has predominantly been working with animation, undertaking the laborious process of transforming hundreds of drawings into motion. It soon becomes apparent that McDonald's psychological creations are even more disturbing when animated. We find ourselves in '...a world of beheaded loners, giant fingers, collapsed tunnels and bloodied knives. Seemingly innocuous empty rooms and landscapes become the scenes of unimaginable terror. Luminous flashes of lightning reveal hidden horrors. It is a world full of absurdity, neurosis and a deep dark humour.' (Gordon Dalton 'Every Day Demons' 2004).
McDonald's computer animations are all hand-drawn and by its very nature the whole process is intensely painstaking and meticulous. McDonald has to develop hundreds of good drawings for every few seconds of animation and each project requires his total immersion. Perhaps it is these isolated periods of drawing that are responsible for McDonald's array of surreal and disturbing scenarios.
McDonald writes; 'By losing myself in the process of drawing and escaping the world, the thing that I make, be it a drawing or a series of drawings, become a confrontation with the world.'
Locked away in his studio, insignificant thoughts escalate into fixations and McDonald retreats into his own claustrophobic world, an arena for strange and paranoid imaginings. In 'Every Day Is Different' (2004), lightning flashes strike against a jet-black sky. The flashes illuminate a series of situations: a neglected room with a pair of legs just entering into the frame, we see a knife stuck precariously into a table and an abandoned pack of cigarettes. Simple domestic scenes that have been made horrific by McDonald's dramatic lighting.
'In John's Country' (2003) a headless man clambers into sight over the back of a rocky landscape. He staggers across a ravine only to disappear again. Without a head John is free: he has no capacity for morals, guilt or love the implication is that he can do whatever he wishes, good or bad. It is an absurd presentation, neurotic and darkly humorous'. (Rebecca Heald).
Hannah Firth, curator of Every Day is Different, talks of uncomfortable interpretations of the artist, 'his battle laid bare for us to laugh at or admire'. There is an inherent absurdity in the myth of the obsessive, tortured artist and McDonald is aware of this, just as he is aware of its overriding poignancy. It's a role he enjoys playing with. Dalton states, 'the struggle with existential angst is essentially heroic and McDonald knows it is doomed to failure, but it is no less a beautiful act because of that. This willingness to fail underpins McDonalds work, at once magnificent, yet achingly pathetic.' (Gordon Dalton 'Every Day Demons' 2004)
Born in London in 1963, Andrew McDonald trained at Liverpool Polytechnic (1985) and graduated with an MA in Fine Art from the University of Northumbria in Newcastle-upon-Tyne (1995)
Recent exhibitions include British Art Show 6, various locations; Animated Drawing, MIMA: offsite, Middlesborough (both 2006); Mostyn Open Exhibition, Oriel Mostyn Gallery, Llandudno (2005); Every Day is Different, International 3, Manchester and Chapter Gallery, Cardiff (solo shows 2004); Drawings at Meljby Arts Centre, Halmstad, Sweden and Hammer Sidi Gallery, London (2003). In 2002 he won first prize in Perspective 2002 at Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast.
Andrew lives and works in Manchester and is represented by Vane, Newcastle-upon-Tyne and The International 3, Manchester.
Every Day Demons
Published to coincide with the exhibition Andrew McDonald: Every Day is Different held at Chapter, Cardiff betwen 2 October and 7 November 2004. Andrew McDonald 'Every... read on