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Alan Macdonald

Artist Biography

Artist Statement - It took me years to realise that it is the darkness in things that I respond to, whether it is a painting by Francisco Goya, a song by Leonard Cohen, a play by William Shakespeare or a film by Pedro Almodovar. When I was a child living in Africa, I was outside on a night lit by the moon and, feeling a little scared, I stepped from the light into a dark shadow. The darkness wrapped itself around me and fear was replaced by an understanding that I was being protected. Later, when I was twelve, a boy walked into my classroom with drawings he had done in pencil. They were representations of figures, that went from the white of the paper to the blackest black that the graphite could muster, and from that moment the artistic light for me was ignited

A wise old German painter friend once said to me, after seeing me floundering around trying to explain away one of my paintings, “Remember, Alan, your paintings are like a bubble, and a bubble with a hole in it is no longer a bubble.” So with that in mind, I will tread carefully.

Nothing pleases me more than when someone laughs out loud whilst looking at one of my paintings. As comedians are aware, humour is a subversive thing, breaking down barriers and making others more receptive to your message or point of view. Years ago, a particularly tired, world-weary man came into my exhibition, with an, 'impress me if you can' expression on his face. He trudged from painting to painting, unimpressed… that is, until he came to a painting of a man covered in tattoos with a row of pins in his forehead, called 'Masochist'. It caused him to burst out laughing! He then went back and looked again at all the paintings he had just trudged past, now taking his time and responding to them all. It confirmed for me the importance of humour in art.

All the shapes and forms my work takes, have evolved over years. Painting clothes that resemble period clothing, for example, happened naturally. At first because it just seemed right, but I now realise that it brings to the work a sense of someone lost and out of time, desperately trying to work out the universal question, “What the hell am I doing here?”  Especially when modern items like a can of coke or a scooter are included. Max Ernst once wrote that an artist should have one foot in the subconscious and one in the conscious. This, I think, is what I am trying to do.

When I begin a painting, I feel like I am embarking on a journey, one in which I have no idea of the ultimate destination. As a result there is a real sense of adventure and excitement as you set sail into the unknown, armed only with a belief that, one day, you will find a faraway beach on which to land. Unfortunately, too often, the ship founders on the jagged rocks of doubt, leaving your heart to sink into the inky depths, from where you have to resurrect it. On the luckier voyages, though, you arrive somewhere that is strangely familiar, but which you have never seen before. It’s a distant coast of you.   

Selected Exhibitions