Where We Belong (November 2016 for Catalogue)
The Scottish Highlands offer a suitably atmospheric, picturesque and evocative location for Mackie’s latest body of work, Where We Belong (2016). It is a place that the artist knows well, having grown up with views of hills and fields on every side of his family home in the Cairngorms. It is a landscape that he himself views not through romantic eyes, however, but rather in terms of more practical concerns – how long will it take to walk through to the other side of the valley before nightfall; how marshy are the moorlands and must they be circumnavigated or can they be traversed on foot; how perilous is the icy snow that covers the scree that spills down the hillsides. It is a treacherous place for the ill-prepared rambler or dewy-eyed sightseer, and even presents dangers for the locals if they let down their guard for a moment against the harsh daily challenges of living in such a place.
In Merlin (2016), the artist depicts a burnt-out, dilapidated small stone dwelling – it looks like it might be very old, slashed and burned by Vikings or a rival clan, perhaps, but it turns out it is not so ancient as it might appear. Its owner had thrown some ashes from his hearth out of the back door before going out for the evening, only to return home to discover his home burnt to the ground. With few options open to him, he bought a caravan which he parked alongside the back wall of the house, and moved into that. Mackie captures the heart-breaking scene at dusk on a foggy evening, the low-lying dark grey mist hanging over the cottage as if clouds of smoke from the fire. Part of the caravan has been cut away, exposing the interior. We don’t see the owner inside, making do in his potentially long-term temporary accommodation; instead we see something quite unexpected – a glorious golden sunset over a very different kind of landscape: one that looks decidedly reminiscent of the American Midwest. The warm orange glow, which, from a distance or on first glance might appear like a lamp or bright candle, implies a warmth and cosiness that is otherwise entirely absent in the scene. The indoor sunset, like a 70s photographic mural, is incongruous to say the least, verging on the surreal or metaphysical. Mackie has filled a spatial void with an open-ended metaphor, a signifier that is open to our imaginations, to our interpretation. Here, in the pitiable shadow of the charred shell of the man’s home, there is something unusual, something special taking place, the precise nature of which we can’t quite guess – an element of mystery and magic that is captured in the work’s title.
The caravan is a motif that spans, and indeed defines, the whole body of work, appearing in a variety of beautiful, sometimes dramatic, sometimes haunting Highland environments, and always surrounded by a thick grey mist. These aren’t the caravans of your average holidaymaker, however, as they all seem to have seen better days. Undoubtedly some caravan enthusiasts would be able to discern which models they might be, from which manufacturer, which country and year, but to the layman they look like they probably date between the 1960s and 1980s, and are a far cry from contemporary state-of-the-art caravan design. Each conveys a sense of nostalgia through their modernist retro shapes and colours – colours which interact surprisingly harmoniously with the eerily subdued palettes of the landscapes surrounding them – though to be holidaymaking in any of these today would be glamping without the glamour. They are all of the kind that is towed by another vehicle, and all look like they might have been abandoned – though perhaps only recently so, as while they are battered and worn, they are not overgrown in the way that nature has a tendency to do to man-made things when left to its own devices.
The caravans are so picturesquely positioned that one might go so far as to suggest that they have been deliberately left in these places, as if with a clear intention in mind. It would not be inconceivable that such caravans could be used as ad-hoc shelters by grouse or pheasant hunters, birdwatchers, hillwalkers or other special-interest groups who spend long periods of time in the landscape, but this just doesn’t quite ring true here. There is something quietly disturbing about the presence of these caravans, poised somewhere between melancholy and malfeasance. The series of paintings is highly cinematic or televisual in nature, as if carefully contrived scenes or sets, and the viewer might struggle to resist looking to impose filmic narratives on each work – narratives that might involve thriller-style wrong-doing such as abduction or murder, but could equally take us into the realms of horror, science-fiction and the paranormal. Mackie’s accomplished painterly realism only serves to enhance this blurring of the real world and fiction.
And of course, we must face the elephant in the room here – just as in Merlin, the caravans in each of the other paintings in the series also have half of their sides cut away to reveal otherworldly scenes within them. Each unexpected scene is a sunset over a landscape, the sun glowing in the sky from bright white to hazy yellow, golden orange to umber-tinged red, evocative of great Romantic landscape paintings by the likes of Turner, Claude, Lieste or, more pertinently, Hudson River School painters such as Bierstadt, Cole or Church. The scenes are depicted as if flat on the interior back wall of the caravan, but the most curious thing – and the painterly device that really takes these works towards the metaphysical – is that the suns inside the caravans are casting light onto the floors of the caravans and even, sometimes, onto the ground outside. These interior scenes, while they look like painted landscapes, cannot be painted or printed images like wallpaper or murals – they must surely either be screens or projections of some kind, with light coming through them, or the artist is implying that they are actually real, like apparitions of, or portals from, another time and place.
While most viewers would be forgiven for not having registered the following piece of information, eagle-eyed aficionados of American Westerns might have spotted that a number of the interior sunsets are actually scenes from well-known movies from this genre, including From Dusk till Dawn (1996), The Searchers (1956), and Django Unchained (2013), giving some credence to the idea that we are looking at digital screens of some kind. This might suggest there is some high-tech equipment inside these shabby old caravans, though pondering this for a moment longer, the scenario is perhaps not all that dissimilar to all those Westerns playing on Scottish television sets in houses, caravans and mobile homes for the past half a century. But, and assuming that these sunsets are intended more as metaphor than literal optical phenomena, it might make sense to conceive of Mackie’s paintings as depictions of an exotic imaginary, and maybe even one sitting – with a postmodern twist – inside yet another exotic imaginary. For most of us who do not live in such beautiful landscapes – whether glens in the Scottish Highlands or the homesteads of the American Midwest – they are both places onto which we can project fantasies of escapism from urban and suburban modern life, albeit of very different kinds. In this way, the caravans become metaphors, talismans or time machines, even, for unfulfilled dreams of travel and adventure, of journeying to picturesque panoramas of other people’s worlds. The caravans were once somebody’s attempt to experience such landscapes first hand, to live within these landscapes, if only for a while. Sad, neglected and worn out, the caravans are now humble visions of everyday hopes and ambitions that once seemed real or were achievable for a time, or maybe that never really came to be. The warm, glowing, enticing apparitions from another place suggest that hope has not entirely gone, though, and as Mackie’s title reassuringly implies, even if we might dream of elsewhere, we are perhaps already where we’re meant to be.
Mackie presents his dilapidated venues at twilight, as if building up to the gig that will mark the end of their days. Shining out in the darkness, a motif from a seminal album provides a visual link to a musical milestone in the venue’s history. The entrance hall of the Marquee holds the concrete monolith from The Who’s 1971 album Who’s next. The body from The Clash’s Give Them Enough Rope lies bleeding on the floor inside the Hammersmith Palais. These visual echoes float spirit-like within the shells of the old buildings, caught in a timeless stasis while the venue itself erodes. Bricks and mortar decay; music, like memory, is ephemeral.
Accompanying these large works is a suite of smaller paintings depicting bandstands embedded with iconic pop symbols. Bowie’s lightning bolt and U2’s Joshua Tree appear on deserted stages, playing to empty parks by starlight. Through cryptic compositions, they show how a visual image can jog the emotional memories that form the experience of music. These small paintings thus act as a counterpoint to the larger works, suggesting how music and memory intertwine.
You Were Shit in the 80’s (March 2015 for Catalogue)
‘He has been here, and fired a gun.’ – John Constable on JMW Turner, 1832
One of the art world’s great rivalries came to a head at London’s Royal Academy in 1832. JMW Turner visited the galleries on its annual Varnishing Day, when exhibiting artists put finishing touches to their work. After seeing how the vivid hues of one of John Constable’s paintings overshadowed Turner’s Helvoetsluys hanging adjacent, the latter picked up a brush and, in full view of the gathered artists, placed a daub of red paint in his own work, animating his maritime scene to such an extent that Constable’s painting suddenly paled in comparison. In so doing, he brought the professional antagonism between the two painters into the public sphere, setting the stage for ensuing artists who now air their rivalries via global media.
Turner ‘fired a gun’ in the form of a daub of paint. Contemporary artists have done so through words uttered to the press. In a remarkable series of new paintings, the Scottish artist Mackie revisits both the words and images related to some of the more infamous art world squabbles that have followed in Turner and Constable’s wake, including those between David Hockney and Damien Hirst, and Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud. Indeed, the title of two of the new paintings, as well as that of the exhibition itself – You Were Shit in the ‘80s – derives from Freud’s description of Bacon’s work of that decade as ‘ghastly,’ a sentiment Bacon in turn shared for Freud’s later work.
Mackie’s latest paintings restage the trivial rivalries and immense cultural status of these artists and others, including James Abbott McNeill Whistler, who publicly argued with not one, but three of his contemporaries: John Ruskin, John Everett Millais, and Oscar Wilde. However, they do so in arenas far removed from the pages of the tabloid newspapers, compelling us to look anew at the representation and effect of friction. Mackie relocates a renowned work by each artist – and thus, symbolically, their attendant feuds – to secluded and desolate buildings, continuing the ‘Abandoned Dollhouse’ theme he began in 2013. In You Were Shit in the ‘80s, Part 1 (Lucian Freud), he removes a panel from the back of a dilapidated Victorian building in Toxteth to reveal one of Freud’s largest paintings of a female nude, Standing by the Rags (1988-9), which normally resides in London’s Tate Britain. Surrounded by broken-paned windows and soot-stained bricks, Freud’s nude peers out of the meticulously delineated structure onto a field of overgrown weeds. Yet while a sense of isolation pervades the scene, the museum-like display and illumination of Freud’s painting implies the presence of another: the artist’s rival, the viewer of Mackie’s painting, or both.
In fact, …Part 1’s companion piece, You Were Shit in the ‘80s, Part 2 (Francis Bacon) suggests a dialogue between the two works. In …Part 2, Mackie plucks Francis Bacon’s Second Version of Triptych 1944 (1988) from the Tate collection and re-houses it in a disused asylum for men near Glasgow. The artist, who began drawing at an early age and sketched incessantly throughout his childhood to achieve perfect scale, demonstrates superb draughtsmanship in his depiction of a bleak, uninhabited building with boarded-up windows. A missing panel unveils Bacon’s triptych, each section spot-lit as if formally exhibited. Although the locations represented within You Were Shit in the ‘80s parts 1 and 2 are over 200 miles apart, Mackie suggests congruence between the two paintings through his palette, his rendering of the buildings, and the similarity of the fields they overlook. We may even imagine the two paintings within the paintings facing each other from across the field. Mackie accentuates the conflict inherent in such a scenario by not only highlighting the friction between the two artists, but also the discord between the foreboding structures and the land they inhabit, and between their deteriorated state and the prized artworks they contain.
In contrast, the artworks that animate All by My Own Hand, Part 1 (David Hockney) and All by My Own Hand, Part 2 (Damien Hirst) occupy very different spaces. Moreover, they seem destined never to meet, as if in recognition of the one-sided nature of the spat to which they allude. In 2012, David Hockney advertised his solo exhibition at the Royal Academy with the claim, ‘All the works here were made by the artist himself, personally,’ a dig at Damien HIrst and his extensive use of assistants. Hirst, however, never responded publicly to Hockney’s criticism.
All by My Own Hand, Part 1 recreates Hockney’s Portrait of Nick Wilder (1966) on the upper floor of Lancaster Services’ Grade II-listed Pennine Tower, its image of a sun-drenched Californian swimming pool echoed by the sunlight hitting the side of Mackie’s tower. The area around the service station is deserted, yet the lawn is well manicured, denoting care rather than abandonment. Hirst’s celebrated The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991), on the other hand, stands forgotten in an anonymous country barn. Unlike the Bacon and Freud paintings in You Were Shit in the ‘80s, neither of the works in All by My Own Hand receive special lighting or display; neither seems to presume an audience. Nevertheless, Mackie’s imaginative use of architecture, exquisite handling of paint, and re-staging of canonical works of art throughout You Were Shit in the ‘80s entice viewers to look again at the sparks that fire artists at their best and, perhaps, at their worst.
Mackie relocates Hieronymus Bosch’s 16th-century triptych from Madrid’s Museo del Prado to a decrepit caravan in 21st-century Dungeness, Kent. Designated a national nature reserve, and a special protection area, Dungeness contains a fragile ecosystem that includes unusual plants, rare invertebrates, and birdlife. In the shadow of its nuclear power plants, and under ominous skies, Mackie’s caravan reveals the central and right panels of Bosch’s triptych. The central panel depicts a garden of lust, while the right panel portrays an especially violent hell. By inserting Bosch’s moral warning into the bleak beauty of Dungeness, Mackie alerts us that we risk losing our heavenly paradises to an accursed fate.
Who invented the hole part 1: Henry Moore is based on an alleged argument between Moore (1898 – 1986) and Barbara Hepworth (1903 – 1975) over who invented the ‘hole’ in sculpture. In Mackie’s painting, the sculpture inside the house is Moore’s Oval with Points (1968 – 1970). It is an interesting use of this particular sculpture to show his point as it looks like two separate holes, delicately joined but still very separate, as indeed Moore and Hepworth allegedly were in their opinions of who invented the hole. This is the first of a group of paintings depicting the artist’s tribute to the argument. Mackie intends to continue this theme in the rest of the series: the next will feature a sculpture by Hepworth.
This painting is part of Mackie’s ‘Abandoned Dollhouse’ series, where the centre piece of the composition is an architectural structure (either a building or a caravan) which has had a section removed so the viewer can see inside, in the same way a child’s dollhouse would be visible. In this series the artist shows quite clearly different seasons. This picture is showing autumn/winter. As a final play on words, it is worth noting that being part of the ‘Abandoned Dollhouse’ series, there has to be a ‘hole’ for the viewer to be able to see the sculpture.
About the artist
Andrew McIntosh (Mackie) was born in the Highlands of Scotland in 1979. He was educated in illustration and design at Edinburgh’s Telford College 1997-99. His early career was as a landscape painter. He has a studio in Wimbledon, London where he now works. One of the goals of Mackie’s work is to promote expansive thought and to offer questions, but not necessarily the answers. He says, ‘I spend a long time balancing a painting to make it attractive enough to intrigue the viewer. My hope is that they may investigate the painting, noticing the subtleties. Maybe leave with a few questions.’ About his work
The more I look at this painting, the more I like it. The first thing that struck me was the early morning mist and low cloud; it looks so real that I could almost feel the dampness on my face, and having been brought up in the Peak District National park, this is a weather pattern that I am very familiar with.
At first glance the picture looks like a well executed landscape, until you notice the building and the sculpture within. That is when the questions start – what is a sculpture doing in the picture? Why is it in a barn? Is it just a random sculpture or does it have relevance?
After the initial feeling of familiarity I gained from the beautifully depicted weather pattern, and the sense of security that here was an element of the picture that I knew, I was drawn to the colourful interior walls of the building, providing a surreal contrast to the grey weather outside. This naturally draws the eye then to the sculpture, and I like the way the artist has treated its surface texture. It is a grey day, but reflective areas create the unmistakable sense of gently polished bronze.
I like that the building is slightly run down and this is carried on around the building by things lying on their side and upturned fence posts, the kind of vista you would see if you travelled in the country.
If Mackie’s treatment of this art historical spat piques your interest, you can visit the Body & Void: Echoes of Moore in Contemporary Art exhibition currently running at the Henry Moore Foundation in Hertfordshire until 26 October 2014, and look out for the major Barbara Hepworth retrospective opening at Tate Britain next year. VIEW ARTICLE
What are the greatest artistic feuds in history?
An exhibition by painter Mackie at James Freeman Gallery looks back at some recent rows between famous artists. It is called You Were Shit in the 80s, which Mackie imagines was an insult exchanged between Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon. The great painters fell out, he claims. If this is true, then it was a blip on a beautiful relationship. They painted each other with great intensity, and the evidence of their portraits of one another suggests that Bacon and Freud were much more friends than enemies. After Bacon died and Freud’s portrait of him was stolen in Germany, Freud made a Wanted poster for it that felt like an act of mourning. So I don’t buy the idea of them hurling banal insults at one another.
Nor is the feud between David Hockney and Damien Hirst that Mackie also chronicles in his paintings really much of a clash. Hockney does not like Hirst’swork, but why would he? One is a painter, the other a conceptualist. They are chalk and cheese.
To have a real feud, artists need to have something in common – they need to be rivals, in the same space and moment, for the same prize. That’s why the greatest artistic feud ever is that between Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Leonardo and Michelangelo were enemies because they were so similar. Both were trained in Florence, and both were gifted in a way contemporaries considered “divine”. It was when they were challenged to paint the same hall in competition with each other that their relationship went pear-shaped.
Michelangelo insulted Leonardo in the street, shocking bystanders when he sneered at the older genius for never finishing his statue of a horse in Milan. Leonardo said at a meeting about where to site Michelangelo’s David that the nude statue needed its penis covering up – a symbolic castration of his rival.
Picasso and Matisse were similarly rivalrous. As with the two Renaissance titans, it seems incredible that two geniuses such as Matisse and Picasso both emerged in early 20th-century France. They respected one another but also eyed each other up in a tense, cynical way. The most bizarre example of their lifelong tensions came when Picasso introduced his new lover Francois Gilot to the elderly Matisse. The sensual artist of colour charmed Gilot so much so that Picasso became sexually jealous. He was threatened by Matisse as a man as well as an artist.
There have been worse feuds. Italian Renaissance and Baroque artists even resorted to violence. The 16th-century craftsman Cellini, for example, murdered a rival goldsmith and – he confesses in his autobiography – contemplated killing a sculptor who got on his nerves.
Yet the saddest artistic falling out was surely between Van Gogh and Gauguin. The passionate, idealistic Van Gogh hoped to create an art colony in the south of France and got his hero Gauguin to come and join him. As their friendship deteriorated, Van Gogh cut off his ear and Gauguin fled, leaving Van Gogh to be institutionalised. So much for artists working together.
Art is messy and people get hurt. Sometimes it is fellow artists who get insulted or worse. And strangely enough, the greatest artists have the biggest fights. VIEW ARTICLE
Miniature reproductions from both 20th-century masters are secreted within isolated derelict houses. The buildings stand alone, seemingly abandoned, until you notice the cutaway wall revealing a masterpiece.
Freud’s Standing by the Rags, 1989, appears in a decaying Victorian building in Toxteth; Bacon’s Second Version of Triptych, 1944, hangs in an abandoned asylum near Glasgow. These two great artists had a famously spiky and competitive friendship and it’s a smart move from Mackie to separate the two, remove an obvious audience and place them in isolation.
“Initially, his idea was to paint dolls’ houses but it was getting too heavy so he started taking out the more explicit elements,” said gallerist James Freeman. “The artworks are collected within a cherished dolls’ house, the place for your imagination.”
Hockney’s Portrait of Nick Wilder overlooks an eerily empty motorway from the Lancaster service station, referring to his cutting remarks in 2012 of Damien Hirst’s lack of “hands-on” craftsmanship. Hirst’s shark responds, floating mouth agape within an isolated country barn.
Another humorous work, Who Invented the Hole, pitches those two giants of sculpture, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, in an argument over who was the first to put a hole in it; Moore’s Oval with Points (1968-1970) stands tall in an abandoned farmhouse on a suitably frosty morning.
Beyond the homage to soap opera-style art world rivalries, there appears to be an overt comment on the nature of collecting, these great pieces are revealed as if caught trapped by a dusty host. There’s an almost gothic dereliction to these buildings that could allude to private collections or to the claustrophobia of art institutions where lauded pieces of work can stand unquestioned in the same room for decades. VIEW ARTICLE
The Grantown-raised painter, who goes by the single name of Mackie, won the Towry Award for the Best Work in 2014 in the 18th NOA Awards.
Mackie, who was shortlisted earlier this year for another major UK art competition, the John Moores Prize, won £10,000 as his share of a total prize fund of £60,000.
“I’m very pleased as I didn’t expect it,” Mackie, who now lives in London, said.
“The year has been immense. Showing in four massive competitions and winning one of them and at venues including The Royal Academy, The Walker Gallery, Somerset House, The Mall Galleries and Pallant House Gallery at Christmas time.
“From all the success/luck I’ve been offered a solo show with James Freeman gallery next March, where I’m really hoping to impress with a selection of new large scale works.”
Mackie’s award-winning oil paintings, A Summertime Retreat and Autumn Rhythm are now on display alongside the other prizewinning and shortlisted works at London’s Somerset House until 25th October.
The judging panel of printmaker Norman Ackroyd, Marrakech Biennale founder Vanessa Branson, photographer Caroline Irby and printmaker and draughtsman Chris Orr, also awarded a further 28 prizes in this year’s NOA competition. VIEW ARTICLE
Andrew McIntosh, who grew up in the Cairngorms, was the winner of the prestigious National Open Art competition, scooping £10,000 in the process.
Winning the Towry Award for Best Work in 2014 caps a successful year for the 35-year-old painter, who has been shortlisted for four major prizes, including the John Moores Painting Prize.
Mr McIntosh, who paints under the pseudonym “Mackie”, said he was “nervous” before the announcement.
Mr McIntosh said: “It is great to win. It was very unexpected.”
He was previously based in Grantown, where he worked from a room in his mother’s house, but now lives in London, where he works from a small studio in Wimbledon with his partner and young son.
He said: “It is hard to make art into a career but I have been utterly determined. “
As an artist who has struggled and fluctuated for 12 odd years, it is a spectacular year and one that I am delighted with.”
He added: “To get into one of the big prizes is very difficult in its own right. In previous years I have only managed to get through to the second stage where you then get an email telling you that unfortunately the standard has been good but you aren’t quite good enough.
“So to get into the shows of four of the biggest prizes – John Moores Prize, Lynn Painter Stainers, Royal Academy and The National Open Art competition – this year is unprecedented. And then to top it off by being announced the winner is fantastic.”
His winning oil paintings both depict summer caravans parked in a landscape setting, however part of the vehicles’ exterior has been stripped away to show a decadent interior.
One has a wood panelled library with comfy chair, while the other has Jackson Pollock’s painting, Autumn Rhythm, hanging inside.
Judges at the competition included Vanessa Branson, the sister of Virgin boss Richard. She also bought one of Mr McIntosh’s winning pictures.
Mr McIntosh, who studied at Telford College in Edinburgh, also met the acclaimed artist Sir Antony Gormley, who created the famous Angel of the North, at the prize-giving last week.
The competition entries, which are on display at Somerset House, will also tour galleries in England.
And Mr McIntosh is now working on new pieces with the hope of taking part in group shows in London throughout the next few months.
He also has a major solo exhibition at the James Freeman Gallery in March. VIEW ARTICLE
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