Artist Interview: Ian McConaghy

Thank you Lucy for providing us with some really interesting answers and giving an insight into your practice.

This week’s interview is with Ian McConaghy.

Erosion in blue

Erosion in Blue by Ian McConaghy

What is your earliest memory of painting and what was the subject?
I remember a painting lesson at primary school. I had recently visited the library and discovered Picasso. Somehow I incorporated cubist eyes into my painting and by the end of the lesson, so had most of the class.
I was about 12 when I first tried oil painting. My first subject was a red deer; a tiny painting.
At that time my confidence knew no bounds, so I next painted a Madonna and child, which was given as a wedding present to my Sunday school teacher.
When did you first decide to be an artist and why?
I think I have always thought of myself as an artist. While at primary school I broke my leg and was in a plaster cast for 9 months. In that time I just drew and drew.
Then when I was in the lower sixth at school I attended art lessons at the local art school in Plymouth. I remember the teacher tried to encourage me to go to the Slade School in London but meanwhile, I was offered a place to study architecture.
Which artist has inspired you the most and why?
It is so difficult to choose one artist. I won the art prize at school and received a book about modern artists. I was stunned by the abstract paintings of Wassily Kandinsky and found his work so original and intelligent. All these years later, I still find his approach relevant to my own preoccupation with improvisation.
Your current paintings are watercolours. Do you always use the same medium?
How would you describe your methodology?
At school I was afraid of watercolour painting and considered it too delicate and difficult to control. Instead I used gouache and later, experimented with oil painting. Throughout my career as an architect, although I probably drew with a pencil or pen most days, I only returned to painting two years ago. I enjoy experimenting with water colour: using a variety of methods to create abstract shapes and textures.
Last year I worked with acrylic on canvas inspired by the music of Microdeform and I plan to further develop my techniques in this medium.
Where do you get your ideas for paintings/subject matter?
The way I paint in watercolour is very intuitive. I usually have in mind only the structure and colours: ideas suggest themselves throughout the process of laying down colour and creating textures.
I carry out a process of defining detail by removal of paint or reinforcement of colour, adding of texture and marks. Sometimes things come together quickly or it can take many sessions. There comes a moment when I think the painting is complete and it is put aside and later reassessed. Some paintings are then scanned and reworked on the computer, and others may be used in a collage technique to create new images with a narrative.


Psycholandscape by Ian McConaghy
If you had the opportunity to work with one artist for a day who would it be and why?
I would have loved the opportunity to work with Wassily Kandinsky. Not only was he one of the most original and influential abstract painters, he also taught at the famous Bauhaus in Germany. The school was an extraordinary incubator for the development of art and architecture.
What was the last exhibition you visited and what did you think about it?
Matti Braun, Gost Log at the Arnofini Gallery Bristol. The exhibition was a retrospective spanning 15 years of artwork, ranging from paintings, prints and objects to installations.
I found the paintings the most interesting. They explore colour and abstract shapes. I felt that the installations stretched small ideas too thinly. This can be a problem for artists when they enter a sphere of activity, whether it is making a film or a construction, when lack of knowledge or expertise in that idiom struggles to support the central idea. Then we are left to judge the process or atmosphere rather than the artefact.
What are your major influences outside of art?
Given my career as an architect, architecture and the environment remain a strong influence. Music is also very important, together with world film, reference books and literature.
If you could have a night out with three famous people (dead or alive) who would they be and why? Where would you go?
I have chosen three extraordinary individuals who are artists but have had significant impact but in very different ways. Where would we meet? the restaurant at the top of the Eiffel Tower, perhaps?
Leonardo Da Vinci, the original renaissance-man. His talents were truly staggering. He painted perhaps the most famous painting of all-time, the Mona Lisa, but he was also a scientist, inventor and engineer: observed nature, considered flight and designed a canal.
Brian Eno, is also an artist but is better known for his musical influences: keyboard player with Roxy Music, producer for David Bowie and U2, promoter of ambient music, collaborator with David Byrne and Robert Fripp, as well as exhibiting art/light installations in galleries world-wide.
Yoko Ono, was an artist creating installations which John Lennon visited. Their marriage and honeymoon was used to promote Peace not War; arguably performance art. A woman vilified by thousands of Beatle fans who blamed her for breaking up the band and yet credited by John Lennon as writing Imagine (possibly Lennon’s most profound song).
How would you define good or bad art?
For me, good art should have a clear message, be well executed, appear complete and have a respect for the viewer. I hate lazy, poorly executed, half-baked ideas or copies of another artist’s work. I prefer art to be serious and meaningful, uplifting and beautiful. Although it can be dark and sinister, like a Francis Bacon painting, this has an original beauty. While the technique may suggest it is unfinished, it adds energy and is intended to shock and provoke the viewer.
How do you think your work will evolve this year? Do you have any big plans for 2013?
This year I want to arrange a number of exhibitions, each exploring new themes and visual techniques, working with others from the Silent Room studio.
The first will be Space, Time and Identity, which will feature work by Lucy Browne, Holly Drewett and Sophie Willoughby.
Later in the year I hope to put together another exhibition called Lines of Reason, which will feature drawing, printing and illustration, inspired by lyrics from songs.


Innerspace by Ian McConaghy

We can confirm that the Exhibition of work by Lucy Browne, Holly Drewett, Sophie Willoughby and Ian McConaghy, under the title: Space, Time and Identity, will take place from 4th April for one week until 11th April 2013. The private view will take place on Friday 5th April 2013.

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