Manchester-born David McGrath is a second-year diploma student at the Art Academy, London Bridge. His work ranges from portraiture to mixed-media collage, exploiting textures, materials and fabrics to 3D or accidented effect, always seeking to explore the porous divide between abstraction and representation.

McGrath interrogates the contradictions of religious spirituality, political conflict, and themes of redemption and renewal. “Bird”, for example, uses everyday DIY materials - roofing felt, polyfilla, glue, galvanised nails - to conjure the spectre of modern exhumations from the mass graves of the Civil War of Spain - a country close to his heart.

Another topical work from 2015, “Pool" is inspired by the carpet-bombing of Homs in Syria. It uses household packaging detritus - polystyrene, cardboard, perspex etc. - to juxtapose war zones and children’s play. Taking his cue from Anselm Kiefer, Antoni Tapies, and Hannah Hoch, among others, McGrath’s dark green and khaki slab, depicting the game of ”Hopscotch", refers to the Troubles in Ireland (where his family originates). Meanwhile, a current commission centres on the execution of the first English martyr, St Alban, who - curiously - was also a Roman soldier. In these works and others, he is looking to confront spectators rather than reassure them.

He is inspired by those artists whose work constitutes a statement against

oppression: Max Beckmann, Marlene Dumas, Francis Bacon and their successors. These are practitioners whose stance is often implicit rather than explicit. In pursuit of this, his ambition is to dovetail his fascination for figuration with covert narrative - by disrupting or questioning the space it occupies. As he addresses the conundrum of separate planes on a two-dimensional surface, his aim is to involve the viewer with contradictory perspectives, gestural colour, and challenging themes.

David McGrath

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