DAVID McGRATH: ARTIST’S STATEMENT (11 April 2017)
Born in Manchester, I am a final-year diploma student at the Art Academy, London Bridge. My work ranges from portraiture to mixed-media collage, in which I exploit textures, materials and fabrics to 3D or accidented effect, always seeking to explore the porous divide between abstraction and representation. I am fascinated by gestural marks and damaged surfaces: the Parisian photographer Brassai's brilliant work on graffiti, for example, is a constant source of ideas, with its demonic archetypes crudely and hurriedly gouged into plaster. You can see some of my work on this here, and at the upcoming show in Willesden, London in June 2017
My intention is to interrogate the contradictions and inspirations of religious spirituality, political conflict, and themes of redemption and renewal. While "Annunciation", seeks to capture the sublime flights of Fra Angelico frescoes, “Bird”, 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 my 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 my cue from Anselm Kiefer, Antoni Tapies, and Hannah Hoch, among others, my dark green and khaki slab, ”Hopscotch", refers to the Troubles in the north of Ireland. A recent commission centred on the execution of the first English martyr, St Alban, who - curiously - was also a Roman soldier. In these works and others, I am looking to confront spectators rather than reassure them.
I am 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, my ambition is to dovetail his fascination for figuration with covert narrative - by disrupting or questioning the space it occupies. As I address the conundrum of separate planes on a two-dimensional surface, my aim is to involve the viewer with contradictory perspectives, gestural colour, and challenging themes.