The Grey Gallery presents
The nomadic Grey Gallery takes up residence at Jock McFadyen's London Fields studio for the next two exhibitions.
This exhibition shows a selection of early and late works from the last two decades. McFadyen is an artist who is sometimes associated with figurative painting of the 1980s. This has often irked the artist who, by the advent of that decade, had struggled to jettison the schematic figuration with which he made his name in the late 1970s.
It was during his residency at the National Gallery in 1981 that the artist resolved to make the observed world his subject rather than the witty conjectures with which he had emerged from Chelsea School of Art in 1977. The first pictures to emerge in the early eighties were populated by the waifs and strays of pre Canary Wharf London. McFadyen, like many others, was part of that diaspora of artists which had taken to the East End since the late sixties and he has always claimed that the figures in his work of that period were not inventions but sightings of individuals and events of the time. Horse Lamenting the invention of the motor car is typical of McFadyen’s work in the early eighties and retains some residue of caricature and wit which characterised his previous work . Throughout the decade, however, this element fell away to reveal a darker and more threatening portrait of the landscape of eighties London.
In 1991 McFadyen was commissioned by the Artistic Records Committee of The Imperial War Museum to record events surrounding the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. Later the same year he was commissioned to design the set and costumes for Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s last ballet The Judas Tree at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. It was at this point that the figure fell away from McFadyen's work. Full blown urban landscape, sometimes on a monumental scale, emerged and continues to preoccupy the artist to this day.
Jock McFadyen claims Sickert as well as Whistler and LS Lowry among painterly influences from the past, while German and American realist film from the 1970s as well as the contemporary novel are influences which are more significant to the artist than any from contemporary painting. During the 1990s McFadyen found a fellow traveller in the writer Iain Sinclair whose Downriver and Lights out for the territory mirrored the artist’s preoccupation with the eastern plains of the city and its estuary (Dagenham, Derrick, Showcase Cinemas, A13 Looking West). McFadyen had previously worked with the novelists Howard Jacobson and Will Self on prints and booklets and in 2001 Sinclair wrote Walking up walls to accompany Jock McFadyen’s solo exhibition at Agnews.
New work shown here includes Tate Moss and Olympia, large vistas of the wastelands of the Olympic zone, penetrated by water with Sinclair while researching his new novel Hackney, That Rose-red Empire. Recent years have seen the figure return to McFadyen's painting and a group of sixty small erotic paintings from 2008 are included in the display. These works were particularly inspired by the exquisite display of Sickert’s Camden Town pictures at Somerset House winter 2007/2008. The artist was conscious that Sickert’s women may have shocked the Edwardians but, frank description notwithstanding, they would struggle against the sea of sexual imagery in today’s media landscape.
Jock McFadyen was born in Paisley in 1950. He lives and works in London and Edinburgh. He describes himself as a realist and has had over 40 solo exhibitions, including National Gallery 1982 (Residency show), Camden Arts Centre 1988, Imperial War Museum 1991, Talbot Rice Gallery Edinburgh (Edinburgh Festival) 1998, Pier Arts Centre (St Magnus Festival) Orkney 1999, Agnews London 2001, Rude Wercs London 2005, The Grey Gallery Edinburgh (Edinburgh Festival 2007), The Grey Gallery London 2007.
Thursday 2nd April 6.30pm
The Grey Gallery
Iain Sinclair will read from his new book Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire and talk with Jock McFadyen about their shared subject, the hidden territories of London’s eastern landscape, at McFadyen’s London Fields studio.
Free, but booking advised 00 44 (0) 07910 359 086