CLEMENTINE McGAW: IN FOCUS / by Lizzie Glendinning

XX Curated Painting Programme 2016 Part I

By Christina Tsakiriou

‘Nothingness of Our Own Existence’ is the first solo show for London-based artist Clementine McGaw since the completion of her studies at City & Guilds School of Art London in 2015. Having shown great potential and innate talent as a student, McGaw was awarded with the Best Emerging Fine Artist 2010/2011 and the Graingers Award for Young Artist 2012/2013. She now continues to produce exceptionally moving work on the theme of human existence and suffering.

McGaw explains that ‘it is the power of making something unexplainably understood in image’ that first drew her to art. She continues, ‘it’s difficult to explain my thought process with words – which is why they are paintings. It's easier for me to communicate through the language of paint than words’. Though the artist has experimented with other media, she sees a special expressive potential in paint. She claims to have an understanding of paint through tactile memory that allows her to better relay her subject matter in image than in any other way.

A deep thinker, McGaw stresses the importance of balancing artistic creation with reading philosophers such as Roland Barthes and Julia Kristeva and, subsequent reflection on her process and artistic aims. She describes how it has taken years to discipline herself to do this ‘rather than simply making constantly, and sometimes aimlessly’. When asked how she achieves this during a working day she says, ‘I always run and exercise in the mornings to get rid of any unnecessary excess anxiety’.

Her art has always been motivated by human suffering manifested in the image of the figure. Her semi-abstract works convey the sense of flesh through their variety and complexity of texture and colour, allowing a fine balance between abstraction and figuration.

The ideas of Francis Bacon recorded through his interviews with David Sylvester and Berlinde De Bruyckere’s quiet and hauntingly serene sculptures are important influences to the artist. Bacon’s desire to paint the ‘perfect human cry’ has clearly influenced McGaw’s work and the way she conveys a tormented desperation and fragility in her forms.

Though the influence of this great British painter can be found in McGaw’s work, she explores the theme of human suffering in her own unique ways. As abstracted as Bacon’s forms may be, they tend to be contained within the boundaries of figuration and a recognisable, though vague, sense of space. McGaw’s forms appear to be floating freely in an ethereal space of their own.

The curation of her current show really highlights this effect by placing three of her panels on either side of the room facing each other monumentally, enabling the viewer to become engrossed in the experience of the world McGaw creates.  She describes ‘Nothingness of Our Own Existence’ as ‘an investigation into paint’ and explains that                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     ‘using colour had been something [she] had considered but never really had an opportunity to work towards. This show is an exploration between the polarities of seeing image as flesh and the nothingness of the flesh as well as the made image’. 

‘Nothingness of Our Own Existence’ is running at Brocket Gallery in London until March 31 and will subsequently tour to the Rossella Terzolo Home Gallery in Milan from April 12 to May 12.