The desire of recording what he sees on daily basis is even more urgent to create epic, magnified truth. — Interview with Noel McKenna

For an painter who has been making art for more than 30 years, the practice does not build his life, rather than that, his life itself has become his creation.

The Continuity of Noel McKenna’s art practice does not only be perceived as a prolific artist, but also his consistence of the capture of everyday life. The world that he depicts in his works, multiple species are portrayed with details and well recorded. He is not one of the artists who keep on looking for issues to question the world, it seems that the world does not considered as a whole from his observation, in stead, he looks in to all the small pieces that constitute what we call “world”, and puts all the jigsaw puzzle together along the clues.

Noel McKenna, Cat Sitting,  © Courtesy of the artist and mothers tankstation

Generally speaking, I feel that most of the ideas for my work come from the ‘everyday’. This is often just from the everyday that I experience directly, but I do look at the media a lot; TV, movies, newspapers and so on, so there is a bit of a cross-over between the real and mediated real, that comes through the work.

In the sense, he goes beyond and crosses the liner of time and space to compress his personal journey in the paintings. As his series of creation “Mapped”, the artist rambles through the pieces of time while establishes his own, in cultural anthropologic sense,  “world view”, which overtakes people’s understanding of the liner view if history.

From Noel McKenna’s new solo show , it is very interesting that he use painting or drawing as a mean to visualise “Time and Space” and his life trace in Sydney from 1979-2018. To be specific, it feels so much like thousands of layer of time and space are condensed within a map, we are wondering what makes him decide to  build up the time capsule by the virtue of drawing a map with locations, events?

“I have been working on Map paintings for roughly ten years now and these were the subject of a recent curated show, ‘Mapped’ at the Queensland Art Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane. The work ‘My Life in Sydney: 1979 – 2018’, is part of this series in that it marks what I think of as significant memory locations in Sydney, where I have lived since 1979. ”

Noel McKenna, Green and Red room, 2017, Ink on paper © Courtesy of the artist and mothers tankstation

“Our lives go by quickly and the process of remembering places I had spent time; either houses I have lived in, friends I’ve known, places I have worked, I found, in some instances, to be therapeutic. Everyone’s history is unique and being aware of it, marking it, is a way to help try and understand one’s own life. “

The composition of Noel McKenna’s works giving me the impression of snapshots of “passing by” scenery, which constitutes a world that is going to disappear in the next second. I quite curious about what is time for Noel McKenna as a notion that he have been exploring in his work?

The ‘snapshot’ form of observation, could come from the fact that I frequently use photographs as source material. I always carry a camera and take photographs of things that grab my eye.

Noel McKenna, Two Homes, © Courtesy of the artist and mothers tankstation

Aside from that, as a painter, McKenna portrays animals in many series of his works, he utilises domestic animal to stress the nature/urban dualism, it furthermore shows the lost pieces of animals and human beings.

“Evidently animals have been a significant subject in my work. “

“The first, and possibly the major reason, might simply be that I love animals, particularly the ones I have had close experience with; Dogs, Cats, Horses and Birds. I have lived in Suburban areas in cities my whole life, so these are the kind of animals I have had most particularly contact with. The way I work, the manner of drawings and paintings, have really just evolved to the way they are. “

“I work quickly and I suppose you could say I try to get the essence of the particular animal I am painting. “

I enjoy the process of painting and things often just evolve out of this simple and direct approach to ‘doing’. I feel an empathy for the animals that are part of our lives and the many rolls they fill, but it is not impossible to ever know what goes on in their minds, or how indeed they function. I feel the animals that I paint are a lot more complex then they are generally perceived.

Noel McKenna, Scene from Iran, © Courtesy of the artist and mothers tankstation

The domestic animals and plants are utilized as a key factor to reflect on the urban life in Noel McKenna’s works: natural/ artificial, animal/urban landscape, most of them are isolated, and looks like they are always waiting for something/ someone. what makes Noel McKenna decide to draw them down?

“My painted animals are generally domestic and, as such, are under our control. While this does not necessarily mean they are doomed to a sad life, they have undeniably lost their ‘wildness’. I believe they still possess this deep within their minds, though instinctual traces of origin, and this is refracted as a kind of melancholy in the eyes of our pets, which I sense, or think I see, when I look in them.”

Art making has been asserted as a way of living the life by the artist, the desire of recording what he sees on daily basis is even more urgent to create epic, magnified truth. The texture of his painting is somehow subtle while he depicts some unknown moment that is going to disappear in the next second, as if it passes, the world will no longer be the same.