Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The other McKenna

Kerlin Gallery is delighted to present an exhibition of rarely-seen early works by Stephen McKenna. Painted in the 1960s, when the artist was in his 20s and living in London, the works in this exhibition result from a decade of remarkable creative freedom. (Herewith.)
I am rather taken with this. PG sent it to me because Stephen McKenna was in St Illtyd's (our common alma mater) with him all those years ago. 
Assembling fragments of shape and colour, McKenna’s early abstract paintings adopt a vivid multi-chromatic palette and a dreamlike elasticity. As the decade progresses, the artist begins to introduce the human figure to these scenarios, using spatial illusion to bend linear time and elicit intense psychological drama. Moving from abstraction to figuration with ease, he layers windows within windows, rooms within rooms; suspending the figure in abstract geometric prisms, or splicing it into composite parts. Seldom seen since they were first exhibited, the paintings in the sixties have a vitality and sense of discovery that reverberates across half a century – and are as captivating now as they were upon completion.
We didn't get a lot of that talk when I was there, in the Llanrumney comp it had become.

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