Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction


Peter McDonald
B. 1973
each panel: signed, titled and dated 2003 on the reverse; signed and dated 14/04/03 on the stretcher
acrylic and gouache on canvas, in two parts
each: 221 by 164cm.; 87 by 64 1/2 in.
overall: 221 by 328cm.; 87 by 129in.
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Kate MacGarry, London
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 2004


London, Kate MacGarry, Painting, 2004


Kate MacGarry, Peter Mc Donald: Teaching, Airport, Hair Salon, Bakery, Snooker, Rotterdam 2007, pp. 74-75, illustrated in colour

Catalogue Note

Peter McDonald's work explores the human condition through a brightly coloured world of indeterminate characters presented in imaginary settings. Featureless, balloon-like heads are combined with imagery McDonald has gleaned from newspapers, magazines and everyday scenes, creating a unique pictorial language and a piercing insight into the absurdities and idiosyncrasies of modern society.

Executed in 2003, Painting captures a faceless artist, paintbrush in hand, at work on an oversized rectangular canvas. The rear wall of the imagined studio space is decorated with a medley of candy coloured paintings, while the artist's tools are arranged on a wooden trolley. The inflated ovoid of the figure's head – a trademark of McDonald's artistic vocabulary - along with the elongated canvas on which he paints, stretches across the picture plane in both a visual and physical link between the work's two constituent panels. Taking his inspiration from daily life, McDonald adapts his source imagery into small sketches, which are in turn developed into painted works on paper, before being further refined and distilled when translated onto canvas. As the process evolves, figures morph into ciphers, while colours overlap and merge across the composition. McDonald says of this process, "the transparent effect is an illusion in many cases. I mix the merging colours to produce a see-through effect. Sometimes the heads merge with the background too, which helps to create depth in the picture plane. Visually, this also helps depict the dissolution of boundaries between people and their environment" (the artist writing in: The Observer, 20 September 2009).

Awarded the prestigious John Moores Painting Prize in 2008 for his work Fontana - a depiction of the artist Lucio Fontana slashing an ovoid canvas - McDonald has most recently undertaken a residency at Southwark Underground station in London. The resulting mural, Art for Everybody, is a vibrant and monumental thirty-seven metre frieze inspired by the lively London underground staff and visitors to the nearby Tate Modern. Just as in Painting, the artist's facility for acute observation and intuitive colouring are perfectly captured, culminating in McDonald's trademark combination of irreverence and insight. Indeed, as he himself has observed, "seeing, hearing, feeling – all this gives you a way into some sort of vision" (the artist cited in: The Observer, 20 September 2009). 

Contemporary Art Day Auction