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  •  Installation Shots From: Pangaea: New Art From Africa And Latin America
    Pangaea: New Art From Africa And Latin America
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Current Exhibition

Alastair MacKinven EXHIBITED AT THE SAATCHI GALLERY

Jerking Off The Dog to Feed The Cat

Jerking Off The Dog to Feed The Cat

Jerking Off The Dog to Feed The Cat

Jerking Off The Dog to Feed The Cat

Alastair MacKinven
Jerking Off The Dog to Feed The Cat

2008

Installation of 16 oil on canvas paintings

Dimensions variable
Jerking Off The Dog To Feed The Cat is comprised of 16 paintings of 1960s agitprop posters sourced from diverse and conflicting causes. Their scale is random and denotes no significance, and their ordering is purely aesthetic. By rendering them in greyscale, and in increasingly deteriorating gestures, MacKinven opens up spaces for possibility between their form and meaning. In repainting propaganda designs, MacKinven takes a performative role as an artist. Inspired by the structural game-play of Jasper Johns, who painted the words of colours in their opposing hues, MacKinven’s black and white palette similarly neutralises the sentiment of his logos. This approach to making establishes a ‘clean’ contextual foundation from which the artist can explore his own stance. As MacKinven explains, “It allows me the possibility to paint from every political position. It’s a way for me to do feminist, right wing, or black power painting.”
Black Is Beautiful, So Is White, So Is..
Alastair MacKinven
Black Is Beautiful, So Is White, So Is..

2008

Oil on canvas

195 x 165 cm
Black Is Beautiful was the first painting made for MacKinven’s large work Jerking Off The Dog To Feed The Cat: its concept and aesthetic are key to approaching the series as a whole. Black Is Beautiful is a painted oversized reproduction of a 60s civil rights poster promoting racial equality; the text has been reordered from the original design, which has brightly coloured graphics. By recreating the image in black and white tones, and distorting it through expressionistic brushwork, MacKinven strips the slogan of its history and meaning to co-opt it for his own artistic use. Borrowing from the image’s embedded utopian hopes and fervour, MacKinven’s monochrome palette renders these as degraded and detached. Their obsolescence and emptiness exudes the disquiet of lingering power.
Excellent (With A Flourish Of Adjectives About The Zeitgeist)
Alastair MacKinven
Excellent (With A Flourish Of Adjectives About The Zeitgeist)

2008

Oil on canvas

200 x 176 cm
Excellent... is a progression from a body of work where the canvases are both paintings and their own reviews. In the original series the images ranged from one to five stars in a parody of newspaper art column ratings. When MacKinven first sold these paintings he set the price according to the work’s assigned ‘critical value’, with one star paintings – or complete pans – selling for as low as £50; Excellent... is, in every way, an excellent painting. Executed on unprimed linen, its grid-based composition is measured according to the Financial Times’s layout template (‘worse’ paintings took their scaling from ‘lesser’ newspapers, with one star canvases based on free commuter papers). These lines form the under-painting, which bleeds through the surface with lingering authoritarian presence, as thin veils of white hue, carefully painted ‘within the lines’, humorously evoke the hallowed aura of abstract expressionism.
Andway Isthay Oreverfay
Alastair MacKinven
Andway Isthay Oreverfay

2008

Oil on canvas

205 x 205 cm
MacKinven’s Andway Isthay Oreverthay is part of his Et Sick In Infinitum (End Is Forever) series. Using a model of a Penrose staircase, an impossible architectural diagram where stairs circle in continuous ascendancy (popularised in a drawing by Escher), MacKinven adapts this motif as a critical metaphor for the way galleries use recursivity in their curatorial practices and exhibition design: its effects on the way the public is made to ‘understand’ art, and the skewed history this creates through continuous self-reference. The scale of these works give the gallery a disorientating effect, overlaying MacKinven’s painted architecture on the experience of real space: as the viewers move around in the gallery their paths replicate the maddening maze in the images.
Et Sick In Infinitum
Alastair MacKinven
Et Sick In Infinitum

2007

Oil on canvas

210 x 210 cm
Only one of the Et Sick In Infinitum paintings depicts an exact Penrose staircase, the others distort the model in varying degrees, making the original more abstract and warped, topsy-turvy and unstable. Their painfully disjointed conveyor belt-like motif mirrors how MacKinven perceives the gallery space in which they are hung: a room showing artworks (each individual and unrelated in their own right) that guides the audience, as MacKinven describes, “like decrepit handicaps,” through a predesigned route of viewing experience. These paintings were originally installed with handrails and grab bars that highlighted the viewer’s performance as they unwittingly took on the roles of Escher’s famous figures, eternally pacing a go-nowhere path and its metaphor for time’s passage and aging; they were also conceived to assist the viewer in negotiating the discombobulating formal qualities of the paintings.
Et Sic In Infinitum
Alastair MacKinven
Et Sic In Infinitum

2008

Oil on canvas

210 x 210 cm
Et Sic In Infinitum creates an optical illusion that is the painting equivalent to building a tower in quicksand. MacKinven’s architectural form sits Bastille-like centre stage, a fortress of concrete hues, striated and stacked, thick impasto and sluices of thin wash giving it a weathered industrial appearance. Crowned by off-kilter tiles, with fierce angled trajectory, the staircase appears to be continuously building itself in a desperate race for its own survival. MacKinven’s composition, with its constructed deception of mass and weight, is undermined by its own foundation: a terrain of delicately diaphanous oil-mist hues scarcely covering an under-painted grid. The faint linear squares instantly flat-pack the painting, revealing all as mere plan or projection; their endless repetition an application of measurable maths, disproving the assertion of chaotic geometry.
Et Sick In Infinitum [sic]
Alastair MacKinven
Et Sick In Infinitum [sic]

2008

Oil on canvas

210 x 210 cm
MacKinven reveals the true mastery of his craft in these canvases. In Et Sick In Infinitum [sic] the form of MacKinven’s infinite staircase becomes almost completely collapsed; its jagged mass a clunky fossilised relic of rich planar hues and tabular geometric shapes, wittily exposing the image’s aspirational 3D pretence. MacKinven’s painting is a conceptualist’s game: mapping out impossible space on a flat picture plane, depth alluded to by tone, veils of drips, and shadowy smudges, striving for concrete form within repressive outlines and their precarious cubic blueprint. Set against a background of earthy browns and pale sky-ish blue, expansive landscape is suggested only to be dashed, its promising horizon compressed between a headline metered in alphabet and stencil-like graphics below, subverting the disorientating spectacle with oblate assurance.
Portrait Of Thomas Jefferson As Karl Marx
Alastair MacKinven
Portrait Of Thomas Jefferson As Karl Marx

2009

Collage, folded posters

43 x 35 cm
MacKinven’s Jefferson series is comprised of folded posters awkwardly crammed into frames. When outspread the signs each reveal a portrait, bought by MacKinven, of a socialist philosopher. The concept of these works was inspired by the first American president Thomas Jefferson: a true revolutionary, Jefferson had many pastimes –ranging from architecture to palaeontology – which were approached with utopian zeal, emphasising progress and the correction of history’s flaws. In 1819, Jefferson completed his own version of The Bible, from which he edited out anything that did not support his own ideological beliefs. In Portrait of Thomas Jefferson as Karl Marx, MacKinven’s portrait of Marx is crumpled to create a crudely cropped caricature. MacKinven feels Marx is often cited only in part by people who ‘pick and choose’ convenient aspects of socialism to correspond with their petit bourgeois lifestyles.
Portrait Of Thomas Jefferson As Friedrich Engels
Alastair MacKinven
Portrait Of Thomas Jefferson As Friedrich Engels

2009

Collage, folded posters

43 x 35 cm
By incorporating readymade posters MacKinven’s Jefferson series points to an absurdity in the way visual culture and its inherent political ideas are continuously repackaged for contemporary (mis)use. In Portrait of Thomas Jefferson As Friederich Engels, the poster’s image is of a painting of an 1850 photograph, represented in the dramatic and imperial neo-classical style of early 19th-century revolutionary artists such as Jacques Louis David and Rembrant Peale, the latter of which immortalised Thomas Jefferson; its ordered naturalism, at that time, was synonymous with the republicanism and rational intellect of the ancient Greeks. From this consumerised reproduction, MacKinven crafts a twisted and contorted portrait that conceptually merges the forefathers of communism and today’s hyper-capitalism, addressing selective appropriation of ideology, and history’s romanticised cycles and ill-fitting precedent.
Pop Was The Sound Of The Bubble Bursting
Alastair MacKinven
Pop Was The Sound Of The Bubble Bursting

2009

Screeprint and oil on canvas

220 x 160 cm
Alastair MacKinven adopts a conceptual approach to painting. His abstracted canvases operate as a critical language to deconstruct ideas of power within the art system – the role of the artist, how art is displayed and mediated to the viewer by galleries, and is transacted through the art market and mass media. Pop Was The Sound Of The Bubble Bursting is part of a series called Abstract Capitalist Realism, that deals with issues of art and economy. The ornamental motifs repeated throughout these works are in fact taken from the data protection patterns that line the envelopes of MacKinven’s utility bills and bank statements. MacKinven appropriates the genre of decorative painting as a witty provocation or game, humorously exposing the dilemma of artists perpetually striving for creative integrity while being simultaneously, by default, involved with the practical realities of the art market. MacKinven’s ‘pop’ reference is a pun: on pop as an art movement, the critical systems used to define artistic ‘worth’, and the unsustainable inflation of economic hype.
South Of Heaven
Alastair MacKinven
South Of Heaven

2009

Screeprint and oil on canvas

220 x 160 cm
South of Heaven takes its decadent paisley patterning from MacKinven’s British Gas bill. Its repeated op art design speaks of both pop’s dazzling allure and debt’s endless aggregation, ironically framing an artist’s creative investment within the venture of economically driven existence. As MacKinven explains, “The one true reality under capitalism is paying to live, and that is the harshest reality, which forces one to do all kinds of horrors, like paint for example.” Far from the merely decorative art that MacKinven parodies, South of Heaven wields an authoritative complexity in its aesthetics. Abstract Capitalist Realism, the title of the series to which this painting belongs, flirts between ideas of Abstraction and Pop, citing Capitalist Realism, an art movement in Germany that paralleled early pop and presented a viable alternative to the commodity fetishism which became the hallmark of the genre. Combining the mechanised sheen of silkscreen with the subtle nuances of gestural painting, the surface of the painting emanates a disquieting formal tension, as well as ideological associations to the various art historical periods to which it refers.






Other artists in
NEWSPEAK: BRITISH ART NOW

Caroline Achaintre    Tasha Amini    Hurvin Anderson    Maurizio Anzeri    Jonathan Baldock    Anna Barriball    Steve Bishop    Karla Black    Lynette Yiadom Boakye    Pablo Bronstein    Alan Brooks    Peter Linde Busk    Carla Busuttil    Nicholas Byrne    Gareth Cadwallader    Juliana Cerqueira Leite    Spartacus Chetwynd    Steven Claydon    Clarisse d'Arcimoles    William Daniels    Matthew Darbyshire    Graham Durward    Tim Ellis    Tom Ellis    Richard Evans    Tessa Farmer    Marcus Foster    Robert Fry    Ximena Garrido-Lecca    Jaime Gili    Nick Goss    Luke Gottelier    Kate Groobey    Anthea Hamilton    Anne Hardy    Gabriel Hartley    Nicholas Hatfull    Iain Hetherington    Alexander Hoda    Sigrid Holmwood    Systems House    James Howard    Graham Hudson    Dean Hughes    Des Hughes    Mustafa Hulusi    Paul Johnson    Edward Kay    Idris Khan    Scott King    Ansel Krut     littlewhitehead    Alastair MacKinven    Goshka Macuga    Ryan Mosley    Rupert Norfolk    Arif Ozakca    Mark Pearson    Dan Perfect    Peter Peri    Olivia Plender    Henrijs Preiss    Ged Quinn    Clunie Reid    Barry Reigate    Luke Rudolf    Maaike Schoorel    Daniel Silver    David Brian Smith    Renee So    Fergal Stapleton    Clare Stephenson    Caragh Thuring    Phoebe Unwin    Donald Urquhart    Jonathan Wateridge    John Wynne    Toby Ziegler

Alastair MacKinven's BIOGRAPHY

Alastair MacKinven
1971
Born in Clatterbridge

Lives and works in London


SOLO EXHIBITIONS


2009
Abstract Capitalism-Dark Side of the Wall, Galerie Rüdiger Schöttle, Munich
Alastair MacKinven Performances 2006-2009, Focal Point Gallery

2008
0-60, ET SIC IN INFINITUM AGAIN, ICA, London

2007
Solo Project, Liste 07, Basel

2006
Jerking Off The Dog To Feed The Cat, HOTEL Gallery, London

2004
Cünst - Haunted by the Future: Tropicana Cinema, part of the Raindance Film Festival, London, UK

1997
Alastair Mackinven: New Gallery, Calgary, Canada

1996
Alastair Mackinven with James Pyman: Cubit Gallery, London

1995
If you Could Lick my Heart Surely it Would Poison You: Galleri Campbells Occasionally, Copenhagen, Denmark

1994
Revenge, Greed, and Blackmail: Edmonton Art Gallery, Edmonton, Canada

1993
Two Inches Longer: Truck, Calgary, Canada


GROUP EXHIBITIONS


2008
That’s Not How I Remember It, Anna Helwing Gallery, Los Angeles Strange
Alastair Mackinven's New Chinese Art, Nang Gallery, London
Novel, Bibliothekswohnung Anna-Catherina Gebbers, Berlin
Zodiac 3000, The Reach of Tomorrow, curated by Dr Richard Laing and Karen Novotny with Josephine Pryde, Merlin Carpenter, Dan Mitchell, Racheal Reupke, the JG Ballard Centre of Psycopathological Research, International Project Space Birmingham
Horsebit Cocktail, Galerie Dennis Kimmerich, Düsseldorf
Strange Events Permit Themselves the Luxury of Occurring, Camden Arts Centre, London
Thames Mudlarks, CTRL Gallery, Houston Texas

2007
The Death Of Affect, curated by Matt Williams, Parade, London,
Gallery Swap, Hotel at Guido Baudach, Berlin

2005
Islands of Glory in Streets Caked With the Faeces of
Decadence: NANG Gallery, with Ben Wallers and Merlin Carpenter, London

2004
Group show: Opposite the Play Ground, London
I Love Music: Creative Growth, Oakland, California, curated by Mathew Higgs

2003
The Frog Show: The Egg, London
Cünst - Séance: Octopad, London

2001
Thomas Helbig and Alastair Mackinven: Trade Apartment, London

1999
Public Opinion Is A Little Girl: Deutsch Britische Freundschaft, London

1998
A to Z: Approach Gallery, London, UK, curated by Matthew Higgs
No Budget Film Festival, MWMWM Gallery, New York
Freaked Out: The Kitchen, London

1997
Art Calls: Copenhagen, Denmark [audio art by telephone]
Honkeytonk: The Kitchen, London
Sentimental Education: Cabinet Gallery, London
Popoccultural 2: Southampton City Art Gallery, Southampton

1996
Update: Turbinehallerne, Copenhagen, Denmark
Embraceable You: Anthony Reynolds Gallery, London

1995
See Through Brain: Transmission Gallery, Glasgow