THE PAINTING YEAR 2 : Iris McConnell & Veronika McKerrell - 3D virtual exhibition by The Essential School of Painting

THE PAINTING YEAR 2 : Iris McConnell & Veronika McKerrell

Tue, 09/07/2021 to Mon, 02/07/2022

curated by:

My paintings set out to work their way around different aspects of my identity, often rooted in memories from my youth, and centred around my evolving relationship to London, the city I grew up in and where I have lived my whole life. Although my paintings are predominantly intended to be set in London, the outcome often portrays an in-between world; my short-sighted view of reality. The act of documentation in sketchbooks is integral to my process when developing ideas and composition; I capture the excitement of the city via people on the street, rubbish, buildings, and everyday sightings.

The past year at The Essential School Of Painting has been a transformative time for my work. I began by working from a range of sources, notably life drawing, texts by Virginia Wolf, and Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights”. While making these experiments, naturally subjects I am drawn to started to make their way into my paintings. “Reoccurring Dream” was the first work I made from memory, recalling a dream I had as a child as a consequence of my overprotection towards the safety of my childhood toys. “Magic” came afterwards, a memory of my father and I performing a ventriloquist act; ventriloquism is something I’ve since become fascinated with.

All of these works have autobiographical origins, yet as the paintings come to life, their characters take on new personas forming an imagined story, open to interpretation. Towards the latter half of the year studying at ESOP, my sense of place became heightened as I begun to focus on the chaotic world immediately surrounding where I live in East London. Throughout the lockdown in 2020, the streets where I lived were desolate, and when things started opening up I felt the need to express my claustrophobic and overwhelmed state of mind. I have an ambivalent yet overriding love for the city, which is something I wanted to portray in these paintings.

It is important for me to let my disposition determine the outcome of the work, and the materials and application I work with. I do not feel confined to any aesthetic or theme, and often the most important thing that comes of my painting is its sense of immediacy; throughout my practice it is the colour, shape, and line that have the most immediate effect. The most exciting thing about painting to me is the act of mark making, and how marks lead to emotion and ideas; part of what drives me is my desire to make bold decisions. The unexpected, be it via theme or composition, or placing is something I like to put at the forefront of my work.

My subject matter is the relationship between physical and spiritual identity. The transformation and atonement of the soul is deeply rooted in my own Eastern European identity and Orthodox cultural heritage. I look to Anselm Kiefer, Nicola Samori and Andrew Wyeth for inspiration.
The physical aspect of my paintings: gestures, marks, textures and materials, are key components in my intuitive practice.
Our bodies are the most complex and efficient structure, being truly the only physical mass we will ever inhabit. The body accumulates life experiences and expresses all range of emotions. Is physical appearance and condition the only expression of the soul in life and death? Where do we exist, how do we build the space around us, and how do we fit into the natural landscape? How do I feel about it?
Figure and Portraiture
I explore identity through the more abstract process of individuation, and how this process shifts continually, depending on moment and context. I am fascinated by the way in which we regenerate our own stories, continually shifting our narrative in order to make sense of the present.

THE PAINTING YEAR 2 is for artists looking to advance their practice, developing their skills and content whilst being guided by experienced and celebrated painters Dan Coombs, Melissa Kimes and Guy Allott. Much of the work was produced this year via Zoom over lockdown when the tutors and artists still managed brilliantly to find ways to work from imagination, photography, story-telling and other sources. The Painting Year 2 had two groups on different days Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The artists actively engaged with contemporary and art historical themes plus painting language, opening doors to untried possibilities

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