Workplace Gateshead is delighted to present Auf Wiedersehen, a solo exhibition of new and existing work by Robert McNally. It is McNally's first exhibition in his hometown of Gateshead and first UK solo exhibition outside of London.
McNally creates complex drawings from memory, mediating thought and emotions into a world far from the language of words. His layered drawings simultaneously echo the density found in the paintings by Hieronymus Bosch and the absurd, chaotic and confrontational narratives in the videos and installations of Paul McCarthy.
Drawn from mass-media and news coverage McNally employs satire, parable, and allegory to comment upon the strangeness of contemporary culture. Threads of stories unravel and combine into fluent, linear, pictorial fictions - Truth and its construction is at the heart of McNally’s work alongside hypocrisy, anachronism, ambivalence, and the fine line between faith and understanding. McNally's technique employs similar ruses, tricking the eye, and confounding the viewer.
Art has similarities to the mechanics of mysticism, the currency and value being largely subjective, the effect questionable and the interpretation often so utterly broad as to render it almost meaningless. But I am able to live by art's honesty that it is man made and that I don't need a medium to explain it to me.
For his exhibition at Workplace Gateshead, McNally brings together works that examine the extremities of our culture. From the perspective of an 'ex-pat' Geordie artist currently living and working in cosmopolitan Berlin, McNally particularly and directly confronts the absurdity of Britishness.
Blackeye Fridays 2016 depicts the carnage of the most popular night in the year for office and factory Christmas parties, which consequently makes it one of the busiest nights in the year for ambulances and the police in the UK. A wild scene of bulging muscles, flailing clenched fists, spilt drinks, and flying high heeled shoes is played out to a carnivalesque backdrop of revelers and vacant drunken faces.
Another work shows an apparently medieval scene of drink and debauchery, titled Inselaffen (alternative ending to the Bayeux tapestry No.1) 2017. The word Inselaffen translates as 'Island monkeys' or 'island oafs' and refers to the German (and other European countries) stereotypical image of the English as heavy drinking, violent, criminalistic and yobbish. Characteristics of the English regularly witnessed by Europeans when visiting the UK, whilst on holiday elsewhere, or at football matches. German people offer this behavior as evidence to a tongue in cheek theory that evolution stalled on the island of Great Britain. However on closer inspection this work takes a far more serious and critical position, as we see the body of murdered Labour Party politician Jo Cox lying seemingly unnoticed as the masses complain about people 'coming over here, stealing our jobs'.