Even as a child, I could sense something isn’t right. My art practice is my philosophical enquiry into what. Digging at the margins of history, current affairs, popular culture, and personal memory. Through my studies and research, I have no answers but I learnt to give form to the feeling, I now know to be symptomatic of the meta crisis of late stage capitalism. Constructing speculative history paintings and fiction, past, present, future – what ifs, made in opposition to conflict and control, life colonised by commodity, and rising authoritarianism.

Drawing on the beauty and the absurdity of it all, my storytelling starts with the desire to retrieve histories’ sublated good and recover some of what has been lost or overwritten along the way. The image of history – history painting is my chosen medium. A distant but familiar space where I set my critique. Contemporising the outdated and problematic genre as a new kind of civic space.

My picture events though rooted in Futurism, Dadaism, happenings, and conceptual art, strive for something new, something of our time that replace the material object with temporal acts connecting different temporalities as acts of resistance. Each piece is an elongated moment, where multiple narrative arcs and pluralities, meet. Space where other ways of being become possible.

I approach each piece as a painter; however, I often choose not to paint, finding painting historically not able to convey the complexity and leakiness of my themes. Choosing instead, to build hybrid theatricalities, that fuse traditional processes, with interactive and immersive methodologies, audience participation, with simple technology and broadcast technologies.

I love getting under the skin of my protagonists and giving theory a live beating heart. Allowing myself to be different people all at once and speaking through their voice. In sampling my cast of characters, I am trying to understand what makes them tick and build empathy. It’s worth feeling uncomfortable.

Much like historical painters before me, in the making, there are many creative and technical processes involved. Research is distilled through a lengthy process of writing, collage, drawing, and storyboarding. Drawn together, through iterations of choreography and feedback, always thinking about how I can bring people into relation with provocative ideas in an entertaining way, and bring a radical kindness and inclusiveness to my viewer.  A vast array of objects, handmade costumes, props, sculpture, and text are crafted with precision and slow labour, and animated with photography, green screen, digital video and VFX, and a mix of live and mediated performance, sound, and significantly silence.

From room-sized graphic novels that people can walk around, drawn in pencil, ink on gesso on board, or painted in oil on laser-cut powder-coated steel, brought to life by Arduino circuits and proximity sensors; to 3D animated characters and environments; artist books; collaboration with AI.

Out of the chaos and solitude of the studio to the vibrant control uncontrol of performing live, each piece is threaded through with vulnerability and humour and emanates an unapologetic charm. Tender, provocative, wry, contradictory, and ambiguous – all encompassed by a particular melancholic and determined aesthetic and palette.


The end is where we start from. Essay by art writer and critic Anne McNay.