Jo McGonigal: Duet

Jo McGonigal is a Brtitish artist who focuses on hybridised forms of painting. In particular, her work explores how “the compositional and material components of painting affect the experiential basis of the viewer.” It’s not about the meaning the art may have, but how that work functions, in other words “what it does” (source Rogue Artist Studios).

I’ve only seen one of McGonigal’s creations and I found it impressive. It was made using nothing more than a simple, mass produced paper bag patterned with bright pink stripes. McGonigal had transformed it by scanning the bag and then printing the scanned over its source. Transfixed I was, by its presence.

Duet (2013), scan of pink bag printed on pink bag, 18 x 12.5 cm, Image credit: Stephen Iles

I came across this work in Dublin. Curator Paul McAree had included it in his group exhibition Housing a Pig at Flood. In the text accompanying the exhibition McAree described her practice’s course as “a route through abstraction as a readymade construction and its potential reproducibility…” (source Past 8 – Housing a Pig).

What made the work so interesting for me is the tension it conveys. It exists in a state of duality. Not only does it maintain its authentic, or material, presence, it also – on the self same body – carries an approximation, or image, of itself. (Would anyone ever commission the production of a life size portrait and then have that portrait – perhaps in the form of some kind of translucent mask – applied over their very own face?) The upshot is that it speaks of the imperfection inherent to the transfer of data and processes of replication.

But there is more…. The object has also been puffed up to illustrate its volumetric aspect, to show how it can occupy space. And the material’s capability at physical memory ensures that it holds that shape. In this regard the work speaks of another contradictory condition. It is empty and full at the same time. Jim Ricks sums it up nicely: “…commonly used for something like sweets or postcards… the work by Jo McGonigle, has its mouth open, and so becomes structural. It appears to be a simple gesture, but nonetheless beautiful – a found object (source Shower of Kunst).



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