Brian McKinnon Kicks Ass

Does anyone else like Brian McKinnon’s art?

I hated Brian McKinnon’s current works on canvas when I first saw them from across the Counihan Gallery at the “Reclaim and Sustain” exhibition. His text based mixed media art looked like awful adolescent arts and craft project with those kids foam letters and ink jet prints stuck to the canvas. I had to force myself to take a closer look and then I realized that they were visually rich, complex and enjoyable.

Brian McKinnon's paintings at the Counihan Gallery

There are slices of cheap ink jet prints of European cemeteries forming columns alternating with strips of industrial enamel paint. This creates a pattern of hypnotic repetition across the canvas to support the text. The process of creating these canvases appears to reflect the history of European colonization of Australian – a cheap, exploitative process to produce some temporary results is mirrored in McKinnon’s bricolage.

“No thought was given to longevity…” McKinnon writes in his artist’s “statement and warning”. Many people living in Australia never intended for Australia to be a permanent residence. Even if they never did, most of Australia’s population arrived planning to exploit the natural resources, become rich and return to their home country. There was and is little thought given to longevity of Australia, it is like the process that McKinnon uses to create these paintings.

And as I write this I realize in the words more understanding of Brian McKinnon’s current work. That the “awful adolescent arts and craft project” inspires and haunts the work of all artists – I had been looking for art that reflected the obsession, invention and the amateur in these art and craft projects. Something kick-ass going beyond being stupid and ugly. Maybe, I like his art because it fits into my agenda, or maybe it is just easy to write about it. I have been looking for art that expresses the horrible racist political situation in Australia.

Brian McKinnon"A Matter of Haste"2011

“Its all about the money the mining our sacred burial sites mean nothing.” In cheap foam letters on McKinnon’s “A Matter of Haste” 2011. That says it.

Brian McKinnon has paintings on exhibition at “Reclaim and Sustain” at the Counihan Gallery and “Girt by Sea” at RMIT School of Art Gallery. I’d seen McKinnon’s earlier paintings before at previous exhibitions at Counihan Gallery – there was one of these paintings in the “Girt by Sea” exhibition at RMIT School of Art Gallery. McKinnon’s earlier paintings are graphically strong but were a bit too much like a protest posters for my taste. “What if…” at “Girt by Sea” rounded out my appreciation of his art, in this work the combination of pattern woodcarving and collage elements of the lid of “Flying Dutchman” tobacco. It invites the speculation what if the Dutch had colonized Australia instead of the British… write an essay about that.

McKinnon’s current paintings provoke so many thoughts ranging from Australian politics to McKinnon’s references to the art of William Blake and Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri. But it is their kick-ass attitude and intensity that hits.


About Mark Holsworth

Writer and artist Mark Holsworth is the author of two books, The Picasso Ransom and Sculptures of Melbourne. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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