Curatorial Art Practice in London
Within this economy birth and death lose some of their absolute quality and a greater dynamic becomes apparent, a flowing continuum where things form and dissolve to reform and re-dissolve endlessly.
(Artist talk, 43 Inverness Street, London, 2 July 2011)
Born in England in 1961, Chad McCail lives and works in Scotland. After initially studying English Literature at the University of Kent (1979–1983), he moved his attention to fine art and completed a degree at Goldsmiths’ College in London in 1989. Early work from that period reveals his unease about social and state control, as well as a love of the poster as a form of artistic expression.
His artistic work achieved public recognition in 1998, mostly due to his outsized drawings depicting vast scenes of civil disorder. Through the use of an aerial perspective viewpoint and deliberate attention to detail, McCail established his trademark sense of forensic observation. During the 1990s his work was included in prestigious exhibitions, such as the group show Surfacing: Contemporary Drawing (ICA, London, 1998), the Melbourne Biennale in 1999, and in 2000 in the fifth edition of British Art Show, which toured in multiple venues including Edinburgh, Southampton, Cardiff (Centre for Visual Arts, Chapter Arts Centre, Fotogallery, National Museum & Gallery) and Birmingham (Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and Ikon Gallery).
Alongside his large sized works, McCail looked inwards to produce an autobiographical sequence of smaller paintings about growing up. The brightly coloured pictures tell stories of pleasure, love, fear and sexual awakening. These were influenced by the writing of Wilhelm Reich, who was originally a Freudian psychoanalyst in the mid 20th century. In 1927 Reich published The Function of the Orgasm in which he argued that the suppression of the sexual instincts of children through repressive moral education had led to an ‘emotional plague’. Reich’s theories centred on his identification of a primordial cosmic energy, which linked to Freud’s writing on the human libido.
Recent exhibitions include the solo retrospectives Systemic (Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art, Sunderland, 2010) and Chad McCail (Edinburgh Printmakers Workshop, Edinburgh, 2008), as well as the touring exhibition Life is Driven by the Desire for Pleasure (The Grand Duke Jean Museum of Modern Art, Luxemburg, Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade, and MAMCO, Geneva, 2004). McCail’s work is part of several public collections, including the British Council Collection, Fonds Municipal d’Art Contemporain de Geneva, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, the Musée d’Art Moderne Grand Duc Jean in Luxembourg, and the MoMa New York City.