A Harmony of Opposites is a forthright presentation that displays toughness and a clear agenda to accept and utilise imbalance and chance to render the viewer slightly unsteady. The mind naturally searches for symmetry and order and McKenna seeks to confound this instinct. Brushes and stubs of charcoal may be lashed to the end of long sticks and work done in rapid bursts. Passages are blanked out and readdressed through repeat returns, building up layers of acrylic, spray paint, house paint, charcoal and pencil upon the canvas.
“You try and find that moment and the rest of it doesn’t matter. Energetics - that’s all it is. You don’t want to be in it. That’s why I use the stick because I’m just the channeller.”
Although the images are essentially abstract – where marks are energy and colour is light – there may be figurative elements buried within the canvas as the artist utilises forays into the landscape to charge her energies, and references from the landscape inhabit the compositions by stealth.
Working between the UK and Spain, a number of works in A Harmony of Opposites were started in the hot dust of Andalusia. The high white light of the South is apparent throughout the canvases and drawings – a sense that is heightened by deep black charcoal marks with sporadic dabs of blazing colour, often overlaid with washed out white to knock it back, creating a hazy impression. The two large framed drawings, made in Sussex, are from a sequence of line works that are extremely confident. The ground is set, the line is drawn, the work is finished.
McKenna states that within her work she is ‘trying to find a simplicity and a charge’ and this charge is what makes these painting compelling. The energy is not settled but moving, and when the world seems fragmented and chaotic McKenna’s paintings have a reflected, disruptive force.
McKenna completed an MA in Fashion under Louise Wilson at Central St Martins. She has exhibited in group exhibitions in the UK and Europe and has work in many private collections.
(The Gallery will be closed through August and re-opens on 8 September with 'Birds' - a solo exhibition by New York artist Ruth Marten).