What a beast, what a man! Meet Mackie, artist

Looking at contemporary art is like panning for gold: once in a while, amidst the drift and dribble, you stumble fortuitously on the shiny stuff, on someone like a Katie Paterson or a George Shaw, say.
On someone like Mackie.

Romeo’s Return, oil on canvas, 153cm x 92cm

Mackie’s subect is “the very average man”, “the frailty and silliness of everything”. There is black humour aplenty: his world is peopled by what look like distinctly shady types but are in fact just men, caught in the act of simply being themselves, ‘blokes‘ ”: the innate slobbishness; the casual aggression; the tribalism; the testosterone-fuelled menace; the unconsidered lusty lip-curl of a lecher. But, as with all work of any worth, it cannot be reduced to simple cartoonish mockery; there is an empathy at play here, a fellow-feeling, an all too honest recognition (in himself?) of the ‘manly’ foibles and ‘frailty’ he so ruthlessly and starkly depicts.

Binge Drink, oil on linen, 100cm x 70cm

This empathy reveals itself formally.
With a background in illustration and design, it comes as no surprise that Mackie’s working process is painstaking, involving detailed preliminary sketching and 3D modelling before committing oil to canvas. His claim to classical Flemish influence is backed up by his realism, his measured palette, his meticulous attention to detail, his observation, his refusal to idealise or romanticise, his concern with the world as it ‘is’: he is a Bosch, or, perhaps more so, a Pieter Bruegel for our times.

Whose Round Is It? oil on canvas, 150cm x 90cm

All of which raises the work, as I said, above mere cartoon or caricature. What we are dealing with is not the stereotypical but the archetypal; a huge difference: moralising versus moral. (Easter Island heads, anyone?) Rather than putting on show a gallery of grotesques, Mackie is, perhaps, asking us to look within. And that includes you too, lady. You may not visually present, but you’re there by implication, in every single time you’ve looked at him and thought, “Bloody idiot!”. Men without women revert effortlessly to type.

A Convenient Streetlamp, oil on canvas, 153cm x 92cm

But what I really like about Mackie is that he loves art, he knows art. The references in his work are myriad, yet completely subsumed and assimilated, made totally his own: the Flemish, yes, but what about surrealists like de Chirico, film noir, Otto Dix (as a very percipient friend, Paul, suggested)? And, of course, with his spot-lighting, his ‘down and dirty’ naturalism, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio? I can’t and won’t speak for the artist, but this is what I see, and I love it.

Mystery and Melancholy of a Street, Giorgio de Chirico

A final word: Mackie may love art, but the modern art world is, maybe,  something else. His take on Champaigne’s Last Supper (1648) : Simon Cowell as Christ, and from left to right, Lucien Freud, Dinos Chapman, Richard Hamilton, Francis Bacon, David Hockey, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst, Jack Vettriano, Rolf Harris, Banksy, Grayson Perry, and Edouard Paolozzi: the Big Boys, the Money Men. A scathing diatribe against the ‘celebritisation’ of culture? Or just a world-weary acknowlegdement that this is simply how things are?

Who’s Judas: The Final 12, oil on canvas, 184cm x 122cm

Vettriano (gah!) appears to come in for some serious flak: see this subversion of (or perverse homage to?) Vettriano’s  Billy Boys, itself a ridiculously romanticised, glamourised, even sexualised take on tribal macho posturing:

Silly Boys, oil on canvas, 168cm x 127cm

The Billy Boys, Jack Vettriano

So there’s Mackie: a man with something to propose and the skill, knowledge and honesty to do so.
I hope you like him as much as I do: he doesn’t give pat answers, he asks questions,  and the ambiguities in his work allow us to take from them what we will: recognition, outraged censure, amusement, or, if not quite pity, at least a kind sympathy for these ‘blokes’ who, amidst the modern pressures of ‘political correctness’, fail so epically at being anything other than their ‘unreconstructed’ selves.
In today’s art scene that makes Mackie, it seems to me, a rare ‘beast’ indeed.


Mackie is showing at Hayhill Gallery, 5a Cork Street, London W1S 3NY, until 28 April 2012.
Mackie’s website: http://www.mackieart.co.uk/

16 thoughts on “What a beast, what a man! Meet Mackie, artist

  1. “There is empathy at play here” I think that’s spot on. I particularly gravitate to the first one, which at first seemed to be a re-rendering of Nobody Home from The Wall [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZkERB6dU_Y] (both of which the internet informs me are likely inspired by Blown Away by Steven Steigman), but upon further review, the piece that tells me he “owns” it, is the butterfly fluttering in the light with him. That’s where I see the empathy you’re speaking of most. It completely changes the piece.

    • Thank you, Andrew; yes indeed, that butterfly. Less ‘obviously’, for me, is how Mackie treads that fine line between ‘silliness’ and ‘ridiculousness’ – the sense that he’s NOT occupying the moral high ground and just taking the mickey; the sense of ‘we’, rather than ‘they’.

  2. “I loved it. Completely succinct and a great articulation of many of my feelings and put better than I ever have. Your art knowledge is fairly spectacular. There isn’t an artist you mentioned that hasn’t hit my path, in a fairly big way.
    (by email)

    I add this mainly because I have a monstrous ego.

  3. Mackie is great. Got to love how he got Simon Cowell and Rolf Harris in the take on Champaigne’s Last Supper. Fabulous.

  4. Great ideas put forward by Mackie unfortunatly he doesn’t really pull it off with the Vetrianno (homage?) he just emphasises the enormous gulf in artistic talent between the two with Mackie coming off a poor second. Lessons in anatomy would be helpful perhaps?

    • Mackie vs Vettriano? Hahaha. To quote Sandy Moffat, head of drawing and painting at Glasgow School of Art, on Vettriano: “He can’t paint, he just colours in.”
      As for anatomy lessons, perhaps Picasso and Matisse could have done with a few.
      Thanks for dropping by, though; I appreciate it.

  5. Pingback: IN-GER-LAND: more Mackie! | t'arthead

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