“According to McGee” is a little known independent contemporary art gallery in York. Its credo is based on a self-conscious reaction to the work that has dominated Britain’s art scene in the last twenty years, especially with the rise of YBA’s such as Tracy Emin and Damien Hirst. The common man on the street has oft been sidelined by the self-appointed intelligentsia as simply “not getting” what contemporary art is trying to achieve. And the man in return has criticized the new art as easy, conceptual and quite frankly, boring.I have an active interest in art, and yet have found myself trying to swallow the nonsense we are fed by the likes of Emin – there appears to be no skill in the end work, the aesthetic quality of the art doesn’t match the content. Their is no form, only content, or concept. According to McGee feels that the viewer should be “in thrall” to the work of an artist and the proclamation “I could never do that” is all part of what enacts the event of seeing and exploring art.
This opposition to “ideas over skill” and “concepts over rigour” may manifest itself in the new exhibition, “London and York: Remastered.” The gallery explores the monolithic idea of the city of York in response to perceived notions of London. The gallery and artist, Richard Barnes, hope to present to the city work which captures York’s “baroque bombast” as well as showcasing its innate “fluid, feminine sense of fun.” Barnes, highly praised by Aesthetica magazine for his paintings of the Minster has a distinctive expressionist style. Big colours and dripping oils are essential to his mode, and make city paintings new and exciting.
Barnes has been in York since 1984. He has painted the Bronte-esque Yorkshire landscapes as well as exploring the city – bright lights, visual excitement, gaudy architecture. Barnes’ PhD, completed in 2006 allowed him to play with digital intervention in traditional painting practice. The fusion of his digital work and his more traditional hand drawn canvasses makes for an interesting experiment in the pursuit of “the expressed” behind “the seen.”
To see some of Barnes’ work, visit “According to McGee on the 11 August to the 3 of September and see if the “I could never do that” ethos lives up to its hype.