Andrew James McKay

ArtAscent Silver Artist of the 2022 People call for artists

Andrew James McKay—literal but also fictional—creates planes for his portraits’ imagined and lived experiences. Through his technique of layering pigment and graphite, he seals in the last bit of wonder with film ink and the vivid thoughts of the spectators.

His paintings remind us of our active mind and physical connection to others in their modest being. The melting and recurring colour schemes tickle our thoughts. A similar feeling occurs in the works of Euan Uglow, where the play of colour and poses of the sitters evoke mindfulness and bring back memories of the people most close to us. Taking in the portrait Paint by Numbers, you can observe a woman posing for the artist with her hands above her head. It could easily be interpreted as a happy and light image, but looking just a bit longer, the curiosity of how this person is feeling sneaks up on you. The face is not tensed but not relaxed either, and the eyes give us the best opportunity to create our own story. At first, it may seem like this person is looking directly at the viewer, but she is more looking through the audience, giving us this prickling sensation of not knowing what is going on in her mind. This is one of the exciting aspects of art and portraits specifically; you just never know what the artist or the portrayed person was thinking or feeling in that one moment. We get the chance to dive into our imagination and daydream.

Andrew’s following excerpt of work (Two Portraits) engages you in a different form of wonder: Have I seen these faces before, do they know each other, or is it just a coincidental connection, like locking eyes with a stranger on the subway? One portrait in black and white gives the visual possibility it might have been made 100 years ago, the other in nude shades and rainbow beams, reflecting deep emotions to the outside.

Andrew’s self-portrait (Studio Portrait) sends a calm atmosphere to its viewers: His eyes are closed; the prominent colour is a soft pink, and he is wearing a blue shirt. You can identify some eyeball shapes in the right upper corner, and the connection to daydreaming is easily made again. Still, looking at his features, a slight tension is detectable. Is he thinking of somebody? Who would you think of looking at this portrait?

Andrew James McKay is a Vancouver-based artist. He completed his BFA with honours as a visual art major in 2019 at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design. He has several exhibitions. His latest include “Missives” at the Masters Gallery in Calgary, 2021; “Summer Stories” at Peter Ohler Fine Art in Toronto, 2020; and the “Carmichael Landscape Exhibition” at the Museum of Art & History in Orillia, 2021-22. His available work can be found at the Masters Gallery in Calgary.

Andrew James McKay is the Silver Artist of the ArtAscent People call for artists. To see the full body of work and profile, get a copy of the ArtAscent Art & Literature Journal People issue.

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