Jock McFadyen ‘The Ability to Cling....'

August 2012

Publication: The Times

Jock McFadyen

‘The Ability to Cling....'

Bourne Fine Art



In an etching, which lends its title to this important retrospective of the work of Jock McFadyen – dating from 1977 to the present – a woman sitting on a bus vomits onto the neck of another passenger while ramming her fist between her legs.  It’s a brutal yet comedic scene, which might be witnessed, on the top deck of any bus in any British city on a Saturday night, especially in the less salubrious urban settings that McFadyen favours as subject matter, and where he can appear to be spiritually and geographically at home.


Below the image are the words:




Here McFadyen gives the impression of invoking graffiti and the work of Jean Dubuffet….but there is more to his choice of typography, punctuation and words (and their meaning) than such a cursory observation would suggest.


Perhaps McFadyen is asserting that in order to retain his or her integrity the artist must not shirk away from the plethora of painful, ugly, frightening or downright sordid imagery and acts which the world presents. Such an approach is just as much a moral stance as an aesthetic one. In some respects McFadyen’s work recalls that of the German expressionists such as Georg Grosz, Otto Dix and Max Beckmann.


At the beginning of the 1990s the figure began to feature increasingly less in McFadyen’s work, to be replaced by buildings, cityscapes and urban vistas. But as well as a preoccupation with the likes of Leith and the East End of London, McFadyen, like his sometime collaborator, Will Self, ventured north to Orkney and the Hebrides. In ‘From Jura Looking West’ the results as quite simply beautiful: a calm, delicate study in blues and pinks of shore life, sea and sky.


The divergence is welcome, creating a tension and a balance while demonstrating the range of this talented and intelligent painter.