Artist in Focus:
The Library Exhibitions
Poplar Union houses a rolling calendar of exhibitions displayed across The Library walls. In-keeping with our ethos of community engagement, we utilise our flexi-library space and provide a platform for up-and-coming artists both from within, and beyond the immediate locale.
Throughout our Artist in Focus series, we will be taking a closer look at each featured artist, and their work. Since July 2017, the space has housed screen prints by artist L.A. MacDonald, whose work is explored below.
The Artist: L.A. MacDonald
Prior to starting art school in 2016, L.A. MacDonald spent decades working in a supermarket. MacDonald’s mother died when she was only 13, which meant she had to go and live with her grandparents. Prior to this tragic event, MacDonald’s mother worked as an usherette at the local cinema in the evenings while her grandparents cared for her daughter. As a treat, MacDonald was allowed to watch the news on TV before she went to bed. This fascinated her, giving her a glimpse of an adult world.
The Lord Lucan scandal was one of the subjects she best remembered from that time. This probably began her particular fascination with icons of the 20th century. There seems to be a connection or parallel between MacDonald’s personal story and her work. Her mother died too soon, as did many of the celebrities she has made work about.
“MacDonald’s work forms a bridge spanning the void between public images and private lives, celebrity and intimacy.”
MacDonald doesn’t over concern herself with the formal elements in her work. The experience of working in the print-room has provided a medium and a language that she is comfortable with. The materials and surfaces she uses are made from freely available things found in and around the print room.
L.A. MacDonald’s images are screen prints on found paper including tissue, photographic studio backdrops and used cardboard boxes. They are nostalgic works screen-printed with obvious references to Warhol and the 1960s; the colours are strong and vibrant in contrast to the graininess of the original photographs.
These are images taken from photographs of the mid 20th Century. Churchill’s portrait painted by Sutherland, famously destroyed, a representation that Churchill was so uncomfortable with.
- The death of Donald Campbell captured in Bluebird’s moment of crashing.
- John Lennon captured giving an autograph to his killer moments before he killed him.
- The confident iconic Marilyn Monroe contrasted with her lonely death.
These images are made potent again, despite the familiarity of the originals. Perhaps this is because of the contrast between the simplicity and physical vulnerability of the objects made, and the very strong subjects. The work is often made of intense apocalyptic colour applied to such delicate, thin layers of tissue paper. These large works are hung in the gallery unframed made up of several sheets overlaid in partially transparent layers.
These works seem to evoke real feelings in the viewer, somehow these subjects are given new life, thus linking the viewer with the humanity and tragedy of past real events. MacDonald’s work forms a bridge spanning the void between public images and private lives, celebrity and intimacy.
Credit, and thanks to Amanda Danicic, Senior Lecturer and Programme Director at the University of East London for this contribution.
* Please join us on Friday 3 November, 3pm-6pm for the open day of our upcoming exhibition, Another Crossing, by artists Giovanna Del Sarto and Bern O’Donoghue, which examines the European humanitarian crisis through a combination of photography, installation, and discussion. Light refreshments provided.