John McDonald 1

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John McDonald


First Floor


John McDonald Artist Statement
Butterfly Cry
Broken… Broke
Beautiful Burden
Cry… Goodbye
Lie, Lay, Laid

John McDonald, who paints with unashamed passion and pathos, is best known for Butterfly Cry, a series of portraits of Frida Kahlo. John’s background in theatre is evident in his ambitious installation, and paintings where a staged scene is set, and a dramatis personae is created.

An unusual colourist John is concerned with the psychological meanings of colour, and often plays with semantics through colour bursting through, or bleeding out of ‘monochrome’ works.

Born in a Glasgow tenement, John left school with a piece of paper (no certificates) stating that he was deaf and would be best employed in a noisy environment as everyone would be similarly disadvantaged.

Following a decade of such work, John’s real education began: in a Merseyside Unemployed Resource Centre. In becoming mentally astute in the law, politics and history that inform welfare work, he found, with naivety, himself.

John’s practice is informed by the dual passions of his life: a passion for creative arts, and passionate campaigning for social justice. John’s painting is in a socially critical tradition, examining poverty, religion, gender politics, disability, and human relationships.

John’s painting is both the catalyst and the fruition of a personal journey towards peace. The process epitomises that pendulum swing from individuality (deaf isolation) to a need to be related.

“I commenced my career as an artist from a place of physical and mental pain, with my Butterfly Cry series introducing a narrative that conveys suffering…. becoming beauty
This is a narrative I am pushing further now, testing the power of empathy for a fuller version of humanity, which is muddled, contradictory and fragmented”.

I’ve come through my Dark, Dark, Dark period,
And it’s my painting that’s bringing me Light, Light, Light