Jack McGarrity

Jack McGarrity trained at the Glasgow School of Art, close to where he grew up in the West of Scotland, before moving to London to start at the Royal Drawing School. His works on paper are a hybrid of painting, drawing and collage of small everyday moments mixed with the high drama of cinema and the ambiguity of memory.

At the root of Jack’s practice is observational drawing. He makes quick sketches of anything that catches his eye when walking around London, in his home, the studio, flitting through magazines or old catalogues, or watching films and TV.

‘I think I’m usually just interested in things that look just a fraction out of place. Kind of the ‘uncanny valley’ idea. I’m drawn to quite mundane things even in quite fantastical films. I’m becoming more and more interested in the power objects have to represent human experience’

Back in the studio he picks out promising sketches to develop it into larger works. His methods of making are as various as his sources, working with gouache, pastel, oils, coloured pencils and collage.

Drawing from the old masters in museums is crucial to his practice. A residency at the Prado in Madrid two years ago spent drawing from Goya and Ribera was formative and since moving to London he regularly visits the National Gallery to draw from their collection. Jack has an instinctive and notably contemporary handling of material and colour but the time spent making detailed drawings of old master work underlines his current practice. His compositions and remarkably confident draughtsmanship are grounded in this discipline.

Jack joins a great tradition of story telling in paint and can be seen as part of a revival of figurative painting in contemporary practices.

Since 2016 we have supported an annual emerging talent programme that champions artists at the beginning of their career. The programme has seen four years of burgeoning talent grow into established creative strength with Messums and elsewhere.
We first encountered Jack McGarrity’s work in the midst of his post graduate year at the Royal Drawing School. Sifting through a stack of quick sketches and collages mixed with prolonged works we were struck by the strength of his draughtsmanship and the ease with which he pulls different imagery, techniques, and materials into something coherent and new. The criteria for our Emerging Talents Programme is one of talent in terms of making and originality in narrative- both were clearly evident in this small selection of pictures.
There is real visual excitement in these pictures, with everyday moments in the studio, shopping centres, London streets and from childhood memories inflected by a magical realism. The colours are jewel-like and often surprising, and a visual playfulness runs through the collection. However, it his craftsmanship that elevates the pictures. His understanding of colour and composition, learnt from sketching the old masters, and the strength of his drawing is a timeless marker of lasting quality.



Jack McGarrity

[ 1995
- Present ]
Jack McGarrity trained at the Glasgow School of Art, close to where he grew up in the West of Scotland, before moving to London to start at the Royal Drawing School. In 2018 he attended a two month residency at the Museo del Prado in Madrid having been awarded the Richard Ford Award and a year later spent three months in Florence for the John Kinross Award. 

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