Strings&Twins – Brian McFie
DECEMBER – JANUARY 2019/20
A while back I was approached by my good friend Austin Lally to produce an autobiographical work. I am and always will be deeply grateful to him for this unique and enlightening opportunity. We consulted to and fro as to what form this would take as he had kept the remit very open. As such, the project grew organically and I was given the widest possible scope to develop both conceptually and aesthetically. He has always been very empathetic and considerate with regard to my practice and as such, I was able to think deeply about the twists and turns, ups and downs of a life devoted to music and visual art and to render it in abstract terms. Last year (2018) I was asked by Ross Sinclair to contribute works to an exhibition he was curating called Artists Who Make Music / Musicians Who Make Art. I had made three small ‘combines’ as an homage to Rauschenberg but felt that they lacked a compositional dynamism. One day whilst visiting the hardware store on Victoria Road for cleaning materials, I purchased a large ball of string. When I returned home I wrapped the individual paintings, tying them tightly. The effect was that the straight lines offered by the taught string completely distorted the compositions and provided an alternative dynamic. I found the ﬁnished works much more satisfying. I was keen to incorporate this aspect into the commissioned project knowing that it would provide a ﬁtting metaphor for some aspects of my life. In parallel with developing vehicles for the subversion of my own compositions, I had been (and continue to be) in a process of developing a personal visual language, mostly a balloon shape or cellular object which I repeated over and over, noticing nuances and relationships in each instance. The works on paper exhibited indicate this process and attempt to convey my life path at a spiritual and cellular level. The string appears on the main works, ‘Before’, ‘During’, ‘After’, ‘Beyond’. These refer to a pivotal moment in my story which took place in August 2006. The addition of the string can be read as restraint/constraint / the bondage of ‘self’ in Before and During and the freedom to indulge a new found discipline, in After and Beyond but the works are open to interpretation by the viewer.
This series of paintings is loosely inspired by Robert Rauschenberg’s ‘Combines’, Factum 1 and Factum 2. Painted in 1957, these two mixed media paintings sit together as one work comprising two almost identical pictures. For many years I have been moved by Rauschenberg’s oeuvre but have always been particularly intrigued by the motivation behind this work. In Abstract Expressionism the artist’s mark was absolute. Rauschenberg subverted this precedent by repeating expressionistic marks thus transforming them into stereotypes. I had tried and failed in the past to ﬁnd an idiosyncratic methodology which could be effective in furthering my own examination of the possibilities inherent in this idea. Recently, through the repetition I employ in my sketchbooks, I stumbled on a possible format. These works are from the early stages of a project I foresee running for quite some time. They are in essence, small, near identical abstract expressionist paintings on one piece of paper, they cannot be separated. They consist of a vocabulary of marks which due to their cloning, can be read as tangible surfaces and textures, at this point, in some instances, organic material such as ﬂuids, hair and skin.
On leaving Glasgow School of Art in 1983 with a BA (Hons) Degree in Fine Art, he pursued a successful career in the music business as a guitarist. Early forays to London in the early 80s, cassette demos in hand, secured his ﬁrst band The Week of Wonders a short term singles deal with A&M Records. Shortly afterwards he joined The Big Dish who toured extensively in Britain and Europe and released three critically acclaimed albums before splitting up in 1991, the last Album Satellites yielding the hit single Miss America. McFie then pursued a career as a session musician playing and recording with many artists including Craig Armstrong, The Almighty, Hue & Cry, Stiltskin, The Silencers, The Bluebells, Maggie Reilly, The Christians, Desmond Dekker, James Grant (continues today) and many more. In 2002 he was asked to join Marianne Faithfull’s live band for a world tour lasting into early 2003. He continues to be musically active to this day. Since 2014 he has co-written songs with the chanteuse Louise Reid, performing and recording the fruits of their writing collaboration with Lola in Slacks.
Strings & Twins