Terror and Beauty: Francis Bacon and Henry Moore


ABOVE: Francis Bacon, Portrait of Isabel Rawsthorne, 1966, oil on canvas, 37.1 x 31.2 x 2.3 inches, Tate Collection

BELOW: Henry Moore, Reclining Figure, 1951, plaster cast, 42.5 x 91 x 29.5 inches, Art Gallery of Ontario


This past weekend, I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) to see the Francis Bacon and Henry Moore exhibition.

Titled Terror and Beauty, the show is heavy on the terror, and light on the beauty. Even the Moore’s – which are the prettier of the two – are curated in a manner that draws attention to the ugly within.

This show isn’t for everyone. It’s depressing as hell.

Fortunately for me:

  • I don’t rely on art to make me happy
  • I don’t need art to be pretty
  • I love the dark
  • I love the twisted
  • I love the ugly

I’ve seen many Moore’s, but rarely have I seen a Bacon. That’s because there are very few of them on display in Canada, and that alone, is worth the price of admission.

Some may dislike the curation; others the art. If you’re like me, you’ll like it just fine.

Terror and Beauty: Francis Bacon and Henry Moore is at the AGO until July 20, 2014.

They Said What?

With Dead Head 1991 by Damien Hirst born 1965

ABOVE: Damien Hirst, With Dead Head, 1991, photograph, 22.5 x 30 inches, Tate/National Galleries of Scotland

I love quotes. Oftentimes, they are insightful, informative, and inspirational. The following are none of the above:

“I’m the closest thing to Picasso that you’ll see in this fuckin’ world.” Julian Schnabel

“I can’t wait to get into a position to make really bad art and get away with it.”¬†Damien Hirst

“A lot of my work is about sales.” Jeff Koons

“I’ve nothing to say.” Anish Kapoor

All is not lost. Here’s Ai Weiwei to save the day:

“For me, it is OK as long as I can breathe, as long as my heart is pumping, as long as I can express myself.”

“If my art has nothing to do with people’s pain and sorrow, what is ‘art’ for?”

Thanks Ai.

Defending Conceptualism


ABOVE: Martin Creed, Work No. 876, 2008, cardboard boxes, 42.4 x 23.9 x 18.5 inches

Let’s be honest, a lot of conceptual art is total bullshit. Yeah. I said it.

Don’t get me wrong, concepts are important – maybe even more so than aesthetics – but there’s something to be said for accessibility too.

More often than any other genre, conceptualism is academic, vague, and elitist.

And now, the defense…sort of:

Most of what passes for conceptualism today, isn’t conceptual at all.

In it’s original incarnation, it was actually quite brilliant…and necessary…and noble.

It fought against the commodification of art, it subverted the gallery system, and it called to question the role of the artist, authenticity, and ownership.

By contrast, today’s conceptualists are anything but. They often sell their “concepts” for millions, they’re beloved by the establishment, and the last thing they want to do, is rebel against the system.

The defense rests. Maybe conceptualism should too.


Do’s & Don’ts for the Artist


ABOVE: David McDonough, Black & White, digital photography


Attend art openings and support other artists.

Build an online presence (website, blog and social media).

Have an interest in the art world (locally, nationally and internationally).

Be nice.


Take rejection personally.

Ignore feedback, or worse, take offense.

Make excuses for the lack of your success.

Set unrealistic goals.

Set no goals.

Give up.

Q & A


ABOVE: David McDonough, Darkness, mixed media, 21 x 22.5 x 2 inches

Last October, I was a spotlighted artist on artpromotivate. Here is an excerpt:

What are you trying to convey to viewers through your art?

Truthfully, that really depends on the individual piece, and/or the series in which it was produced.

Virtually everything I create has meaning, and I am glad to explain my reasons. That said, I respect the intelligence of my viewers, and I trust them to draw their own conclusions.

Some works are political; some personal.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration everywhere.

Previously, my work was nature-based. Recently, I have become fascinated with the urban landscape.

As for artists, I love all types of art, and I am constantly reading about, and looking at the works of others.

Do you have a day job?

Like many artists, I am forced to take a day job in order to make ends meet. It is also necessary as I use incredibly expensive materials.

I prefer to not do anything overly creative in my day job, so that I can focus all of my creative energies on my artwork.

If you could live your life over again, would there be anything you would do differently?

I don’t think I’d change much, but I may have gone to art school instead of getting a BA in Sociology.

But is it Art?

ABOVE: Carl Andre, Equivalent VIII, 1966, sculpture, 5 x 27 x 90 inches, Tate Modern

But is it art? The question provokes furious and impassioned debate from people of all walks of life.

Several opinions exist, but the following two are among the most popular:

If it questions nothing, and is simply an exercise in aesthetics (which are entirely subjective), then it is not art. It is decoration.

If it is all theory, and there is no finely crafted end product (e.g. – conceptual art made from found objects), then it is not art. It is rubbish.

Quite frankly, I think both arguments are nonsense. Yes, there is a lot of horrible art in both camps, but there is a lot of great art too.

As individuals, we are free to choose what we like or do not, but ultimately, our opinions are simply that: our opinions.

Critics may be well versed in the arts, but they aren’t always right. Conversely, those less educated, aren’t always wrong. It’s about balance, and both sides deserve a spot at the table.

I honestly don’t believe that anyone, regardless of their credentials, has the right to pick and choose what is, or isn’t art.

Simply put, if creating fills your life with passion and purpose, then you are an artist, and what you produce, is art.

Is it good art? That is the question.

The Evolution of an Artist (The Basement Years)


My first bachelor apartment was a total shithole…and I loved it.

Not only was it big and insanely cheap, it came with an absentee landlord. If you wanted to play your music really loud at all hours (which I did), or smoke copious amounts of weed (which I also did), you were free to do so.

Another great thing about living in a total shithole, is that you’re not concerned with keeping up appearances. This is especially great if you’re an artist; art can get messy.

Over the next several years, I splashed about completely unfettered, and in the process, made a huge mess of the place. It was a lot of fun.

Even better, it was during this time that I really came into my own as an artist. After struggling for years, I was finally able to control my hands, and bring my visions to fruition.

Due to an ongoing war between another tenant and the landlord, and owing to a rapidly deteriorating building, it was time to seek out more respectable digs.

There is absolutely no comparison between the work I made before entering that apartment, and the work I made while in it. I arrived an amateur, and I emerged a professional artist.

The evolution continues.

The Evolution of an Artist (The Party House)


ABOVE: David McDonough, Nausea, mixed media, 16 x 20 x 1 inches (one of my earliest surviving artworks)

When I first moved to Toronto, I lived in a huge party house in midtown. It was a lot of fun. Almost too much fun.

Despite declaring war on my brain cells, it wasn’t a total wash. It was there, that I decided to devote my life to art.

My first works were acrylic on canvas, and they were awful. I produced about four, then decided to experiment with other materials.

I tried my hand at just about everything, but the results were always the same – awful.

Finally, almost by accident, I discovered glass. I had a broken picture frame and on a whim, I decided to paint it. I loved the vibrancy it lent the colors.

Over the next two years, I worked almost exclusively with glass. My subject matter was all over the place, and I’d yet to develop a unique style, but I did improve, and I knew I was onto something.

Eventually, everyone went their separate ways, and I moved into my own place.

While I was still a ways away from being able to produce what I do today, the years I spent in that party house set the foundation for my artistic practice.