Ai Weiwei: According to What?

If you know anything about contemporary art, you’ve heard of Ai Weiwei. Here is a review of “According to What?” At the AGO until October 27, 2013.



ABOVE: Ai Weiwei, Colored Vases, 2007-2010, sculpture 

BELOW: Ai Weiwei, Study in Perspective Series, 1995-2003, photography


This past weekend I went to the Ai Weiwei exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

I admire the man for both his artistic practice and social activism, so I had been looking forward to the show all summer.

For many, conceptual art is a confusing proposition. It is often seen as inaccessible and in many cases, it is. To his credit, Ai Weiwei is about as accessible as you can get within the genre.

Unlike many of his contemporaries who produce academic works of a purely personal narrative, Weiwei’s work is imbued with a deeper meaning and addresses critical issues that affect a large percentage of the world’s population.

This is not to say that Weiwei has entirely removed himself from the art on display or that it is devoid of academia. Both figure prominently in his work but they serve to enhance the message – not override it.

Having been to many art exhibitions over the years, I can honestly say that Ai Weiwei: According to What? was one of the most thought provoking.

Even if conceptual art is not your thing, you should go.

Ai Weiwei: According to What? is at the AGO until October 27, 2013.


While I try not to over-intellectualize everything I do, I do try to produce works with meaning. Here is one of my artworks explained.



ABOVE: David McDonough, Dusk, mixed media, 17 x 21 x 3 inches

BELOW: David McDonough, Dusk, digital photograph


Why was the artist afraid he might go to jail?

Because he’d been framed

OK, let’s get serious for a moment.

Five years ago, I lost my Mother to breast cancer (I told you this was serious).

In the days leading up to her passing, I stepped into my parent’s backyard and took the above picture. I knew immediately that I wanted to do something with it, but under the circumstances, it sat on my camera’s memory card and was forgotten.

About two years later, I came across it again and decided that the time was right to create something.

Dusk captures a point in my life which for obvious reasons, I was reluctant to move on from. While the foreground represents the calm before nightfall (or the end of life), the shifting clouds indicate that time moves on whether you are prepared for it or not.

Although its creation was a part of my healing process, like all of my work, the meaning behind it is not readily apparent. Dusk is a serious piece but it doesn’t need to be seen that way. I am perfectly fine with my viewers seeing something different – I’d almost prefer it if they did.


Artprize certainly has its detractors. Some of the flak is justified, but mostly, this fair rocks! Here is a post about my experience exhibiting in 2012.



ABOVE: My ArtPrize entry installed at the Fountain Street Church

In my last entry, I wrote about the meaning behind one of my pieces (Escape). In this entry, I am going to write about my experience showing it at last year’s ArtPrize.

ArtPrize is an international art competition held in Grand Rapids, Michigan every fall.

To be eligible to compete, artists need to connect with and secure a venue within the downtown core. Art is everywhere with venues ranging from parks and parking garages, to the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Some artworks are very small, others are incredibly large.

Many of these venues are heavily travelled and tightly curated, many more are not. As you can imagine, the quality of work in the city ranges from the exceptionally good, to the extraordinarily bad.

Once people register in person, they are free to wander the city and vote for their favorite artists. There are two rounds of voting. The first determines the top ten. The second determines the winner of ArtPrize. Predictably, there are plenty who disagree with the public’s choice.

To counteract this and to bring the art world onside, critics and established artists are also invited to award prizes. Last year, New York Magazine art critic Jerry Saltz was one of the jurors as was the artist Theaster Gates.

My ArtPrize venue was the Fountain Street Church. In keeping with its reputation for being very left-wing in a very right-wing town, the exhibition was curated by the ACLU and the art on display was deeply political.

Although it wasn’t one of the heavily travelled venues, it was remarkably well received by the jurors and was shortlisted in the most outstanding venue category (top 5 out of 162). It didn’t win.

ArtPrize was a truly unique experience and while I won’t be participating this year, I will likely do so again in the future.


In this blog entry, I am going to describe one of my artworks and the meaning behind it. Here goes.



ABOVE: David McDonough, Escape, mixed media, 43 x 63 x 4 inches

For my second blog entry, I am going to describe one of my pieces and the meaning behind it. I love to talk about my art so this shouldn’t be too hard. If anything, I may write too much. As I don’t want to bore you all, I’ll try to keep the verbiage to a minimum.

The piece I am going to describe is titled Escape. Here goes:

Escape was conceived after a walk through Toronto’s financial district and the buildings in the piece are based on photographs I’ve taken there.

Whether we want to be or not, all of us are affected in some way by corporations and the decisions made at their highest levels. For that reason, the windows of the buildings have been done in mirror paint. In today’s world, corporate influence is inescapable and as you look at this piece, you become aware of your place within it.

The clouds in the background represent our dreams for a better future. While I don’t profess to have all the answers, I do believe a better future is possible. We are more than spectators and we are as much a part of the future as we are the present.

Done! I’m Outta Here.

My Very First Blog Entry

After struggling for days to figure out how to set up a blog and link it through my website, all that was left was to write my first entry. I naively thought that I’d done all the heavy lifting and that the writing part would be easy. I was wrong.

I kept putting it off until the next day and when the next day came; I’d put it off once again.

Finally, I forced myself to write down all the things I could potentially blog about. Here is the list:

  • How to deal with creative blocks
  • Inspirations
  • Describe one of your pieces and the meaning behind it
  • Outline the major themes in your work
  • Discuss your technique
  • Review other art shows
  • Write about artists you like and why
  • Things you’ve learned
  • Mistakes you’ve made
  • Your experience in a specific show
  • The never-ending “is it art” debate
  • Art world news

Hmm…what to choose?

My first/second blog entry will be: “Describe one of your pieces and the meaning behind it.”

Now all I need to do is write it.