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Douglas McDougall

Nothing more than charcoal and paper.

Douglas McDougall, from Glasgow, recently completed a year long residency in Beijing, during which time he made three powerful portraits of Ai Weiwei, alluding darkly to the artists political dilemmas. His charcoal works on paper are in the permanent collection of the Cantor Arts Centre CA. He produces a relatively small number of works each year, which may take months to reach completion. McDougall works exclusively in graphite and charcoal on paper. The realistic rendering of his subjects are recurrent of Rembrandt’s lively realism, a far cry from the photographic ambitions of hyper-realism. The artist presents a startling harshness in the faces of his characters. His depiction of grey hair and ageing skin is particularly striking’, and serves as a metaphor of the internal human condition. After sketching out the portraits with charcoal, the artist textures the paper with scalpel blades, sharp cut erasers and sandpaper. In the process of the scarring the papers surface, a combination of improvisational actions and controlled decisions become pathways from the subconscious to the drawing board. This is a system that presents a diary of every progressive moment, of each and every day, until the finished piece emerges; making each of these works a wholly personal event.

“For me the medium of Charcoal provides a dynamic foundation with plenty of room for immediacy and self expression.” Through the making of his withered portraits, the artist is unravelling a traumatic childhood in one of the toughest cities in the UK. McDougall talks about an intimacy deficit, after being removed from his natural parents. His mother suffered acute post natal depression shortly after giving birth. The artist explains: 'I was never to bond with her.’ Soon after moving to Glasgow McDougall was passed on to close relatives to be looked after, as his father travelled the country for work. “This is a side to my work that is a mirror of me; not exactly a self-portrait, but a working exorcism of my own anxiety. You could say that each piece is autobiographical”.

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