Noel McKenna's practice extends across painting, ceramics and printmaking. The ongoing focus of his work since the 1970's has been an interest in the everyday. His work explores concurrent ideas of displacement and interconnectedness through images of animals, people and objects. McKenna's fifteen-year project of large 'Map' paintings was recently shown at the Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane.
I had no exposure to art or artists as a child, both my schools had no art program at all. The first artist’s I looked at were people like Picasso, Cezanne, Braque to mention a few. On thinking the two artists who had most impact on me were Paul Klee and Joseph Cornell.
I was studying Architecture at Qld Uni in 1974 and we had life models to draw from and that was pretty much the first time I really drew. Class was pretty casual and our drawings were not marked. One of my lecturers Ian Sinnamon at the start of second year took me aside and said he thought my renderings and plan drawings involving architecture were very weak and said I would have trouble getting through the course so he was advising that I leave. As a closing bit of advice all be it a tad sarcastic he suggested maybe I should try Art School as my drawings looked a little like art.
I went to enrol at the Queensland College of art in 1976 and at the interview where we had to show some of our work, the Head of the College, Alan Warren, said to me that the small drawings I had bought along were a bit weak but he would give me a chance so I got in.
The Queensland College Art in the mid 1970’s was after you got to second year a pretty hands own school, you did not get taught too many skills and if one was able to stimulate yourself they let you get along with your own work. I had one lecturer Ian Smith who used to exhibit his work a lot, showed with Ray Hughes in Brisbane and he had a very good knowledge of painting and told me a lot of interesting artists to look up. The strange thing was the building we were in was a new construction that was designed to be a secretarial college with parquetry floors and we were not able to spill paint on the floor. If we wanted to get a little messy we had to put drop sheets down while we worked.
Noel McKenna, May 2018