Thursday, 14 April 2011


'the brew', a new painting by ralph mcgaul

Emily Mugridge's hugely successful show might seem like a hard act to follow, but we think we have something equally special lined up.

From Saturday 7 May to Saturday 21 May, thewhitegallery is hosting an exhibition of new work by another talented local artist (and someone I've been raving about for ages) Ralph McGaul.

His work caused quite a stir at last year’s highly prestigious East Cheshire Hospice Art Fair exhibition, which thewhitegallery helped to hang. Ralph's work really stood out: there is something so visceral about his style, and his figures have such personality. Each painting tells a story and you feel drawn into the picture, sure that each person is about to speak.

Ralph McGaul was born in Bollington and now lives in a disused mill on Sunderland Street in Macclesfield, which doubles as his studio.

“I grew up drawing,” he says. “My mum’s an artist and she encouraged me to experiment with different techniques. I love re-using old materials too, and often make woodcuts using old skateboards or bits of plywood. My paintings are very intuitive – I don’t really know where my ideas come from but I enjoy the process of creating something from my imagination. Although sometimes I’ll see something in a café or waiting for the bus and think, yeah that would make a good painting. Then I’ll take out my sketch book and draw a few ideas.”

It’s not often you come across someone so young, with such artistic maturity. He just knows how to create really striking images that are often quite unsettling, but in a good way.

Ralph exhibited at last year’s Macclesfield Barnaby Festival, as part of the ‘Save Us’ Contemporary Art Exhibition alongside internationally recognised artists like Ian Davenport, Andrea Booker and David Shrigley. His striking seven-foot tall mosaic of a skeleton sat very comfortably in the mix.

Ralph McGaul is at thewhitegallery on Wellington Road in Bollington from Saturday 7 May to Saturday 21 May. Don't miss it.

'girl drawing' a new work by ralph mcgaul.


When did you first start to draw/ paint?

I think that all young children like to draw and paint just as I did. The question is more whether or not you enjoy it enough to keep doing it. The desire has always been there for me, although I’ve not always been as productive as I am now. A family trip to Zurich when I was twelve really re-ignited my interest. Seeing a city completely covered in graffiti left a deep impression on me. I was surrounded by bold, striking patterns and vibrant colours on a massive scale and was immediately inspired to begin painting again. The style and approach of street art was the starting point of my development as a painter.

Your mum is an artist – was she an influence?

My Mum always encouraged me to paint and draw but I was not drawn to the landscapes and seascapes that are her inspiration. However, I can now appreciate that although our subjects are usually different there are links between our styles and techniques. I’ve even recently entered the Jobling Gowler art competition with a local landscape.

Explain how you start work on a painting?

I like to work intuitively and become absorbed in the process. Sometimes I will start with a sketch or subject in mind but often there is no preconceived idea. In this case I will begin by painting in an abstract fashion: making marks, lines and shapes and building up areas of colour until an image is glimpsed. At this point some of the shapes become form and a degree of representation is achieved.

How did you become interested in printmaking?

I first began to experiment with woodcuts after seeing an exhibition that included works by Anselm Kiefer. Relief printing especially appeals to me as the technique limits the colour palette, creating strong opposing blocks of colour that form powerful simplified images.

What are your techniques and influences?

I mainly paint with acrylic on wooden boards. This enables me to scratch and scrape into the surface, building up textures and exposing the multiple layers of paint. Often I paint on salvaged boards and will allow the existing colours or textures to show through. I put a lot of energy into my paintings, working intensely and sometimes franticly. This is something I hope comes across in the finished piece.

A wide and varied range of art influences my works. Most recently I’ve been inspired by modern British artists such as Robert Colquhoun and Henry Moore. However, I am also drawn to the simplicity of medieval art, movements such as Art Brut and die Brücke and the expressive and decorative style of African art.

I have now been working from my studio on Sunderland Street for around four years. A series of successful exhibitions last year finally gave me the confidence to commit to my artwork full time and my work has really benefited since. Having the time to explore my style and develop my techniques more intensely has enabled me to achieve a greater satisfaction and belief in my work.

'untitled' by ralph mcgaul.