Ash Mckean: Time Just Gets Away From Us

Ash Mckean

Artwork’s Title: Time Just Gets Away From Us

Materials Used: Oil on canvas

Studio Based: London

Ash Mckean, Time Just Gets Away From Us’, Oil on Canvas, 60 x 50 cm

Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

Well, my process usually starts with some form of scenario. I do usually have a set idea of what i want to paint but I always free flow around it and tend not to give myself any restrictions. I just let whatever happens happen.

I’m always building on my paintings, I’m never afraid to change something midway or to just paint over the thing entirely. I like thick paint and I like mistakes. I’m a very aggressive painter, messy, always scratching or rubbing things in, I feel this shows in my portraits. I like distortion. All of my portraits are done with palette knives. My hands are very large and I have to hold pens and pencils differently because of it, so I don’t really like holding brushes, I find it awkward and it hurts after a short while.

How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?

Dark but vibrant?

Could you share with us some insights on your artwork named ‘Time Just Gets Away From Us’ (2021)? Is there any particular story or meaning behind this artwork?

Of course. This painting is quite a personal one which is quite rare for me in terms of work. When I was 18, I carried a coffin with an undertaker who filled in for another pallbearer. I was burying a loved one and was anxious about doing it wrong. I remember vividly looking at this undertaker and thinking that this was just another day for him, his face was completely expressionless. He does this all the time, he wakes up and gets to it. He has always stuck with me for some reason and I wanted to do a painting based on him. The title of the painting comes from the final line said in ‘True Grit’.

What does it mean to you be part of the Boys Don’t Cry Collective? Could you tell us about your contribution into this art collective?

It means a lot. I found Marcus Nelson and Brooke Wilson (Founders) in May last year. I have had problems with my mental health almost all of my adult life, so being asked if I wanted to be part of a collective which deals with bringing male mental health into discussion was very important to me. Meeting a few like minded individuals and forming friendships with other members has helped me out massively

With the pandemic happening, a lot hasn’t been able to happen thus far but I’m sure in the future we will be able to do some shows and projects together. 

Your imagery seems distinctive for its richly dense and mysterious narratives as well as for its deliberately harsh contouring. If that applies to your artistry, do you have any particular themes that you aim to reproduce or represent on your canvases?

I do feel I add elements of horror and loneliness to my work and character focus but other than that I don’t really think too much about the themes within the painting, a lot of my influence comes from imagery and inspiration. I just enjoy creating, I try not to take it too seriously.

Could you tell us who are the characters that dominate your distinctive portraiture?

The characters in my portraits are usually from my dreams, there might be some underlying meanings in there reflecting oneself but i feel the characters don’t usually resonate with me. I like to give them their own back stories and lives. I had a therapist years ago and she would tell me to write down specific details of the figures who were approaching me in my dreams. The dreams were clear and very vivid, I’d be able to remember them for weeks after. I’ve always painted them. 

Do specific artworks have been created by random experiments in your studio or do you always come up with a particular concept or narrative in the very beginning?

I’ll have an initial narrative but I feel it changes very quickly. As I mentioned earlier, I enjoy building within a painting, putting little things in that I didn’t think about doing the day before. I’m a self taught painter so I feel like I’m constantly experimenting.

Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?

I take inspiration from a number of things really: dark imagery, religious iconography, folklore, horror, the occult, love. I deeply respect the work of Frank Auerbach.

What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space look like?

Until recently I was down on the South Coast where I had built a studio in the garden. It was a project for myself and that’s where I was working from. It was a nice place to be. Quiet. 

I’m currently painting from my small flat bedroom in London until I can get a new studio secured. It’s not an ideal situation but I can paint from anywhere really.

Which are your plans for the near future?

Get a new studio secured. Keep healthy. Be the best person I can be. Get a body of work ready for a future show.

Additional Paintings

Ash Mckean, ‘Valour’, Oil on Canvas, 50 x 40 cm
Ash Mckean, ‘Say If You Are Wicked’, Oil on Canvas 60 x 50 cm
Ash Mckean, ‘Hell’s Judgement’, Oil on Canvas, 30 x 40 cm
Ash Mckean, ‘Nothingness’, Oil on Canvas, 30 x 40 cm


All images courtesy of the artist

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.