Contemporary Art Gallery Magazine : Artist Interview May 2007

Working with color, form and texture is the name of the game in non-objective painting.  Abstract painters who work in a non-objective style must be expert in these elements to bring in the composition.

Non-objective paintings that are strong in these elements are always fascinating to me.  One abstract painter whose non-objective paintings have excellent color and form as well as remarkable texture is Shawn McNulty.  Shawn McNulty has a website at that you should visit. 

When I asked Shawn for an interview I hoped he would share some of the techniques he uses.  He did mention that he uses pumice, a ground stone to build very interesting textures.  You can also see the abstract paintings of Shawn McNulty at the Rosalux Gallery and the Rosalux Gallery website.

How did you begin in art?  “I remember drawing instead of napping in kindergarten, so I guess I began at a young age.”

Do you remember the first art works you did that you felt satisfied you?  “Learning how to technically draw very well in high school was satisfying.”

Whitecap 36×38″ Shawn McNulty 2006

Do you ever use exotic materials or techniques?  “I really enjoy the rocky surface textures from using pumice, which I put down in the early layers.  I also will collage materials including newsprint, cardboard, wood, and paper.  Sometimes this is obvious, and sometimes it’s buried beneath paint.”

What kind of tools, light, studio do you prefer?  “I have a studio in the arts district of Northeast Minneapolis with large north-facing windows which provide fantastic lighting in the morning and afternoon.  I use large easels that adjust from vertical to horizontal positioning, and I usually adjust the angle of the canvas frequently.  I use my 14’ walls to display as many artworks as I can fit, which is useful for storage, as well as displaying work when clients schedule an appointment for a viewing.”

What are your sources of inspiration?  “My style explores the relationship between man-made structures and the natural world; the idea of recognizable shapes and structures living within irrational thoughts and emotions.  I would say my inspiration is finding a symbiotic relationship between man and nature on a global scale, which is something we are a long way from at this point.”

What other artists do you admire?  “I am most influenced by artist Hans Hofmann, as well as the rest of the New York School of Abstract Expressionists including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still.  I am also influenced by the California School of Abstract Expressionist Richard Diebenkorn, and Neo-Expressionist Jean Michel Basquiat.”

What was the most difficult project or commission you’ve encountered?  “I sometimes get asked to do a commission, which is very strange when you consider the organic nature of my process, so I almost always decline.  I did do a commission for a company in Canada who purchased one piece, and they wanted another that had a similar feel to it.  The main objective was creating a similar color scheme, so I did begin with specific colors that were in the other piece.  The new piece took on its own life, and they were very happy with the outcome.”  

Have you gotten any interesting stories about galleries?  “I was involved with a gallery in London for awhile which was interesting.  They sold several pieces before going bankrupt, and I ended up losing a few pieces in the process.  They’re out there somewhere.  Luckily, I got paid for the work that was sold prior to the bankruptcy.  I’m also a founding member of Rosalux Gallery, which is a cooperative gallery maintained by artists from the Twin Cities.  The gallery opened in 2002, and is located in downtown Minneapolis. .”

What are your interests and dislikes in art?  “I am interested in other non-objective painters that embrace color and form. I like to see a textured surface, and I like work to be tangible.  It seems like major museums are not exhibiting new painters, only retrospectives on the masters.  The focus is more on conceptual video and photography, as well as shock art, and this does not hold my interest.”   

The surface textures that Shawn creates with paint and pumice are very interesting and a trademark part of his style. Don’t forget to see his Rosalux online exhibition.

CAG appreciates your viewpoints and your images Shawn McNulty, and we wish you continued inspiration. – Tia Marks

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