The simple beauty of Andrew Mackenzie’s most recent paintings belies the time and effort that goes into making them. Layers of paint create a textured, time-altered surface, like the armrest of a much-used painted chair. Floating on top are delicate traceries of twigs and branches, trees at crazy angles, the untended woodland of the hard shoulder; sometimes the hint of a concrete structure, and words: ‘Phonemast’, ‘Underpass’. These interventions into the anonymous, urban treescapes capture a tension between abstract pattern and reality, the point where nature meets human. In ‘Transmission’ the urban environment emerges, the kerb drawn with the accuracy of an architect’s schema, like a city planner attempting to impose order on chaos.
Larger paintings are bordered in wide, white canvas, like Polaroid photographs. If Mackenzie has used photographs to provide the bones of his compositions, carefully selecting the lines he will modulate and bend to his vision, the resulting paintings evoke the shadow images of double exposures, or even calotypes disappearing after exposure to light. Blue paper looks as though the drawing has been blotted out of it. A harmony of reds is like a retinal pattern dimly seen. The delicate grey lines of silverpoint are little snowscapes on white ground; see-through serif calligraphy hovers at the front of the picture plane, bringing us back to dayglo urban reality: ‘Yellow Plastic’, ‘Distant Humming’. Memory and romance are in a dialogue with the necessities of modern life and its own particular aesthetic beauty.
The List, 9th August 2006