John McCarthy was born in the South East of England. He studied at St
Martin's School of Art, London in the late nineties, but is a predominantly a self taught painter. He was selected for the BP Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery, London for which he won the Visitor's Choice Award in 1999. His work is in many collections around the world and he has exhibited widely, including London, New York, Los Angeles and Europe. He is well known for developing two specific ongoing series of works; the Paper Paintings and the Glass Paintings.
‘For me, the paintings from reproductions in the 1960's by Malcolm Morley and Vija Celmins were a breakthrough. It opened everything up, following on from what Duchamp had done. Morley's claim that painting from a reproduction was 'painting from still life' was a statement that seemed to resonate.
My Paper Paintings’ series is an attempt to experiment with that idea of taking a second-hand image and to focus on it as an object. When I take an image from a magazine advertisement, I remove the text and information so that the original message is lost and the painting develops an ambiguity, becoming like a ghost. I try to find images of beautiful women who are photographed in a particular way; a kind of non-smiling vacant glamour, which fashionable magazines like to present. Once the image is selected, I screw the picture up and re-photograph it, adding new light sources to accentuate the creases, then crop it to fit the canvas. The image is then painted. The elements of detachment and lack of emotion that I am trying to incorporate in these works are crucial to representing a kind of tragic quality that seems to always accompany beauty and glamour.
The Glass Paintings’ series is an undertaking to depersonalize the idea of a painted portrait. Sitters are photographed through a particular type of distorted glass, which abstracts the image to confuse recognition. With this series, I am trying to reveal truths about the human disposition. Recurring themes are alienation, division and mortality.’