Artist Statement

Paintings of Modern Life

I am a painter of life. My practice is based on observations of my environment. I also draw from my background in science and technology and my interest in history.

I was born and raised in post-war London. The city is embedded in my psyche. As a teenager I spent two years in Australia. Travelling there gave me an introduction to other cultures and landscapes and fuelled a lifelong passion for photography.

My working life has been rich and varied. From teenage employment as a porter in Covent Garden Market to backstage carpentry work in the West End, these jobs of my youth supported me through my studies, first in aeronautical engineering and then through Camberwell Art School where I honed my craft as a painter.

My work hovers between figuration and abstraction, drawing on centuries of artistic tradition from pre-Renaissance through to computer aided design. I synthesise a variety of painting styles. I make use of allegory, symbolism, and narrative. I construct different viewpoints within the same painting, nesting pictures within pictures, looking to create a dialogue between contrasting elements. I work on MDF and wood, creating shaped supports, incorporating an element of sculpture into my work.

I offer a view of the world, painting what I consider to be secular icons. I often look to pose questions, querying the status quo of what we accept in society, drawing the viewer in and hoping to generate a conversation.
At the root of my practice there is a desire to engage with this question: Can painting elicit a constructive discourse about the world we inhabit? My ambition is to show that it can.


Essays about my work can be found here.

Painter John McSweeney, Banbury Studios, London - 2019
John McSweeney, Banbury Studios, London – 2019

Selected Exhibitions

2021, #Shape of the New, Virtual Exhibition
2021, ArtCan Open, TRANS|FORM, venue and date to be announced
2017, This England and Other Edens, Martyrs’ Gallery, Lewes (solo)
2015, Capturing the Spectacle: Paintings of Modern Life, Hop Gallery, Lewes (solo)
2014, John Moores Painting Prize 2104, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
1995, Woodlands Art Gallery, London
1994, Angela Flowers Gallery, London (solo)
1991, Wolfson College, Oxford
1991, Bruton Street Gallery, London
1989, Sandra Higgins Gallery, London (solo)
1989, Camden Art Centre, London (solo)
1984, Camberwell Printmakers, Intaglio Printmaker, London
1983, Stowells Trophy, Royal Academy of Arts, London

Education

1984-85, Postgraduate Printmaking, Camberwell College of Art
1980-84, BA Fine Art Painting, Camberwell College of Art, London
1970-73, BSc Aeronautical Engineering, The City University London

Teaching

2000-05 BSc Software Engineering, Open University
1991-94, BA Fine Art, Camberwell College (The London Institute)