No Bigger Than The Moon – Painting by David Mcdonough
I can’t take credit for the title of this article – that is credit due to the Artist, David Mcdonough – a painter based in Brooklyn NY. His paintings, moderate in size, vary in medium but center around charcoal and oil paint on canvas. Brush marks flip between transparent opaque as they move through the painting – seeming often, somewhat accidental. David is painting from a place of poetry – whether he says that or not. Poetry does this dance with words, it shows you stories – it doesn’t tell you the story. Often poetry leaves you puzzled but somewhat satisfied. It can be a game of words lingering in your head long after you complete reading the poem. Poetry, like classical music hinges on a sort of soft and rhythmic wave length – it is alive.
I can’t make sense of these paintings – and that is a good thing. It reassures me of the wonder of the world, the joy in not-knowing, the spaces in between moments. It seems this is imperative for David to paint this way, it seems to enable him a way to navigate a jumbled world. The paintings, although not literally full of smell and sound – erupt the senses. They splash loudly and they linger quietly – they alert my sense of smell through the tactile surface.
I believe our paintings are like us – if they are done authentically. They live as we do, maybe they are sweet, maybe strong, they reflect our current temperament. But paintings also have the ability to be actors, directors or even props for our identity and our imagination. Being authentic and being an actor in painting are not mutually exclusive. It’s like playing dress up – the hope of what you could be, the dance with whatever it is you actually are.
I see this working most readily in Mcdonough’s painting ‘The Beginning’ (2018) where two forms collide as they admire the moon and whale embedded in each-other. An attempt at showing dimension in mountains comprises the center of the painting – as if I needed the white turquoise to convince me they are 3-d. It’s a distraction from what we are really worried about. Who are we here?
The forms in David’s paintings seem to be hunting, searching, flying and looking. They are nouns masquerading as verbs. The mystery and the nuance of where they are going, what they are looking for is subtle and not as dramatic as it may seem. Layers of thick paint, shiny and reflective graphite give me an idea this artist loves material. But this is not material based work, nor is it purely abstract. There is something David is watching – looking for – remembering in his work – and I think it’s beautiful.
Typically, beauty is light, it is symmetrical, ephemeral, it is even ‘feminine’. To me, here, in these paintings – they show beauty in their defiance to be resolved. They persist the logic of conclusion, they are open, humble and alive. Uninterested in painting as if he ‘knows’ how to paint, there are no tricks, no tropes in these paintings and that is simply refreshing.
These paintings seem to answer a unique question or perhaps they pose one. Like a poem or a piano sonata they show duration long after they have been seen or heard. I am not sure I can ask for much more. Here, the quiet bird or floating whale does what words can’t do for the Artist. Mcdonough’s forms are coasting, flying, diving and traversing the waves – which as we know, are always guided by the moon. The most beautiful symmetry there is.
I urge you to follow David along on his path – currently, a public high school teacher and painter, David is hoping to pursue his MFA in 2019. You can find his work on instagram at: @dedume