Shawn McNulty (born April 15, 1975) is an American contemporary painter. His work can be found in galleries and private collections all over the world. http://shawnmcnulty.com
Life and Work
Shawn McNulty was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. McNulty became involved in art in 1980 when he would draw in lieu of taking naps at Kindergarten. His High School art teacher provided a lot of influence from 1989 to 1993 introducing him to the New York Abstract Expressionists such as Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock.
McNulty attended St. Johns University in Collegeville, Minnesota, from 1993 to 1997. He received a liberal arts education with a focus on Psychology and Art. After graduating college, he settled in Minneapolis and began painting used his web design skills to create an online portfolio, which was a new concept in 1998. John Seed, former Jean-Michel Basquiat assistant and art professor, wrote an article in 1999 profiling McNulty as one of the early artists to utilize the Internet as a platform to represent themselves. In 2002, McNulty was one of the founding members of Rosalux Gallery, which is a cooperative gallery based in Minneapolis that features contemporary visual artists from the Twin Cities. The gallery celebrated its tenth anniversary in March 2012, and McNulty has always been an active member.
The Southern Review, based at LSU, used McNulty’s Formality on the cover of its 2006 issue. In 2010, Manhattan’s Setai Fifth Avenue hotel purchased 206 of McNulty’s large archival pigment prints for the hotel’s corridors. In 2011, one of McNulty’s pieces, Shiver, was used in a national print ad for the Blue M&M campaign. The Midland Country Club in Midland, Michigan, commissioned the artist to create ten 30x60” diptychs for each of their suites in March of 2011.
Description of Work
McNulty’s paintings are often made up of color fields and are abstract. McNulty paints in acrylic and pumice, always layering on the paint thickly to create textured surfaces using large palette knives. He begins each piece on the floor using a “shoe palette knife,” which is essentially a large joint knife attached to a shoe, which challenges the way that his body connects to the surface. The artist uses a Swiffer tool to reach the middle of larger pieces. Eventually, after several sessions, McNulty will place the canvas on the easel and do some finer detail work, usually working out the edges. He uses a technique he calls “scuffling,” which involves a chopping motion with a palette knife that results in approximate parallel lines. This is a signature component in many of the pieces in his prolific body of work, along with his bold color choices and horizontal bands.
“Thick layers of acrylic and pumice and are applied, scraped off, reapplied, sliced off, etc. There’s a technique I call ‘scuffling’ which involves a repetitive chopping motion with the palette knife resulting in approximate parallel lines. There are usually little jagged characters that take form in the negative space that I call ‘skirmishes’ which become the kinetic energy of the piece. The color fields interplay with each other, attempting to find common ground resulting in complex and interesting edges. The process continues until a solution is found, always applying and mixing paint directly on the canvas, scraping away layers to reveal the ghostly characters of the previous.”
Gregory Scott, art critic at Minnesota Monthly, stated: “There’s something about Shawn McNulty’s color fields that won’t let you relax completely. A bit of rough play with the palette knife, and an otherwise calm pool of paint becomes a choppy sea. By scraping, slicing and reapplying, McNulty avoids the zone-out of traditional abstract landscapes, offering instead a more battered and complex meditation.”
My work is dependent on design fundamentals: form, color, and composition. 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 begin a new piece very spontaneously and become more detailed as the composition starts to show itself. The first layer is the most erratic and freeform as I mash and scrape together a variety of acrylic colors and pumice with commercial grade joint knives. I invented a “shoe palette knife” which I use on early layers to challenge the way my body connects to the surface. I also work the canvas on the floor using a Swiffer tool. A dialogue is created with the painting, and it starts to show me what needs to be done. Thick layers of acrylic and pumice and are applied, scraped off, reapplied, sliced off, etc. There’s a technique I call “scuffling” which involves a repetitive chopping motion with the palette knife resulting in approximate parallel lines. The color fields interplay with each other, attempting to find common ground resulting in complex and interesting edges. The process continues until a solution is found, always applying and mixing paint directly on the canvas, scraping away layers to reveal the ghostly characters of the previous. There is a feeling of serenity in my work, but it’s draped over unbridled energy, which is breaking through it. I don’t let you relax completely.