At Bow Arts’ latest Leegate House Open Studios, studio holder Alice Macdonald wowed visitors by installing a site-specific immersive painting. The room was lined with paper from ceiling to floor and for a full week Alice Macdonald painted a 360-degree view from within a local café in Lee. Modelled within the thick brush strokes and bold colours, adding the ‘real’ into an otherwise (as entitled) Strange Dream, were cardboard, three-dimensional corners of tables, a paper overhead menu, and a table, chair and painted menu for participates to interact with. The work was undertaken in collaboration with painter Mark Connolly and together the pair created their surroundings of local shops, passers-by, the waitress who seems hard-pressed for time and, right at the heart of this lucid vision, Alice herself walking naked through the high street. Alice says her painting style tends to incorporate figures; colour is very important and she often paints from her imagination: “I draw a lot from life and these drawings are the springboard, and then the imagination follows and sometimes takes over.”
The installation’s perspective allowed for only one viewpoint, which was from the chair provided far inside the room, enticing the audience to venture in and see what Alice sees. Alice comments on why she chose to depict a café; “I like the old school cafés’ aesthetic: the colours, the tiles… London is changing very fast and where the new is appearing, the old is disappearing.”
A theme that runs through Alice’s work is a feeling of anxiety about the future, both for herself and her work as an artist, and, more generally, a fear for the future of the world. She states, “I am often asking myself ‘what’s the point of it all?’ and maybe my way of dealing with this unanswerable question is to create paintings about fleeting moments, my emotions or other things that don't matter to anyone else, and by painting them they are elevated and given purpose.”
Alice studied BA Illustration at Falmouth University. She then won a scholarship for The Drawing Year at The Royal Drawing School where Alice reflects, “it was an amazing year, I met great people and I liked having the time to concentrate solely on drawing and to devote time to developing my practice.” After a year and a half, with a diploma in Drawing, she won a prize from the school for a residency at Rhode Island School of Design for one month. When she returned she decided she wanted her own studio and found Leegate House Studios. “Leegate House is the perfect place to come and make work,” she comments, “It’s close enough [to the City] to commute and far enough to be away and think. I really like being high-up where it’s peaceful and quiet.”
This year, since Alice has had her own studio, she has been incredibly busy pursuing opportunities to exhibit her work. She was shortlisted for the Beep Painting Prize and exhibited in a group show in Swansea’s Elysium Gallery in August. She exhibited in June in another group show at ASC Gallery as she was selected for the Bainbridge Print Open. She has also curated an exhibition at Cave Space entitled Downsizing. Here, she invited twenty artists to submit work no larger than A5 and wanted to promote the notion that “Art doesn't have to be big to be good... We have too many things anyway!” In May, Alice collaborated with her brother, Ranald Macdonald, to put on an event that incorporated both art and music entitled Gift Shop, which was held in an empty shop on Exmouth Market. Upstairs, Alice and Ranald curated a show made up of artists' objects alongside paintings and prints. Downstairs, Ranald was in charge of the musical side, organising a line-up of musicians including his own band, 'The Deep'. With an interest in set-design and the theatrical, Alice created a familiar corner shop stage set for the musicians to play in. Now at Leegate House, and always heading to the local café for breakfast, her idea for Strange Dream brewed.
What’s next for Alice? In October she will be teaching art in India following having won a second residency from The Royal Drawing School. She hopes in the future return to study an MA Fine Art as she wants to develop her skills further and understand her own themes. However, for the time being, when Alice returns from India she is pleased to push her ideas further and you may even see her featured at other Bow Arts events.
You can view Alice’s artist profile on London’s Artist Quarter.
Bow Arts is committed to supporting communities and artists, offering affordable, top-notch creative workspaces at 12 sites across London to help creatives to thrive and grow their practices. If you’re an artist, designer or maker who’s interested in our studios, find out more and apply here!