The haunting urban landscapes of Oldbury artist Alex Maczkowski

His work has been compared to George Clausen, one of the founding members of the New English Art Club, established in the late 1800s as an alternative to the Royal Academy.

The NEAC today embraces realist figurative art, but you can equally see in the work of Alex Maczkowski echoes of Impressionism and Symbolism.

His haunting urban scenes and solitary, mournful figures recall Khnopff and Klimt. Maczkowski himself cites influences as disparate as Edward Hopper and graphic novelist Chris Ware.

Chain Makers Cottage (Reworked) 2017 gouache on paper
Chain Maker’s Cottage (Reworked) 2017  – gouache on paper

The Black Country artist studied at Stourbridge College of Art and Design, then Chelsea School of Art, and explains his impulse to work with gouache and ink as a principally urban one:

‘When I started to work with landscapes, I naturally decided to focus on urban scenes. That paradoxical sense of disconnection and isolation whilst in the midst of a bustling city was something that I found particularly appealing.

‘I decided to work with tools more associated with graphic design – gouache and ink said ‘urban’ more so than oil on canvas. That youthful exuberance associated with graphic novels and comic strips seemed more appropriate. In fact, I was looking just as much at graphic novelist Chris Ware’s work as I was Edward Hopper…’

Allotment (Toxic Yellow) 2017 80 x 100cm Gouache and carbon on paper
Allotment (Toxic Yellow) 2017 – gouache and carbon on paper

Maczkowski employs a realist technique to produce evocative, atmospheric works displaying great compositional skill and an almost poetic, storytelling quality much in keeping with his influences.

Just as Clausen used light to enhance and dramatise his landscapes, so Maczkowski casts a glow over his urban scenes, either via an identifiable source (The Floating World of Absence) or  through a more general, almost supernatural presence (Allotment, Toxic Yellow and Proposed Methods of Escape).

Proposed Methods of Escape 1 (10 x 10) gouache and carbon on paper
Proposed Methods of Escape 1 – gouache and carbon on paper

A recent drawing of Colley Gate in the Black Country made it through to the second round of this year’s NEAC exhibition, where he won the 2017 Contemporary Arts Trust Award.

Other works have featured at the RWA Open Bristol, the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition, the National Open Art Exhibition and a variety of shows in Birmingham, London, and in private collections here and abroad, making Maczkowski a highly sought-after artist.

Proposed Methods of Escape 2 Charcoal, carbon and varnish on paper
Proposed Methods of Escape 2 – charcoal, carbon and varnish on paper

He says, of drawing:

‘My interests aren’t necessarily about mark making as such, more to do with exploring the different ways a material can be manipulated. A pencil can draw a line but its lead can also be ground down and applied to the surface that way.

‘I’m also interested in the grid. The grid suggests construction, it also suggests transience in how it is used to scale up the drawing for another medium, such as painting, and it also acts a metaphor for the digital image. Sometimes I will leave areas of the drawing unfinished, I like the fact that a drawing is never fully completed.’

The Floating World Absence 2017 Coffee, carbon and varnish on paper
The Floating World Absence 2017 – coffee, carbon and varnish on paper

 

 

By Louise Palfreyman

 

 

Biography

Group Exhibitions (selected) –
2017 – RWA 165th Annual Open Exhibition – RWA, Bristol
2017 – ING Discerning Eye 2017 – Mall Galleries, London
2017 – National Open Art (NOA2017) – Bargehouse Gallery, London
2017 – Metropolis – RBSA Gallery, Birmingham
2017 The Sunday Time Watercolour Competition – Mall Galleries, London
2017 New English Art Club Open Exhibition – Mall Galleries, London
2017 DRAWN – RWA, Bristol
2017 Open All Media – RBSA Gallery, Birmingham2016 Society of Graphic Fine Art Draw 16 – The Menier Gallery, London
2016 Prize Exhibition – RBSA Gallery, Birmingham
2016 Centrala – Centrala Gallery, Birmingham
2016 Lynn Painter Stainers Prize Exhibition (London/Surrey)
Awards (most recent)
2017 The Sunday Times Watercolour Competition
2017 Contemporary Art Trust Prize, New English Art Club, Mall Galleries, London2009 Arts Council England funding for The Never Never project
My work is also held in both personal and private collections.