Ep.176 Duncan McAfee - Ministry of Arts Podcast

In this episode Gary Mansfield speaks to Duncan McAfee (@duncanmcafee)


McAfee essentially approaches painting as a game. He arranges figurative and abstract elements from art and visual culture to make hybrid paintings, brightly coloured, comic-book exquisite-corpses.

His recent Exploding Heads series could be portraits of the mad prophets of some post apocalyptic cult. Constructed from broken fragments of other images, misremembered or misquoted, like Russell Hoban’s Punch puppet in the novel Ridley Walker. McAfee draws on Hoban, “the way Punch is misappropriated and all wrong is funny and grotesque but the weight and meaning it takes on is also deeply affecting. I want to try and get close to that conflict of feelings in my paintings”. This collage style evokes a surrealist “chance encounter” but also perhaps like Burroughs’ cut-ups, a form of time travel.

McAfee’s influences range from Nigel Cooke’s recurring characters, George Condo’s Psychological Cubism, revisiting Francis Bacon, the fanaticism of classical religious painting, and also outsider Ralph Bakshi’s animation and recent paintings of clowns and mobsters. McAfee’s painting technique plays back and forth between very loose chance actions and tight, illustrative drawing/painting. This creates a tension that makes us unsure if the image is in the process of forming or breaking apart. It’s in a state of transition and meaning is uncertain, much like the world around us.


For more information on the work of Duncan McAfee go to




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