Described thus by Professor Peter Simpson in 2015, “McWhannell’s world is disturbingly anarchic and chaotic. It is a place where violence and enigma intersect … apart from rare instances of calm and beauty. There is also a dominant impression of dynamic vitality with which a turbulent world without certainties or coherence is apprehended and articulated.“
The works by Richard McWhannell will be equally dynamic and turbulent. There are things going on in his paintings. As Tom Waits says in his song Murder in the Red Barn: “The trees are bending over and the cows are lying down, pin it on a drifter, they sleep beneath the bridge, one plays the violin and sleeps inside a fridge, someone’s crying in the woods, someone’s burying all his clothes, someone slept outside last night and froze….”
What’s happening in McWhannell’s paintings is happeningwithin strange landscapes where people appear oblivious to, or fleeing from, some an unseen calamity.The title of the show ‘Truth or Consequences’ is taken from the name of a town McWhannell visited in New Mexico in 2018. It became the catalyst for this new body of work. Truth, consequences, strange goings on, trees bending over, cows lying down, like a gothic view of arcadia, pastoralism with a hint of unease. Pastoralism as written by Cormack McCarthy where each participant seems determined to ask, as in ‘No Country For Old Men’ … how does a man decide in what order to abandon his own life?
Richard McWhannell has been an exhibiting artist for more than three decades. He is represented in public collections in NZ including Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna Waiwhetu, and in 2016 was the subject of a retrospective at Pah Homestead, Auckland.