SCDA Annual Festival Award
Framed (ref: 2877)
Two slates, on with inscription, the other depicting figures,
each slate 6 1/2 x 4 1/4 in. (16.5 x 11 cm.)
Provenance: The artists personal collection until 1972; the artist's housekeeper; thereafter by descent
Literature: John McKenzie, Liss Fine Art 2012, Cat. 26
‘I keep on drawing and re-drawing until what I’ve produced simply asks to be carved’ (John McKenzie, Abroath Herald, 1 February 1963).
The remarkable work of John McKenzie has only recently come back to light. Despite exhibiting his slates at the Royal Scottish Academy Summer Exhibition, the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, and in two solo exhibitions at the Public Library in his home town of Abroath, he had no interest in the commercial aspects of his work and sold no more than a handful of sculptures during his lifetime. Using Welsh slate, and working with engraver’s tools, he produced three to four reliefs a year, which amounted to less than a hundred in his entire career.
By day a charge-hand messman on HMS Condor (and later a railwayman), the reclusive McKenzie indulged his passion for carving by night and at the weekends. Producing in equal number scenes of contemporary life and scenes of antiquity, it is especially in the former that he found his most distinctive voice. His images, whether the carved wooden reliefs of the 1930s, or works in slate that date from the late 1930s, are rich in symbolism, which though often obscure is always engaging.
Liss Fine Art are currently preparing a catalogue of his work.
The remarkable work of John McKenzie has only recently come to light.
Despite exhibiting his slates at the Royal Scottish Academy Summer
Exhibition, the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts, and The Arbroath
Art Society, (and in two solo exhibitions at the Arbroath Public Library),
McKenzie sold no more than a handful of sculptures during his lifetime.
Initially McKenzie worked in wood, but disappointed with the
results, he turned to roof slates and other materials found to hand.
Mckenzie accentuated the depth of his shallow designs by polishing them
with linseed oil mixed with slate dust. The works have retained their
original presentation _ the wall plaques with a narrow oak moulding and
the free standing reliefs set onto angled stands with bronze coloured resin
set around the asymmetrical edges. He produced no more than three to
four reliefs a year, which amounted to less than one hundred and fifty
over his entire career. By day a charge-hand mess-man on HMS Condor
(and later a railwayman), the reclusive McKenzie indulged his passion for
carving by night and at the weekends.
Inspired by Antiquity and his own system of recurrent motifs, he found it
entirely natural to add into his compostions figures in contemporary dress.
A rich symbolism imbues his work, complemented by lyrical titles such as
‘Lightsome Interlude’, ‘Fruitful Tree’ or ‘Moon Shot’.
When McKenzie died, in 1972, his estate was left to his housekeeper. A
type written inventory lists 112 works of art. The twenty-seven works selected
for this catalogue include some of McKenzie’s finest designs.
To read full catalogue: /download/LFA_McKenzie_catalogue.pdf