Art Community London

Dominic Mchenry's Next Phase

By Drake's

Feb 21, 2024

Dominic Mchenry's Next Phase


Dominic Mchenry spends a lot of time thinking about time these days. The arrival of his first child 18 months ago means he has much less of it now. “If it’s a good day and I’ve got something to show for my work, I can often spend a large amount of time just looking at it, trying to decide whether it’s been a waste of time or not.”

“Since becoming a father, my creative routine has changed massively,” he adds. “That’s when I started to paint. I can sometimes work on a smaller painting during her lunch nap, or after she’s down for the night. I try to capitalise on the small, frantic margins of time available.”

Having established his sculpture practice (you can find plenty of Dominic's work in our Savile Row and Canal St shops), Mchenry has been developing a series of paintings using classical techniques that are an extension of his colourful, geometric totems, crafted at the small kitchen table in the house that he shares with his wife, daughter and Monty the cat. Embedded in hand-made frames, the paintings are like beautiful pieces of folk art that could have been made yesterday, or 100 years ago.

“It’s similar to the way I sculpt, says Mchenry, “there’s no improvising, which I suppose is why I like it. It’s a really old technique, Medieval, or possibly even older. My friend  showed me how to do it, who learnt it from his grandmother during lockdown. It requires a mixture of egg tempera on a gesso panel, using a rabbit skin clue mixed with a fine white powder mixed together and applied to a wooden panel to make the surface. The paint I use is natural raw pigment mixed with egg yolks to bind them. It’s not vegan friendly I’m afraid! It’s a really different way of painting compared with modern acrylics and it’s pretty labour intensive. You have to be very sure of your marks before you start.”

“I’m trying to be an abstract expressionist with medieval tools. I know that doesn’t make any sense.”

After meeting at Mchenry’s Camberwell studio, we amble through the nearby park as drizzle falls gloomily overhead, a perfect and perfectly depressing London mise en scène, towards his house a few minutes away. One of the perks of this job is it gives you an excuse to snoop around other people’s kitchens and living rooms—and McHenry’s is a good one, a stone cottage in South East London with homemade shelving, a Cézanne-esque painting done by his father, old issues of National Geographic and a sword (real) on the wall. Monty the cat wakes up from a snooze and peers out of his basket at the strangers disturbing his peace. 

“I think I’m fickle with my art influences,” says Mchenry as he tentatively shows us some of his recent work, the paintings done over months at the kitchen table. “They come and go. Perhaps some of the constants are Chillida, Noguchi, Judd, Hepworth. But I’m inspired by other arts and architecture. I’ve been an atheist for as long as I can remember but I’m increasingly falling in love with churches, chapels and cathedrals. No matter your opinion or belief, they’re spellbinding places. I visit my oldest and best friend who lives in Florence about once a year and all of those beautiful frescos have definitely been a driving force behind my paintings."

“I couldn’t imagine a better job,” he adds, all of us gathered in the kitchen. “It would be easier if it were better-paid, but when you’re in the zone, making something and realising something physical that’s come out of your imagination, it’s one of the best feelings in the world.” 

Share This