DIGITAL ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM
“The artist’s technical problem is how to transform the material with which he works back into the sphere of the spirit.
This two-way transformation proceeds from metaphysical perceptions, for metaphysics is the search for the essential nature of reality. And so artistic creation is the metamorphosis of the external physical aspects of a thing into a self-sustaining spiritual reality. Such is the magic act which takes place continuously in the development of a work of art. On this and only on this is creation based.”
--Hans Hofmann, The Search for the Real
The quote above says everything about my point of view. But Digital art has some unique characteristics. It realizes the dream of the Impressionists, to paint with light, and allows us to create works with more vivid colours than was possible before digital art. The colour space of “natural” media was always dulled by the binders and admixtures necessary to hold the paint or chalk together. My digital art paintbrush is a pressure sensitive Wacom stylus and my digital paints are made of light in all the visible colours of the spectrum. I also use traditional photography tools like my medium format Rolleiflex, and large format Ebony camera. These are my building blocks in combination with my digital skills.
I was trained by my mother, Marjorie McKee, who was part of the abstract expressionist movement in New York and had one of the last shows at Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery. I was just old enough to meet and have discussions about art with many of her now famous friends, Jackson Pollock, Bill and Elaine de Kooning, Harold Rosenberg, Harry Jackson etc., and her teacher, Hans Hofmann. Most of these people rarely called themselves "artists," usually they referred to themselves as "painters." So, because of the way I work and my background, I decided that "digital painter" was the most appropriate term for the digital art I make. I got seriously involved with digital art early on, in the mid 80s, though tools like Photoshop only became available in 1990. The early days were a struggle.
I hope the resulting 'new vision', a term I borrow from Moholy Nagy, will engage the viewer to re-look at nature at this critical time of earth changes. I believe the fragility of nature can only be captured fully in this new altered medium. The viewer is caught off guard as he/she is viewing nature but from a new perspective in terms of the macrocosm.
A number of people have asked what different images
of mine are “about.” So, I’m adding some notes to my pages which I hope will help out.
ALAN McKEE AND THE OCCULT TRADITION
by Edward Lucie-Smith
Former art critic of the London Sunday Times
Alan McKee’s work, which combines digitized photography and advanced techniques of image manipulation using the computer with a strong mystical feeling for nature belongs to a distinguished tradition that now stretches back for more than 150 years.
The link between mystical feeling and technology is a persistent theme in the story of the Modern Movement in art. This was especially true of those leading artists, chief among them Kandinsky and Mondrian, though there were also numerous others, who were attracted to the doctrines of Theosophy, which aimed to combine aspects of the great oriental reli- gions, Hinduism and Buddhism, with modern scienti c thought. Helena P Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophical Movement, wrote in The Secret Doctrine : “It is on the doctrine of the illusive nature of matter, and the in nite divisibility of the atom, that the whole science of Occultism is built. It opens limitless horizons to substance informed by the divine breath of its soul in every possible state of tenuity.”
Alan McKee’s work therefore presents itself as a new phase in a long and distinguished development. One perceives in it an intricate interweaving of ideas, as well as the con dent use of the latest digital imaging techniques.
Essentially what he does is to combine two apparently contradictory strands of development. The actual structure of his compositions is based on the work of artists such as Jozef Albers, Max Bill and Ellsworth Kelly, but this is overlaid with imagery taken directly from nature. In a certain sense, a close parallel to the way they are composed can be found in certain Japanese screens, which also combine a dramatic abstract framework with exquisite details taken direct- ly from nature. Another parallel is with certain kinds of contemporary stage design. One can imagine some of these images serving as maquettes for scenes in Mozart’s Magic Flute, or for Klingsor’s garden in Wagner’s Parsifal. This sug- gests that the spectator’s relationship with them is not static, but shifting and dynamic. It also suggests that there will be, for many people who look at them, a synaesthetic element, that is, they are quite likely to suggest sounds, as part of the total experience. This is a factor that helps to strengthen the link between McKee’s work and the Occultist tradition to which I have already referred. In fact, if one cares to trace it, this did not stop short with the early Modernists, but passed through many variations during the course of the 20th century. One member of this tradition is Jackson Pollock, who, when he was young, at- tended Theosophical retreats at Ojai in California. His wife Lee Krasner often spoke of the impression these events made on him. It is therefore not surprising to find a new manifestation of the same spirit in Canada.
ALAN McKEE by John K. Grande,
International art critic
"As intricate interweavings of nature imagery, these works build their own architectonic structures out of visual material. They recombine the visual in a very textual way. The grammar of this imagery is ultimately built in the same intricate but logical way that phrases, sentences and paragraphs are. These visual weavings involve an essential symbolism and layering. While each element is pulled from reality, it is also indeed a detail of some greater intuited reality. Thus reconfigured, Alan McKee's image fragments ultimately metamorphose into sublime artworks. Their sublimity rests upon an acute sense that life itself is a fleeting, and ultimately illusionistic process-part fact, part fiction."
ALAN MCKEE CV
Galerie D’este, Montreal, 2007
Gallery IX, Toronto, 2008
Contact Photography Festival Exhibit
Artists Project 2015
Oxford International Art Fair 2015
Quest Art's 2020 TD Thor Wealth Management Juried Exhibition
Quest for the Environment Committee
Ontario Society of Artists
Open Juried Exhibition
Nov 4-Dec 1, 2020
Amazing Moss Park Art Collective
Fleck Gallery, Toronto
Dec 1-Dec 19 2017
Red Head Gallery
Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, Snap To Grid
December 10-January 2, 2016.
Arta Gallery, Distillery Toronto
April 11 to 28 , 2015
Agora Gallery, Chelsea
September 18, 2014 to Oct 7, 2014
New York City, USA
Gaia, soul of a planet, Galleria Lambert Brookfield Place Toronto, 2008 International Art On Climate
Change, ACA Gallery Salon Show April 3rd to 13th 2009
MOCA Museum of Computer Art
Member Center for Fine Art Photography
Scarborough Arts Council Big Art Book 2013 publication of Rain and haiku
REVIEWS AND PUBLICATIONS:
Scarborough Arts Council Big Art Book 2013 publication of Rain and haiku Group show at Project
Gallery, August 2013
Publications review by international art critic Edward Lucie- Smith and by John Grande
Vie des Arts by international art/nature critic John Grande, 2007
In private collections in Canada, USA and Europe