Lisa McCleary, b.1992, is an Irish-Australian artist currently living in New York. In 2015 she received her BFA Honours Degree from UNSW Art & Design Sydney, and in 2018 completed her Master of Fine Arts Degree at Parsons, The New School, NYC. She has exhibited internationally with an upcoming solo show at Gallery MC, NYC and previous solo exhibitions Opened 1m Ago and #foreveralone at Palmer Art Projects, Sydney in 2015 and 2016. McCleary showcased her work in several group exhibitions in 2017, including: Wait….What? Yes., The Great Acceleration, Between, Unsentimental, and Recoded: Strategies of Queer Abstraction. In 2018 she was chosen as a winner of the RE:ARTISTE, Show Your World, International Juried Art Competition at Gallery MC, NYC. McCleary’s work has been showcased in several exhibitions in 2018, including: Art on 52nd St., Growing Pebbles, The Seattle Erotic Arts Festival, Body Positive, Figurative Group Show and From Minuscule to Monumental at The Factory LIC, New York. In 2019, McCleary’s work will be included in exhibitions such as: Saturated: An Eye For Color, NYC, ANIRAM (94-17), BK, SMUT, NYC, The Seattle Erotic Arts Festival, WA and Representational Realism, OH. In 2018 she attended the Summer Painting Residency Program at Con Artist Collective and was a fellow of the Art & Law Program lead by attorney Sergio Muñoz Sarmiento at Cornell University, NYC. McCleary has been selected as a finalist for the William and Dorothy Yeck Award at Miami University 2019. She is currently undertaking the Trestle Artist Residency in Brooklyn and will attend the Vermont Studio Residency in 2019 for which she received the VSC Merit Grant.

nine questions with lisa mccleary

April 9, 2019

Where are you from and where did you grow up?
I’m Irish-Australian; I was born in Wahroonga, Sydney, and I have spent my time between there and South Dublin, Ireland. I grew up in a small picturesque seaside town called Greystones, in County Wicklow. I then moved back to Sydney to undertake my Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree at The University of New South Wales, which I completed in 2016.  

What brought you to the US?
Growing up in two different cultures has had a great influence on my artistic practice and the way I approach my work. I think as an artist it is good to have a change of pace and open yourself up to a new environment. This is why I decided to apply to the Masters of Fine Arts Degree at Parsons, The New School, NYC. I was delighted to be accepted as one of 20 students to undertake this dynamic 2-year program. I completed my MFA last May with Honors and have been showcasing my work around the US ever since.

Can you describe your work and the materials you use?
My material practice delves into elements of painting, sculpture and tapestry. My work addresses haptic sensations and the representation and embodiment of touch. I create a space in which desire, abjection and the digital and real body are in play.

I place focus on the pleasure of flesh, and the way that pleasure translates into our desire for our communication devices. This has lead me towards aluminium as a surface on which to paint. I appreciate the cold industrial feel of the material and its thin, lightweight nature, and how that counterbalances the illusionistic painting techniques I employ in my work.

 My current series centers on the haptic screen as a surface of relation, desire and mediation. Much like aluminum, the skin takes a lot of wear and tear. I think that conflating the flesh and industrial materials can create possibilities of some kind of mechanical anthropomorphic being. My practice considers mediated corporeality; the experience of consuming the tangible, filtered through the medium of the screen. While there may be representations of touch, there may actually be nothing to feel. My new series of tapestries and woven blankets invite the viewer to engage with my work in an alternative way, instead of focusing on the screens they are enticed to consider their tactile sense through the seduction of texture and something palpable.

Can you describe your artistic process?
To create my pieces I made a palette of homemade Play Doh and Slime from scratch. Using this as a base material, I constructed 3-dimensional oozing tactile sculptures to photograph. It is from the photographs that I transform the digital into the real through the medium of oil paint. I utilize the Trompe L’eoil effect to render visceral landscapes on to a flat aluminum surface to mirror the way we consume imagery through the digital interface.

The piece Corp Agus Fuil/Body And Blood captures a heightened moment of ephemeral pleasure. This landscape of flesh functions as a metaphorical body in the throws of sexual play. I started with an 8ft x 4ft piece of aluminium and used my body to affect the material. I am interested in the indexical nature of the manipulated metal surface. The bends and folds in the surface have a direct relationship to force from my body.

I then rendered the abject imagery that suggests the visceral corpus of the body, onto the surface in oil paint. I utilized a 10ft-threaded rod as a gesture of force from another body. I appreciate the strength of metal and also it’s ability to be manipulated. I think that the strength and vulnerability of industrial materials has a nice relationship to the resilience of the body.

How long did it take you to develop your style?
This new series that lends itself more to abstraction started around February last year. Before that I was more involved in figurative painting and hyperrealism. I wanted to leave more space for the viewer to meditate on my work and allow them to bring their own meaning to each piece.

Tell us about your upcoming solo exhibition; is it your first solo show?
I have my first US solo exhibition, titled Edging, at Gallery MC, NYC from April 29th – May 3rd, with drinks reception on Thursday May 2nd from 6-9pm. Edging will be a hybrid space of paintings, sculpture and tapestry, and will showcase a large series of new works that I have been producing over the last year in New York City.

I previously have had 2 solo showcases back in Sydney, titled #foreveralone and Opened 1m Ago, at Palmer Art Projects in 2015 and 2016. It is exciting to have the opportunity to have my own show in New York.

Wow, it looks like you are busy making your mark in the US, tell us about your other recent achievements in the arts?
It has been a very busy few years. Since my move to the US, I have been exhibiting nationally with exhibitions in Washington, Ohio, Connecticut and all across New York. I recently was selected as a finalist of the William and Dorothy Yeck Young Painter’s Competition at Miami University with accompanying exhibition, Representational Realism. Art critic Benjamin Sutton selected my work for the juried exhibition Birthday Suit, at Site: Brooklyn which was on display in March. This month I will exhibit a piece in Saturated: An Eye for Color, an exhibition at The Barrett Art Center, juried by art curator Michael Rooks, and at the Seattle Erotic Arts Festival.

In 2018, I was selected as a resident for the Summer Painting Residency at Con Artist Collective and then was invited as one of 8 residents to attend the 3-month Art & Law Program, in Manhattan. I was awarded a spot here at the Trestle Art Space Residency for the 6-month studio program and that is where I have been producing work for the last few months. I am currently on residence at Vermont Studio Center for the next 4 weeks, preparing for my solo exhibition in New York at the end of this month.

Who are your biggest influences?
My biggest influences include US painter Christian Rex Van Minnen, who I fortunately had the pleasure of learning from when I attended the Anderson Ranch Summer Painting Workshop, in Aspen, Colorado in 2018. I am fascinated by his use of the traditional techniques of the Old Masters to paint surreal characters that play with the destabilization of attraction and repulsion. I am inspired by Harmony Hammond’s use of materials to imply the flesh or something anthropomorphic. Kerstin Brastsh’s use of materials and how they interplay with paintings reminiscent of the digital interface are constant inspiration to my practice.

How has Trestle Studios contributed to or supported your work as an artist?
Trestle has made a huge contribution to my practice and my ability to produce the work I want to make, in a creative and supportive space. I was very fortunate to be offered a place in this competitive program. It has given me time to reflect on my work and the means to make a new series of works surrounded by international creatives and thinkers.