June 04 - July 22, 2009
Without You I Am Nothing (New Paintings)
galerie jerome de noirmont

What Will I Tell My Heart?, 1967, 2008 - Oil on linen - 203,2 x 152,4 cm

exhibition release


As of forthcoming June 4 and until July 22, Mc Dermott & McGough will unveil their most recent paintings of 2008-2009. Through these works, created with juxtapositions of post-war movie images, the artists give us a glimpse of some of the fundaments of their timeless and so distinct work.



During their last exhibition at the gallery, entitled Please don’t stop loving me[1], the paintings McDermott & McGough had realised were all based on the same iconographic structure; that of comic strip plates juxtaposing images from the 1950’s comic-books with film stills from sentimental Hollywoodian movies of the same years.

Actually, one of these works, There wasn’t a thing left to say, 2006, will be included in the forthcoming exhibition on comic strips at La Maison Rouge – Fondation Antoine de Galbert in Paris[2]. 


In the body of work presented here, the images, which have all cinematographic origins, are superposed one above another on the canvas just like a split screen. The paintings are thus similar to the projection screen where a stripe moves very slowly in order to let the viewer see numerous images simultaneously or the same image repeated over and over again….



The topic of these new paintings is not cinema. It is rather a key to understand the intellectual course of the couple McDermott & McGough.


Cinema is used here as a visual portal to the past, just as literature or music could have been used. The title of the exhibition Without You I Am Nothing refers to a visual access in which individuals learn how to behave and act… Cinema also refers to the viewer, viewing the artist’s work.


As the literary homosexual icon Gore Vidal underlined, “ conversations most always lead to film”. Films are an essential vehicle of our cultural consciousness. Films provide us with multiple examples of individual lives, and endow us with their keys. Individual behaviour and identity, relationships among one another are influenced by films, by the teachings that we draw from them.


The exhibition takes here an autobiographic character because it was precisely through films that the young McDermott and McGough use to escape the redundant routine and boredom of the 1950’s-60’s American suburbia where they grew up. The movies were means to discover something else than their immediate dull environment. They were a window on the world of “glamour”, and a tool to understand how people lived in other time periods, even though it was an artificial approach… David McDermott took very early on the concise decision to “live” in a different time period. As a young man, his only control over his environment being the way he dressed, he started wearing vintage clothes, just as the ones he had come across in the films of his childhood.


It is also by analysing the stage sets, the decors and film stills of these movies that the artists have been able to constantly nourish their distinct work, which aims to recreate an outdated imagery rather than to appropriate images from the past. The films have thus permitted the artists to familiarize themselves with the references of the period in which they wished to be submerged.



For the present body of work, the artists have selected images from American movies of the 1940’s-50’s, precisely because it is through this period that McDermott & McGough have been able to discover a 20th century glamour, as embodied by the artificial and erotic beauty of the actresses of these post-war films. Like so many others, the artists were fascinated by the aura of Rita Hayworth in Lady from Shanghai, by Lana Turner in Madame X, or Lauren Bacall in Written on the Wind, all images that we find in the exhibited paintings.



The structure of the split screen offers us a formal approach to the work of McDermott & McGough, a didactic visualisation of their timeless theory which considers that all times exist at the same time… The decomposition of the image on the same plane, that of the canvas, evokes the decomposition of time to various layers/epoques that are superposed on one another in order to cohabit in the same period, that of the present. When this superposition includes different images, the painting takes suddenly an evident narrative character, which the title of the work also suggests: I cried for you, Something I’ve never had


An unseen dramatisation of the image appears in these new paintings, as much by effects identical to those traditionally used in movies, such as close-up focuses on faces to intensify the dramatic character of their expression, or contrasts between colour and black and white, as by their particular “staging” that enhances their spectacular impact. By removing the blank spaces between the comic-book framings that were present in their 2006-2007 paintings conceived just like comic strip plates, or by erasing the old-fashioned TV screen added like a frame around the image in their 2007-2008 paintings, the artists place the viewer in a direct and intimate confrontation with the images, reinforcing thus, their visual impact.



Following their important photography retrospective at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Dublin, 6 February – 27 April 2008) and then at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie (Paris, 5 November 2008 – 25 January 2009) along with the impressive book published on this occasion at Charta3, McDermott & McGough grant us here a bit more of the intimacy of their creation; they offer us to see their inspiration sources, at the very origin of their artistic discourse, that of a contemporary vision inscribed in the past.



[1] Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, January 19  – March 16, 2007.

[2] Vraoum !, May 28  – September 27, 2009.

3 [3] McDermott & McGough, An Experience of Amusing Chemistry, Photographs 1990-1890, introduction by Enrique Jucosa, text by Sean Kissane, Charta Editions, Milano, 2008.