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Linda McCann’s gaming teenage son is a portrait for our times

Art: What Lies Beneath


Linda McCann’s painting of her video game-playing teenage son

Linda McCann’s painting of her video game-playing teenage son

'Tapestry Drawing (Red Sun)', Isabel Nolan, 2021, pencil on paper, 42 x 74.5 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Kerlin Gallery, Dublin

'Tapestry Drawing (Red Sun)', Isabel Nolan, 2021, pencil on paper, 42 x 74.5 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Kerlin Gallery, Dublin

Anna Spearman's 'Loose Parts' (detail). Picture by Padraig Cunningham

Anna Spearman's 'Loose Parts' (detail). Picture by Padraig Cunningham


Linda McCann’s painting of her video game-playing teenage son

Linda McCann ‘Fortnight’

Rembrandt painted his curly-headed, teenage son Titus wearing brown, a red hat and an ornate necklace. When Renoir painted his teenage son, in ‘Jean en Chasseur’, Jean is in blue, one hand on hip, the other holds a gun.

And last summer Linda McCann painted her video game-playing, teenage son. “He was away in a technological, imaginary place with his headphones on, totally focused the same way I would be if I was working on a painting. It’s his space where he can get lost for hours shouting out loud, talking to people who aren’t there.”

McCann, born in Jersey, moved to Australia when she was five. Then two years later moved to Manchester and later returned to Jersey. “We didn’t have loads of toys but always had art materials and books. My parents married at 19, had their first child at 21, me two years later and with a bit of a gap, my brother was born. We spent our summers on the beach, my mum would pack a picnic and we would be out for the day. A safe happy childhood with lots of freedom.”

McCann’s parents “embraced the 1960s music, culture fashion, constantly played records, and the bedroom I shared with my sister was wallpapered in album covers”.

Her father, a baggage loader at the airport, drew from life, was a huge Walt Disney fan, and introduced her to the work of illustrators Norman Rockwell, Arthur Rackham, Beatrix Potter. “He collected stamps, comic books and we would talk about how illustrations were made. My dad became a full-time photographer in his late thirties.”

McCann also sewed clothes for her Sindy doll from fabric scraps. “At jumble sales my mum could source quality garments”, and McCann’s interest in the “handmade and the haptic” began. “We learn through touch, it is how we begin to understand the world.”

After art and English A Levels, McCann worked in an advertising agency and, aged 20, headed to London where she worked in advertising and newspapers, met her Canadian husband, and travelled. They came to Dublin in 1994 for work, settled and raised their four children: “A bit of a mongrel family! Very confusing for other people with all our different accents.”

McCann loves drawing, sewing, fashion and textiles. Feeling the fabric, she wonders “what can I do with this?”

McCann had no intention of going to NCAD, “I wasn’t good enough for that” but when her father died “it was a big kick up the backside to do something more creative”. She did an art PLC at Stillorgan – “it was as if someone had turned on the lights” – and at NCAD she thrived: First-Class Honours, Student of the Year, an NUI Award.

Painting for her is “a physical, thinking process guided by colour and materials, a series of problems and questions. It’s an intuitive process that starts with drawing and is built with washes of colour and layers of paint”.

The colours in Fortnight, confidently composed with marvellous energetic brushwork, “are in Bonnard’s palette. The colours came before the subject matter and I have learned the importance of greys to balance the colours and not let them all shout”.

Video of the Day

The video game is Fortnite but McCann liked that ‘fortnight’ is a period of time, an old-fashioned word for a title of a painting subject that is very much ‘today’.

‘Fortnight’ is on view at Woman in the Machine Exhibition at VISUAL Carlow until September 12. Instagram: LindaMcCannART/NCAD; www.lindamccann.ie



The sculptor and installation artist uses a range of materials to capture “the joy and excitement of her day-to-day encounters” in three dimensional works. ‘Loose Parts’ is an overall title describing children playing with different materials including pink fur, Lurex and wood. Roscommon Arts Centre, until July 30.

Millions have seen Nolan’s wonderful Turning Point sculpture at Dublin Airport. Tapestry Drawing (Red Sun) 2021, pencil on paper, is from Nolan’s new exhibition made during Covid and inspired by the megalithic art and ancient landscape surrounding the Solstice Arts Centre, Navan. Until August 28; solsticeartscentre.ie

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