Born 1969 in Nazeing, England Lives and works in London, England
London-based autodidactic artist Emma McNally creates large-scale cartographic drawings that explore the space between the virtual and the real, mapping the rhythms and disruptions of the world in layers of graphite and carbon onpaper. Reminiscent of detailed charts of constellations, diagrams of military bases, complex musical scores or extensive circuitry boards, McNally’s meticulously drafted, intuitive drawings are maps of a mindscape; wholly imagined and informed by her observation of complex systems and interest in science, technology, philosophy and music.
McNally’s drawings are representations of things that are sensed more than seen, interpretations of an elusive space that exists in the overlap between the virtual realm and the physical world. Working for a time from a studio by the River Thames, McNally experienced daily the systolic rhythms of the river, the beating heart of London that instigated the development of the complex city system that exists there today. Observing the contrast between the measured cadence of the river and the frenetic pace of everyday life in the city, McNally became increasingly aware of the omnipresent influence of the online world and the mass of data and information available at the click of a button. At the Embassy of the Real, she presents Choral Fields 1–12, 2014–16, drawings that can be imagined as diagrams of data, recording the pathways upon which information is distributed and communicated via the internet, illustrations of the way everyday reality has become intimately linked to the digital world.
Extracting information from a wide variety of online sources, McNally transmits the convergence of disparate elements – physics, sound, biology, communications and weather patterns – on to paper through the physical process of drawing and mark making. Chaotic yet controlled, McNally’s drawings are shaped by the process of their creation, generated through equal measures of construction and deconstruction. Drawings are built up in layer upon layer of carbon through a meticulous practice of precise mark making, which gives way to violent destruction as McNally erases and disrupts the surface, often physically sanding away areas of the image. As disintegrating matter accumulates on the surface of the paper, an area of chaos is opened up, leading the artist back to precision as she attempts to control the disorder, responding and reacting to the drawing and the course of its evolution. McNally’s drawings are spaces of exploration and interrogation, creating relational zones within the plane of the paper where the physical and the virtual collide and intermingle in an abstract reflection of human existence.
Emma McNally has had numerous solo presentations of her work, including ‘Atoms Insects Mountains Stars’, Trinity Contemporary, London and Young Gallery, Salisbury (2012); and ‘Fields Charts Soundings’, t1+2 Gallery, London (2009). She has participated in major group exhibitions, including ‘MIRRORCITY: London artists on fiction and reality’, Hayward Gallery, London (2014–15); ‘Abstract Drawing’, Drawing Room, London (2014); ‘f(glitch)’, Stony Brook, New York (2014); ‘The Curator’s Egg, Altera Pars’, Anthony Reynolds, London (2012); and ‘Seeing/Knowing’, Gund Gallery, Gambier (2012).