Lethbridge Herald Review

‘Court Painter’ exhibit collage for political commentary


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Artist Allan Harding MacKay holds one of his pieces from his exhibit Court Painter which is showing at the Trianon Gallery. Herald photo by Ian Martens @IMartensHerald

J.W. Schnarr
Lethbridge Herald jwschnarr@lethbridgeherald.com

Traditionally, the court painters and the court fools were in service to the throne, and acted as observers and critics of the upper class.
Allan Harding MacKay’s new exhibit at the Trianon Gallery, titled “Court Painter,” continues in that tradition with the medium of digital collage for political commentary. In the process, he is bridging gaps between the past four centuries. “It’s a very contemporary project, in terms of the technology,” MacKay said. “But I’m using all kinds of older, and sometimes ancient, settings to update it in terms of peopling it with contemporary events.”

Slayer of Dragons

MacKay said his exhibit follows in the tradition of other forms of art in political satire, including political cartoons, satirical magazines and news/comedy shows such as “The Daily Show.”

MacKay pointed to a recent example where federal health minister Jane Philpott has been dogged by reporters and opposition MPs about how much she has spent on limousines, but virtually no mention has been made of Jason Kenney collecting a federal MP’s salary while campaigning in Alberta this past summer in advance of his run for PC Alberta leadership.

Court Painter & J Philpott

Court Painter & Jason K

“There is a kind of cutting through of a lot of the political peccadilloes that happen, and the hypocrisy that goes on,” he said. “It’s out of all of that tradition, and making it contemporary in terms of visual caricature.”

MacKay said through studying political events and interactions at all levels, he is able to single out events he deems fit for inclusion, or “events the Court Painter gets annoyed about.”
The characters are either politicians or those on the fringe of the political process, including media and outlying manipulators. Images are collected from the internet and inserted into staged settings.

Steve & Promotion
I’m a bit of a political junkie,” MacKay said. “I’ve watched (politics) very closely over the past number of years.”
MacKay began work on the collages in 2013, and said there are now more than 500 in the collection – though only about 40 are in the exhibit.
The images started as something MacKay would email to friends and family as a way to inject some humour into what he feels are frustrating political events. He has continued sending the collages out with a small mailing list.

Court Painter & Cane
Calgary artist and retired University of Calgary professor John Will plays the part of the Court Painter in many of the collages.
For more information on Harding’s work, visit allanhardingmackay.com.
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