In 1992 Kenneth MacMillan commissioned hi to design stage sets and costumes for the Royal Ballet's production of The Judas Tree. This marked a turning point for McFadyen as it forced him to concentrate on the buildings minus the figures. He began work on a series of paintings of London Underground interiors and facades of derelict cinemas, and Rex is an example, being a derelict cinema in East London. McFadyen finds beauty in run-down buildings that are in what the Neo-Romantic painter John Piper called a "pleasing state of decay". The painterly technique adopted by McFadyen seems to reflect the state of the building. The decrepit facade is recorded in a complex arrangement of drips and stains, and the poster that is being out up features a road sign forbidding U-turns, as if to signify the irreversible decline of the building. But although the cinema here is boarded up and looks ready for demolition, it has in fact been restored since McFadyen painted it.
Oil on canvas
178.5 × 178.5 × 3 cm
Ⓒ Jock McFadyen RA
Jock McFadyen RA, born 1950
The childhood 'doodling' of Paisley-born McFadyen matured when he attended art classes at Glasgow School of Art on Saturday mornings shortly before he left school at fifteen. Although he continued with his art when he could, it was not until her was twenty-two that he enrolled at Chelsea School of Art in London, graduating in 1977. He was Artist-in-Residence at the National Gallery in London in 1981 - only the second artist to be so - and in 1990 he was commissioned by the Imperial War Museum to record aspects of Berlin in the aftermath of the dismantling of the Wall.
McFadyen looks on his art as realism, but it is often not the 'comfortable' realism of, for example, the Glasgow Boys. He portrays life as it is, often depicting the seamier side of urban existence. He has made cities his study: first their inhabitants and now the cities themselves. His art has an affinity with the work of the German artists Gerge Grosz and Otto Dix, of Edward Burra and the American painter Edward Hopper. In British Art his heroes are Walter Sickert, L.S. Lowry and Michael Andrews. In much of McFadyen's work there is a large measure of caricature and not a little humour. However, it is a serious comment on the human condition.