This is Ulrike Groos’ description of Painter1.
“The video sketches a stereotype of the artist genius as a backward, behaviourally-disturbed, infantile eccentric incapable of normal human interaction, who disregards norms and rules since his only means of expression is in the obsessive, impulsive pursuit of his art.”
As an aside: Painting has subsequently become a part of McCarthy’s practice, separate but related to his performance and installation work. Here’s an example.
Back in the 1995 performance, McCarthy’s painter chants, “de Kooning, de Kooning” as if hoping to channel something (genius? critical success? a place in the canon?) from the late Abstract Expressionist. While not quite pastiche, the paintings produced during McCarthy’s performance bare some resemblance to some of de Kooning’s work.
The closest I’ve come to this kind of gestural abstraction was last year, doing an exercise from Wendy Ann Greenhalgh’s book Mindfulness & the Art of Drawing2 (in retrospect, this exercise also kicked off my interest in automatism). She suggests drawing with eyes closed, for between 10 – 20 minutes, on a “piece of paper … securely attached with masking tape to the floor, wall or table”:
“… with your eyes closed, you’re going to draw with your awareness on your whole body as you make marks. Drawing on a large scale will assist you in this, as drawing from one side of the paper to the other will require shifts in weight, movement of legs, back etc.”
I tried with acrylic paint and this was one of my results.
McCarthy’s Painter features a scene (at 34:36) with two art collectors describing their collecting history, which progresses chronologically from Constructivist El Lissitzky (1890 – 1941) and Abstract Expressionist / Colour Field painter Mark Rothko (1903 – 1970), through to Sigmar Polke (1941 – 2010), Markus Lüpertz(b. 1941) and (occasional McCarthy collaborator) Mike Kelley (1954 – 2012). It’s a stereotypically on-trend collection for the time, but also offers some context for the paintings made by McCarthy’s character.