Painter John McDonald was rendered profoundly deaf over sixteen years ago and completely shut off from the world. Now, in his fifties, John has discovered a whole new sense of connection through art.
John has only been painting for little over two years, but is already preparing to exhibit his first solo show. Butterfly Cry will feature John’s portraits of Frida Kahlo and local Derby women.
“I want to show the progression in my work,” John explains, “from my earlier paintings to where I am now.”
From a young age, art had always been something that John wanted to pursue. However, having growing up in a working class Glaswegian community, the subject was never presented as an option to him. John’s connection to the artworld began when he started painting forest scenes on his van.
“People would always come up and comment on what I was doing,” John says, “but I could never knew because of my deafness.”
His brother then asked him for a landscape canvas and was moved to tears by what was presented him. Now John spends all day every day in his studio at Banks Mill, working on his craft.
“I fell in love with painting. It’s given me everything. It’s the most balancing and rewarding time of my life. One of the fundamental reason why I paint is that I went from not talking to being able to speak to people and communicate. It drives me so much because it gives me that.”
After two cochlear implants, John is now able to have some hearing again, which helped him approach the women that feature in his collection West End Girls and gave him a new sense of communication. “Being deaf can be really isolating. It’s the most horrible world to be involved with.”
John wants to introduce more deaf people to art and break down social barriers. “I used to think over two years ago that you were born with the ability to paint or you were taught it and it’s neither. I believe anyone can paint, anyone can draw. There’s no secret to it, you just need to learn the techniques.”
“If I can do,” he says, “anyone can.”
John McDonald‘s exhibition Butterfly Cry will begin on Monday 16 April 2018 and run until Friday 18 May 2018 at Banks Mill Studio. John will be painting live throughout most of the exhibition, for anyone who would like to speak to him or learn how to paint.
More information about the exhibition can be found on the University of Derby website here.