Katherine McNenly’s work resonates with depth and seizes the challenge of working from life within the realist tradition, conveying the essence of her subjects by meticulously reproducing the subtleties of light and colour. She strives to express an idea, a memory or a glimpse of beauty in the true tradition of this genre. McNenly’s work is extremely personal, yet it provokes a curiously familiar response from the viewer. Her delicate play of light and how it interacts with form stirs recollections of people, places, and objects which draws those memories forward from our subconscious to the conscious.
Katherine is originally from Northern Ontario but not lives in Almonte, Ontario. She attended York University in Toronto, completing her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1986. In pursuit of a more formal education, McNenly studied with renowned portrait artist and teacher John Michael Angel at the National Portrait Academy in Toronto. It stressed a traditional approach to painting based on the techniques and materials of the old masters. She continued her education in Florence, Italy in 1990 at the atelier Cecil-Graves, a 19th century realist-inspired atelier. She has been a finalist in the Kingston Portrait Prize, The International Artist Magazine Still Life competition and most recently she was awarded an Honour Award at the prestigious International Portrait Society of America 2012 held in Philadelphia. Her still lifes and portraits are in collections across Canada, the United States and Europe.
The Dutch and Spanish realists of the Golden Age have influenced me the most. Artists like Vermeer worked up their paintings in a multi layered approach. Each layer is a foundation for the next, ultimately building up to the desired finish. It is a very slow approach to painting, but I love the possibilities that a layered technique can provide. There is an opportunity to utilize transparency and opacity in paint, and build interesting colour effects and textures, by varying the opacity of paint. This process allows the artist to better represent a naturalistic reality. This traditional approach to painting allows one to methodically make decisions about colour, tone and the drawing throughout the painting process. Much of the work is painted from life with natural light, allowing for an intense study of the nuances of colour and to form and a deeper connection with the subject. – K. M.