Artist Statement

Butterfly Cry
Broken... Broke
Beautiful Burden
Cry... Goodbye
Lie, Lay, Laid


John McDonald, who paints with unashamed passion and pathos, has received international acclaim for Butterfly Cry, a series of portraits of Frida Kahlo.

John’s background in theatre is evident in his ambitious installation, and paintings where a staged scene is set, and a dramatis personae is created.

Born in a Glasgow tenement, John left school with a piece of paper (no certificates) stating that he was deaf and would be best employed in a noisy environment as everyone would be similarly disadvantaged.

Born under the image of Christ of St John of the Cross by Salvador Dali. This painting, in Kelvingrove Art Gallery, planted the seed for a love of art, and, with its dynamic perspective and monumental scale, awakened the soul of this deaf kid from Drumchapel.

Following a decade working in noisy environments, John’s real education began: in a Merseyside Unemployed Resource Centre. In becoming mentally astute in the law, politics and history that inform union and welfare work, he found, with naivety, himself.

John’s fine art practice is informed by the dual and equal passions of his life: a passion for creative arts, and passionate campaigning for social justice. John’s painting is in a socially critical tradition, and is socially engaged: both through residencies and commissions where he leads people to discover themselves as artists, and through his emotive, sometimes challenging, paintings.

John’s painting is both the catalyst and the fruition of a personal journey towards peace. The process epitomises that pendulum swing from individuality (deaf isolation) to a need to be related.

“I commenced my career as an artist from a place of physical and mental pain, with my Butter fly Cry series introducing a narrative that conveys suffering.... becoming beauty.

This is a narrative I am pushing further now: testing the power of empathy for a fuller version of humanity, with its muddle and contradiction; testing the power of Art to create personal growth and autonomy in individuals, and real social change in our immediate communities”.

I’ve come through my Dark, Dark, Dark period,
And it’s my painting that’s bringing me Light, Light, Light