Duncan McAfee

Ben Oakley Gallery is proud to present ‘The Ebbing Curve of Forgetfulness. The first solo exhibition to take place in our new building will include more than 30 recent paintings and drawings by South London based artist Duncan McAfee.

Spanning the last seven years of McAfee’s practice the works in this exhibition all share a consistent mix-and-match attitude to image making, splicing together misremembered elements to create his hybrid images. The title for the exhibition comes out of a conversation about the work in relation to Russell Hoban’s 1980 novel Riddley Walker and the creative act of memory to fill in the gaps of what’s forgotten. Trying to remember Hermann Ebbinghaus’ ‘forgetting curve’, a late 19thC mathematical formula that depicts how the rate of human memory decays over time, our title ‘The Ebbing Curve of Forgetfulness’ is itself a misquotation, a faulty memory, borrowed and misplaced in perfect parallel with the works on display.

Drunks’ and ‘Portraits of Drunks’ (2017) here are literally steeped in wine, the paper covered in evocative pools of dried red residue. To paint in wine plays with ideas around transubstantiation and religious icons; are these drunks or saints? The wine forms shapes like the ink-blots developed by psychologist Hermann Rorschach in the 1920s. These have been responded to with painting and drawing, teasing out some figurative or narrative strain highlighting or obscuring certain elements. There’s a fun interplay between the marks made by intention and the materials doing their own thing, a sort of collaboration

between artist and material. The process is like a game of consequences, a surrealist Exquisite Corpse, or maybe some form of competition.

Of course this is a fantasy, the ink, the paint, the wine are all dead matter. But McAfee plays with this fantasy, it’s somehow necessary to reach a new painting, not a facsimile or an interpretation but an unplanned image arisen from the process of its own making.

In the more recent works (‘Exploding Heads’ 2019-2021, ’Kerfuffle’ 2022) red wine substitute (fake wine for fake religious paintings!) is spattered across the painted surfaces suggesting transubstantiation, intoxication and cartoon violence. Reflecting the uncertainties of our times, the population of cartoonish characters the artist depicts seem anxious and manic from overexposure, all wide eyes and gritted teeth. There are references following the lineage of Picasso to Bacon, through Pop Art and Abstract Expressionism to Condo and his ‘Psychological Cubism’. McAfee draws from and collages together his personal, art history and popular culture creating works full of

Duncan McAfee (b. 1976) graduated from Chelsea School of Art in 2000 and has been on the Turps Banana Off-Site Programme since 2021. They’re irreverent and sincere, humorous and grotesque, accidental and intentional, timid contradictions: and boisterous, anxious yet joyous and celebratory.
Duncan McAfee (b. 1976) graduated from Chelsea School of Art in 2000 and has been on the Turps Banana Off-Site Programme since 2021.

Fairy Divider

Opening drinks reception Friday 21st April @ 7PM

2 mins from Greenwich Cutty Sark DLR

and Nelson Road.

5 minute walk from Greenwich Overground (10 mins from London Bridge)

Insta: @benoakleygallery_

Twitter: @thebenoakley


Created by Jason Boughtwood