Installation view of Raf McDonald’s work <em>Imagining a future looking backwards to now, excavating 60 billion chickens from 2023</em> 2023 on display as part of the Melbourne Now exhibition at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne from 24 March – 20 August 2023.    Image: Tom Ross

Raf McDonald

Raf McDonald
(b. 1987, Awabakal/Newcastle, New South Wales. Lives and works in Naarm/Melbourne)

Raf McDonald enacts queer approaches to painting by attending to colours, textures, improvisations and hand-made materials. These processes lead the artist to imagine and propose different ways of relating; to each other; our environments and non-human beings.

McDonald has created ‘Imagining a future looking backwards to now, excavating 60 billion chickens’, 2023, for Melbourne Now, which is emblematic of a painting practice that moves between abstraction and representation. This large-scale painting comprises several painted and dyed sections that are treated with mordants, rice pastes and glues that are buried for various periods of time at the artist’s home studio. In one sense the work elegiacally describes a known future that includes decay. McDonald was inspired by a study of how chicken bones will be the biggest indicator of human life in fossil records, since we consume almost 60 billion chickens per year. In other ways the work communicates the complexity of the subterranean layers of land beneath us and alludes to geological time spans. Once buried, the paintings attract insects and various moulds that tend to trace or are repelled by brushstokes. McDonald’s process opens up the painting to a loss of control, where elements like its fibre and the plastic content age and react differently over time and to content found in the soil. The images in the work – diagnosis imagery of teeth grinding and jaw tension – refer to subconscious anxious states, but also act as a painterly enmeshing of human and non-human.

McDonald has held solo exhibitions at Chapter House Lane Gallery (2018), TCB Art Inc. (2017) and Fort Delta (2015), and has appeared in collaborative and group shows at Footscray Arts Centre (2021), Blindside Gallery (2021, 2012), West Space (2020, 2017), Lon Gallery (2019), Mel X NYC Festival (2018), Daine Singer Gallery (2018), the Substation (2017), Next Wave Festival (2016), and Cemeti House and Sangkring Art Space in Yogyakarta, Indonesia (2013). Their murals have been commissioned by Arts House (2022), Moonee Valley City Council (2021), Melbourne Metro Authority (2017), the City of Stonnington (2016) and Shepparton Art Museum (2015). McDonald has undertaken residencies at Little House Gallery (Los Angeles) and won the 2017 Midsumma Arts Prize. They hold a Bachelor of Fine Art from the Victorian College of the Arts (2015) and a Bachelor of Creative Arts from the University of Melbourne (2009).