Sean McDowell: Collectors' Focus Series XII comprises a suite of five small-scale oil paintings on linen driven by his fascination with biology, neuroscience, psychology, microscopy, and geology. Located at the intersection between representation and abstraction, observation and imagination, the artworks were initially inspired by found stock imagery depicting microscopic cells found within carbon-based life forms. Within the artworks, McDowell invites the viewer to explore the complexity of the natural and man-made world, where patterns and shapes repeat in a self-similar manner, creating complex structures that resemble fractals. The artist is also interested in evoking a sense of renewal by exploring the cyclical nature of life and death.
Throughout the process, McDowell has employed a combination of brushes and sponges, layering the paintings through the application of translucent glazes of oil paint. Offering a perspective on the relationship between micro and macro, the paintings depict intricate patterns, organic shapes, and varied line networks that examine the interconnectedness between conscious and subconscious levels of existence and understanding. The use of colour, depth, and texture also plays an important role in evoking different sensual, emotional, and psychological states, referencing sources including aerial landscapes, the ocean, and stained glass windows. Just as archaeological layers tell the story of the past, these paintings offer a glimpse into the awe-inspiring world of microorganisms surrounding us every day.
Sean McDowell is an emerging German-born artist based in Melbourne (Naarm), Australia. Working primarily in painting, sculpture and exhibition-making, his practice explores disciplines ranging from psychology and neuroscience to biology, microscopy and museology. McDowell also draws on auto-biographical elements and art historical narratives, which are re-considered through the formation of patterns and systems. The act of collecting lies at the heart of Sean’s practice, where he draws on both found and bought materials as the point of departure.
Driven by a deep engagement with materiality and fabrication processes, McDowell’s work re-interprets new, multi-layered pathways between things. Through a series of actions, the subject matter is often re-contextualised as a way of challenging its’ pre-existing framework, while allowing the potential for different interpretations and connections to arise. By shifting the viewers perception and questioning their associations to them, he is interested in the blurring of imagery that occurs between representation and abstraction – observation and the imagination.
In 2020, McDowell completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts (First Class Honours) at the Victorian College of the Arts, The University of Melbourne under the supervision of Tessa Laird. Selected solo exhibition include Organisms, Five Walls, In the day I dream of faraway places, Kingston Arts Centre, The Staging of Actions Past, St Francis, Selected Works, Rubicon ARI and Cuprum, Cuprum, Kings Artist Run. He has been included in group exhibitions including From Heart & Mind, The Dax Centre, Extended Gestures Extended, Five Walls, and Group Conversations: Australia’s Shame, George Paton Gallery. In 2018, Sean was the recipient of the Perrin Sculpture Foundry Award. He has been shortlisted for prizes such as The 2017 Mary and Lou Senini Student Art Award, McClelland Gallery, the 2018 Footscray Tertiary Art Price and the 2019 Keith and Elisabeth Murdoch Fellowship at Margaret Lawrence Gallery.
He was the recipient of a Kingston Arts Grant and a City of Melbourne COVID-19 Arts Grant in 2020 and a City of Yarra Small Projects Grant in 2022. Last year Sean was selected to take part in the CAVES Guest Curator Program, where he presented a curatorial project titled Shifting Forces. He is currently one of seven artists taking part in the 2023 Billilla Studio Residency Program through Bayside City Council. His work is held in public, private and corporate collections throughout Australia, and internationally in Germany and The Netherlands.
Sean would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri and Bunurong peoples of the Kulin nation as the traditional custodians of the land on which he lives and works. He pays his respects to Elders past, present and future. Sovereignty was never ceded.