Ellie MacGarry interviewed by Elephant

Louise Benson from Elephant Magazine interviewed Ellie MacGarry.


Here is an excerpt:


"Intimacy and introspection come together in the work of Ellie MacGarry. Her paintings frequently feature tight crops of skin, hair and/or nails, focusing in on the parts of our body that are endlessly renewed. She is interested in the ongoing personal transformation that we each experience, and she emphasizes the many guises that we wear through the gradual stripping away of these layers. Buttons and ribbons come undone, and a casual nip-slip becomes full-frontal nudity.

MacGarry, who recently completed an MFA at the Slade School of Fine Art, also works with ceramics to extend the world of her paintings; combs thick with hair or scattered nail clippings take on a surreal tone when awkwardly rendered in clay. A plate of tomato pasta takes on a strangely hairy quality in one painting, while in others pubic hair peeps out of garments and hemlines, as humorous as it is uncanny.


What is hidden and what is exposed is often central to your paintings, looking closely at garments and how they relate to the naked body beneath. Why do you often choose to focus on the relationship between these elements?


I think it functions in different ways in different paintings. At times I am really interested in the idea of assertive undressing, that the cloth hasn’t just fallen away but that the person has allowed it, and is offering this portion of themselves to you freely. In other works I think of it more as an unravelling; unbuttoned and undone after a long day, shifting from your public body to your private body.

Despite its negative or self-indulgent connotations I really love the expression “navel gazing”; I like to think of it as looking into our bodies in order to get to know ourselves better or to feel closer to ourselves. There’s a sense of tender introspection in being alone with our bodies; it’s an intimate and complex relationship.

This motif of undressing also functions as a metaphor for the general feeling of exposure we might feel day-to-day—exposing ourselves through what we say (and don’t say), what we reveal to others and what we want to keep to ourselves. Clothes give us a lot of choice about how we present ourselves to others, but when they fall away we are just left with what’s underneath: our bare state.


Hair is another common motif in your work, suggestive of everything from childhood trips to the hairdressers to the private eroticism of pubic hair. What interests you particularly about hair? 


I think what really interests me is less about hair itself and more about these moments of potential transformation, of the shedding of old, of the intimate closeness with someone you have only just met—their fingers on your neck, of being confronted with your own reflection for longer than you might like. There is such a duality of fear and excitement at the prospect of leaving as someone different to when you entered.

The first painting I made of pubic hair is called Fear of Flying Low, which stemmed from imagining an undone fly occurring while for some reason the person wasn’t wearing any underwear. It’s quite a large painting so it becomes abstract in a way: two areas of paint—curling brown lines and smooth blue fabric as contrasting zones of inside and outside.

I struggle to relate to the hairless bodies that have been represented throughout art history, and that are still the dominant representation (of women particularly) in the media today. I have always been really interested in masks and wigs so the merkin paintings stemmed from a fascination in the discovery of these pubic wigs—they are kind of ridiculous but there is something fun and humorous about them. They veer into the carnivalesque of dress-up, blurring lines between human and animal, real and fake.  They both reveal and conceal."


Read the full interview on Elephant Magazine HERE


Upcoming solo exhibition by Ellie MacGarry at the gallery

#EllieMacGarry #Exhibition