Robert McNally – Drawings from the Hermit's Cave

August 18 – October 14, 2017


‘… Oh, the jealous and anxious passion I had for solitude, O solitude of my young days! You were my refuge, my panacea, the citadel of my youthful pride. With what might and main did I cling to you – and how afraid I was even then of losing you!’ (Colette)



In 2010 we invited Robert McNally to take part in a residency at Krogerup Højskole, in the countryside near Copenhagen. His motivation was to have a forced period of introspection. ‘I was in a bad way after a difficult time living like a vagabond, and without a dedicated space to work in for a more than half a year.’


He stayed alone in a large house, surrounded by snow on the edge of the woods for 6 weeks. He walked from there to Louisiana Museum of Modern Art everyday.


‘The warmth and calm order of Louisiana was in stark contrast to the disorganisation I had been living in. Contents and artworks aside, the place gave me a peace that I had missed. The uniqueness of the geographical isolation and the intimacy at its heart complimented what I needed; which was to feel alone in order to think clearly, but to feel surrounded and have comfort at the same time. I often visited multiple times during the course of a day, morning, afternoon, and in the evening, I returned almost every day of my residency, and got to know every corner.’  


He also spent time outside, drawing the woods and the coastal views which were reminiscent of Northumbria close to his hometown of Newcastle. The works produced over the course of that week developed over the coming years into this body of drawings.


McNally considered this series of drawings to be quick notes, sketches that were not works in their own right. They became intermingled into piles of other drawings and through a series of house and studio moves were eventually forgotten about. He found a stack in a box in his Berlin studio, others were found in his parents’ garage. Some of them had moulded and the paper disintegrated. He reworked some and remade others from scratch.


I was amazed when I saw these works and dumbfounded they had almost been forgotten and lost. Seeing them together now for the first time they give a strong impression of his time at Krogerup. The period of forced solitude led to close, detailed looking and fantastical imaginings. New visions of familiar objects and places that come from a sustained scrutiny. Pre-Colombian objects from the Wessel Bagge collection, the Giacometti room, the sculpture gardens and stretch of coast in front of Louisiana Museum become fictional places for McNally to inhabit in his solitude.



David Risley