Mary McCaffrey


‘Ways of Seeing’

Drawing inspiration from my own childhood memories and from those of my son, my practice is poised at the intersection of painting and sculpture. The pieces, composed of stacked painted components, use both regulated and random patterns of arrangement to generate three-dimensional optical fields that test viewer’s perception.

Using variations in colour, size and patterns of construction, the forms rise from the floor, appearing to spin in space, with the vibrant colour dazzling perception and blurring the edges of the form.

My practice is site specific and I like to work with the challenge of an architectural space – the boards are stacked and designed to suit the location in which they are to be exhibited. The construction is flexible and can be built in all sizes to suit the space.

The serial, geometric work of minimalist artist such as Sol leWitt and Carl Andre informs my practice, and their concern to activate the viewer awareness of their own physical relation to the artwork is an important aspect of my work. I like the fact that the carefully balanced forms appear to teeter on the brink of collapse, alerting the viewer to the precariousness of the form.



Years 2005 - 2009

My work has been primarily based on incidents in time with my son Sean whose energy and dynamism usually inform my practice. He has been the inspiration for my works and through photography and paint, I  highlight incidents in time which will never re-occur.

Previously in my practice I worked with the theme of water. During frequent visits along the banks of the River Lagan, I would photograph the flowing water with its reflections and have compiled a series of paintings based on these photographs. Different compositions share the same elements: water, reflections, coloured shadows and a peaceful atmosphere.

In my studio, my work has developed into very large installations of work. When one enters the space, you are surrounded by drip painting in the representations of a waterfall. I used the drip technique, which was painted on cotton, as a backdrop, for canvases made of different sizes to create steps or different stages in a child's life.

My works are made up by pouring paint onto a upright surface and letting gravity spread the paint over the surface. I have worked on framed canvas, unframed canvas, as well as mdf boards. I work with household paints, acrylic and oil paints. For my final exhibition at the end of year one studying for my Master of Fine Art I made a 25foot high by 25foot wall , by dripping primary coloured lines down the wall from large household brushes. My large scale wall painting are made by dripping paint from large household brushes in vertical strips from the top of the wall to the floor. The painting process is repetitive, but the final result shown irregularities, where the paint is diverted by the wall surface. The final wall painting produces unexpected results where the paint overlaps and creates different combinations and this creates unexpected visual results. My influences for my paintings include Jackson Pollock, Pat Steir, and Ian Davenport.

Through this technique, I was no longer in control of the paint. Through research, I discovered that Pollock worked the drip paintings on the floor so the paint would pool in controllable ways rather than running down un controllably to act out impersonal gravity. Pat Steir works her drip-marked paintings on the wall. Her drip mark is produced not by pouring from a stick or jar, as with Pollock, but either by stroking an oversaturated brush. Once on the canvas the excess paint runs down as the drip marks, or by flinging the paint from the brush without touching the canvas.

I wanted to take the painting into a different context from the traditional way people would normally see, by painting a representation of a waterfall on scrim material and attaching it to a tree to give the impression of water flowing. In my waterfall paintings, the dripping paint effect is the waterfall that it represents.

I have changed my palette from blue/green to the use of primary colours. My son Sean - learned his primary colours while playing with coloured rings in his bath years ago. For my end of year show - I am using the gallery to my advantage. I am going to use half of the large back wall to drip primary colours of paint - and mount some canvases on top. I will continue the drips in to the next room or area.

My works is exhibited at the Lloyds TSB London, University of Ulster, Diageo Belfast, Blink studio Belfast.






 Last updated: Sunday, 23 January 2011