Jock Mooney, detail from 'Milagros series (Nun)', 2022-24. Enamel paint on copper-aluminium sheet
The exhibition’s interpretive call to action felt intuitively inspiring for both artists, and the highly detailed results are as thought provoking as they are playful, a foil and a mirror to our current troubled times. The artists pitch their sculpture, drawings and paintings against each other. Having inherited his father’s uncanny sense of the absurd, Jock presents a colourful tableau of sculpture where sci-fi meets religious relic. Globular, garish gold urns and drooping tortured faces sit aloft, or act as vessels for a seemingly never-ending porridge pot of pom-poms.
The tableau brings to mind both a memorial display, akin to those seen during Mexico’s Day of the Dead festivities, and that of some imaginary set-piece from a Dario Argento or Mario Bava giallo horror film. Similar folly and horror can be seen upon the walls, with a cavalcade of intricate reliefs of enamel painted metal cut-outs. Family portraits, ghosts, feast days and apparent famine are on parade, and the dance between the two generations of work is perhaps closest here, both yielding a quality that is equal parts votive offering and graffiti, though their paths never fully cross. Mortality, or sense of life’s biggest joke being death, seems to weigh heavily on both their shoulders.
John Mooney’s series of small, highly detailed pen drawings offer several takes on the theme. A nod to the military, the funereal, the theatrical and the memorial are all here and present and correct, woven and warped with a distinctive, almost manic attention to detail. In comparison to his earlier large-scale paintings, these drawings feel like a more energetic, playful glimpse into the artist’s mind, especially when shown en masse, with imagery that almost begs to be animated. Depictions of ‘wooden’ structures – heads, tanks, artist’s palettes – stand in almost op art landscapes or some barren void, inviting us in, or warning us not to enter. There is a sense of facade or folly present in Jock’s work.
To see two artists, father and son, exhibiting side by side, it is obvious, easy perhaps, to draw comparisons, but the real interest may lie in the differences. While Jock’s sculptures and drawings may differ stylistically from the paintings of his father, they share the same imaginative manipulation of materials, labour intensity, and similarly quirky outlook. Both artists assert true lateral thinking, both are subversive in unique ways.
John Mooney RSA (b. Edinburgh, 1948) lives in Earlston. He attended Edinburgh College of Art (1966-70), and where he went on to teach from 1971 to 2008. Jock Mooney (b. Edinburgh, 1982) lives in North Shields. He studied at Edinburgh College of Art between 2000 – 04.