California based artist Carmen McNall’s paintings are punctuated by deep woodcuts creating a balance between textured patterns and stretches of pure pigment. By combining painting with added wood carving techniques, the paintings are not just rich in color, but embody the idea of “handcrafted, ” a theme that is central in her work through both process and subject matter as hands play a recurring role. The faceless figures in McNall’s work resemble Goddess-like muses as they rest in dynamic yet effortless poses. Each one embodying strength, confidence, and wisdom. The figures are adorned with a novel blend of symbolic patterns and mark making. They rest within their own elements, surrounded by a complex yet tranquil interior landscape that inhabit both ancient and futuristic realms.
Through this work, McNall explores the body as a vessel, a container that carries us through life, using both literal vessels such as vases and containers, as well as human forms. She investigates all that is held within us: memories, tension, energy, healing properties, intuition and how these manifest into movement.
“My work is very planned out because of the nature of wood carving, every mark is permanent and therefore must be intentional. A lot of the process is in the concept and vision for each piece. I spend quite a bit of time sketching the composition, the colors and pattern designs. I like to work on a body of work simultaneously, having multiple paintings in progress at once. This way I can step back and see the work all together, the way I feel it’s meant to be viewed.
Once I finish painting, I carve into the pieces using woodcut gouges, creating texture within the patterns. This is a very raw part of the process, no mark you make can be undone so it’s about accepting each mark and the handmade quality it creates. This is what I love so much about the woodcut process. It’s very honest and reveals each moment in time that went into the making of the piece, learning to work with the wood and letting the grain of the wood determine the mark making.”