b. 1939, London.
Stephen McKenna was born in London in 1939, and was living and working in County Carlow at the time of his death in 2017.
A painter impervious to changing fashions, his work nonetheless achieved particular international prominence during the 1980s as part of the neo-classical strain of painterly postmodernism. Yet, for McKenna classicism is more a question of attitude than of subject matter. Overt pictorial references to classical antiquity gave way during the 1990s to a sophisticated exploration of the still life, the interior, the landscape and the seascape, rendering these scenes with great attention to the atmospheric conditions of light, air, space and water. He drew on the hard-won skills and knowledge of the history of painting to create contemporary works that intrigue and question, and have the wherewithal to stand the test of time.
McKenna has had many major solo exhibitions. Some of the most recent include: The air between things, Stephen McKenna & Isabel Nolan, China OCT Boxes Art Museum, Shunde District, Guangzhou, China, (2019); A Painters Life: Stephen McKenna (1939 – 2017), VISUAL, Carlow, Ireland, (2019); Perspectives of Europe 1980–2014, MiMA, Middlesbrough (2014), travelling to Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane (2015); The Paradise , Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin (2013) and Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin (2012). Other major solo shows include Museum of Modern Art, Oxford (1983), Stadtische Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf (1986), the Irish Museum of Modern Art (1993), Ca di Fra, Milan (1999), the Douglas Hyde Gallery Dublin (2003), Arp Museum, Rolandseck, Germany (2000) and the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin (2005).McKenna participated in Documenta 7, (1982); Classical Spirit, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Falls the Shadow at the Hayward Gallery, London, (1986); Avant Garde of the '80s, Los Angeles County Museum of Modern Art, (1987); Dreams & Traditions, Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C. (1997) and in 1986, he was nominated for the Turner Prize.
McKenna's work is represented in the collections of The Irish Museum of Modern Art; The Tate, London; The Berlinische Galerie, Berlin; Staedtische Sammlungen, Rheinhausen; Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels; Fries Museum, Leeuwarden, Netherlands and in many other collections, both private and public, worldwide.