John Macormac (b.1981) is an artist living and working in Northern Ireland and former co-director at Catalyst Arts. He graduated from the University of Ulster with an MFA in Fine Art in 2016. John helped establish Cathedral Studios, a Belfast based artist run studio organisation in 2003. His art practice is multi-disciplinary, embracing performance, installation and drawing.


Photo by Kristi Nicole Campbell

Artist Statement

My practice explores pattern through mathematics, geometry, structure and environment. Process is key; time, action, choice and human agency are carefully considered factors. Work seeks to develop a connection between processes of the natural world and those of artistic creation, and to deconstruct the heroic expressive act of the artist. I do this through adherence to quasi scientific, systematic methods.

Work often involves large scale geometric wall drawings using chalks or crayons and sculptural objects chosen for their form or purpose, for example a clockwork metronome, or specially constructed forms. Other key elements are drum performance, the physical, performative act of drawing and/or the playback of recorded and manipulated ambient or percussive sound. Sonic components activate and augment visual ones yet possess integrity to stand apart.

Current working processes involve following self-determined rules. Starting with rules is a reaction against past working methods where I would begin with a blank surface and each painted or collaged element would inform the next, in an attempt to make a balanced and somehow coherent whole. Similarly, when planning sonic pieces, I write recipe scores that prescribe what will be played using electronic drums and a loop station connected to an amplifier, rather than sitting down at a drum kit to improvise and always falling into a habitual style of playing. I may perform pieces or invite other musicians to do so. Scores provide instructions but are written to encourage improvisation within the set structure, each iteration will be different. Sections may become looped, layered and manipulated using effects pedals. This approach interrupts a conventional, musical approach to drumming.

Rules are formulated and obeyed with care. I strive to challenge the choice structures usually ascribed to the artist making work. These choices disturb the habitual, classic default of “being and artist.” Instead of confronting a daunting blank surface or a drum kit unequipped, rules provide me with a framework for operation. An important ambition is to frame my work as something other than individual expression, to attempt to reassert the material nature of my art, and its own mutability, rather than trying to speak for the artist.

In fomulating and obeying rules for drawing and drummed performance, I am aware the actions and choices of the individual will always be evident. Choice can be limited, but it is impossible and absurd to attempt to completely negate it.

I document wall drawings when they are finished or abandoned then paint over them. Performance works are documented in video and digitally recorded. The knowledge of the inherent transience of this mode of working is liberating. The fact that the work will eventually only exist in documentation and memory makes me less precious about it, and more inclined to take risks. I am less preoccupied with achieving elusive balance or resolution.

My work constantly strives for multi-sensory and immersive outcomes. Practice is process led, rigorous, repetitive, rhythmic, systematic and labour intensive.