Marian Cramer

by Michelle McKeown

From 03-11-2020 To 30-01-2021





Until 30 January 2021


T h e    W i d e n i n g    G y r e

‘Only inside the whirlwind will the clue to the new rhythm be found.’ [1]

Franco ‘Bifo’Berardi,

‘The Widening Gyre’ presents Irish artist Michelle McKeown’s most recent exploration of the  portrait as agent of masculine power and vestige of sovereign, national identity.  

A gyre is a spiralling movement; a vortex; a revolutionary turn. In Oceanology it denotes the circular motion of major ocean current systems. It is also a prominent motif within Irish prehistoric culture; spiral petroglyphs proliferate in many archaeological sites throughout the ancient Celtic world.  In the context of W.B Yeats poem ‘The Second Coming’(1920), – the opening lines from which this exhibition draws its title[2]  – the gyre refers to a vast cycle in history which Yeats foresaw coming to a close at the end of WW1.  Yeats despairs at this historical shift, describing it in apocalyptic terms as a descent into cruelty and chaos.  


In one sense, it could be posited that McKeown’s paintings affirm Yeats’ vision of the shifting gyre, however, her work resists the conceptualisation of this transition as a cataclysmic fall, within the ‘whirlwind’ of chaos, rather, the liberating potential of a ‘feminine’ desire and a source for a critical  posthuman mode of becoming.


Italian philosopher and activist, Franco ‘Bifo’ Berardi observes in his book ‘The Second Coming’, 2019, which also derives its title from Yeats’ 1920 poem; ‘Since Machiavelli declared that political power (the Prince) is based on the violent submission of the capricious feminine side of reality, (whose Latin name is Fortuna), modern history has been above all a permanent manly war against femininity.’[3] McKeown’s most recent body of work places the ‘feminine’ forces of Fortuna (chance, hazard, touché) at the front and centre of her artistic practice and research.

On the occasion of this exhibition, the launch of which marks the centenary of the publication of Yeats’ poem, McKeown takes as her point of departure, images of ‘Woman’ as she is encoded historically in Irish visual culture.  Many of the paintings draw inspiration from iconic stamps produced during the 1940s to promote the ‘Irish Hospital Sweepstakes’, a lottery founded as a means to finance the newly independent state’s national hospitals. The ‘Sweepstake’ portraits depict young women in Celtic costume, modelling goddesses and prominent female figures from early Irish mythology. Deploying painting techniques most readily associated with surrealist automatism, such as pliage (folding) and decalcomania (transfer), McKeown entrusts capricious forces of chance with a pivotal role in the work’s formation by applying the rorshach technique.


Through the ritual act of folding the image, a gesture that is at once auto-mutilating as well as auto-affecting, McKeown stages a formal insurrection against the icon’s representative function. Folding the painting enacts a radical surrender of the artists individual will and authorial intent, foregrounding instead the agential potentiality of paint-matter itself and its proclivity for self-organisation. Through the painting process the objectified female sitters are rendered abject; reconfigured into totems of chance; harbingers of a posthuman becoming where masculine power and consciousness is no longer master. Some of the ‘sweepstake’ portraits remerge as dehiscent entities, as though bursting open into space, others appear as though devoured by the milieu in which they are embedded.  Implicated in this relation a new is the viewer who like the sitter is also liberated from any master code or authoritarian symbolic.   

Berardi proposes that if we are to re-emerge from the wreckage of humanism intact we must learn to embrace the forces of Fortuna, ‘resizing the human will, in comparison with the untameable forces of nature and the unconscious’[4]. In essence we must make friends with chaos. Through her approach to painting McKeown voyages into ‘the widening gyre’, with hope and equanimity, searching for clues in the whirlwind, seeking companionship with chaos. 

Michelle McKeown’s artistic research engages intensively with critical posthuman thought and proposes a correspondence between figurations of feminist, nomadic subjectivity and contemporary painting as an expanded practice. Her recent studio inquiry  attends to the condition of painting as a situated and embodied knowledge practice. The female painter within this framework  is apprehended as an enfleshed and networked subject,  materially rooted in, and accountable for the specific location and time  in which she is embedded. As the feminist philosopher, Rosi Braidotti  explains, a feminist nomadic art is not only bound to ‘ certain territorial or geopolitical coordinates but also points out one’s sense of genealogy or historical memory.’ [1]   McKeown’s most recent body of work purposively endorses Braidotti’s nomadic approach by taking as their stimulus representations of the feminine as it is encoded in Irish visual culture. Deploying techniques of pliage (folding) and decalcomania (transfer) in her painting process, McKeown seeks to disrupt the masculine gaze and will to mastery.  Folding submits the painting to itself and by ‘staging the ritual of its own destruction’[2] consumes phallocentric representation from within.   Radical surrender yields to an ontological openness that liberates woman’s imago from the cultural and political ideologies which have traditionally sought to arrogate it.

‘It’s a kind of civil war that each painting is waging on itself. This opens up a passage to what I could call Michelle McKeown’s psycho-political works . . . If we look at it long enough we begin to recognise our obsession with order, division, government.  But this obsession appears here as a sickly condition, a skin disease that hovers between attraction and repulsion.  So one approaches power only to realise that one is repulsed by it, a repulsion that neve the less does not mark the end of one’s attraction.  . .it’s this double movement of a settling and unsettling that McKeown’s paintings capture, the translation that they mark.’

 Arne De Boever in The Drowning World, 2010

Michelle McKeown studied fine art painting at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin before completing her MA in painting at the Royal College of Art, London in 2007.  Awards include the Basil H. Alkazzi Scholarship and Loughborough University School of Art & Design Artist-in-Residence Bursary. She has exhibited nationally and internationally and her  paintings are held in private collections in the UK, Ireland and Europe. Recent group exhibitions include Progressions, Ulster University Gallery, Belfast, 2019, coinciding with the publication of some of her recent practice-based research in Intersections 2019: a postgraduate journal for interdisciplinary exchange.  Other selected group exhibitions include QSS Resident Artists launch exhibition, Belfast, 2019; Femocracy, Marian Cramer Projects, 2016,  2Q13 Lloyds Club, London, 2013; Journey, Millennium Court Arts Centre, N. Ireland 2013; Waar ken ik u van? Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC) Art Collection,  The Netherlands, 2013. Solo presentations include The Seeress, Marian Cramer Projects, Amsterdam, 2013, The Realm of the Mothers Marian Cramer Projects, Amsterdam, 2011. 

Michelle McKeown is an Irish visual artist currently undertaking doctoral study in painting and feminist theory at Ulster University, Belfast, Northern Ireland.


[1] Braidotti, R. ‘Nomadic  Subjects’, Columbia University Press, NY, 2011, p53

[2] Ellmann, M. Eliot’s Abjection in  ‘Abjection Melancholia and Love’ ,Routledge, London, 1990, p198

[1]Berardi,F. The Second Coming, Polity, 2019, p.7

[1] Berardi, F. The Second Coming, Polity, 2019, p.3

[2] “Turning and turning in the widening gyre the falcon cannot hear the falconer” – opening lines of W.B Yeats Poem, ‘The Second Coming’, first published November, 1920.

[3] Berardi,F. The Second Coming, Polity, 2019, p.6

by Michelle McKeown

From 24-11-2016 To 26-02-2017


Marian Cramer Projects is pleased to present Femocracy – The Divine Feminine with Victoria Adam, Güler Ates, Lise Haller Baggesen, Annabel Emson and Michelle McKeown.

In ‘Democracy Begins Between Two’ (2000), Luce Irigaray (Belgium) invites us to rethink democracy and construct a new civil code invested with the genio femminile (the female spirit).

‘Until the relationship between man and woman has changed, the desire to dominate nature, not only cosmos and women’s nature but equally the nature of young people, of other races, and citizens of their countries, will remain unchanged.’(2000, Irigaray)

McKeown’s most recent rorschach works for FemocracyThe Divine Feminine seek to establish painting emphatically as an inter-subjective encounter, rupturing traditional representations of women in an attempt to forge new relations with man, woman, nature, world and other.

Güler Ates’ work comments on the Western notion of Orientalism and the effects of the cross-pollination of cultures on female identity and architecture. In her work she questions the relationship between the veil and the West, by setting the female veiled figure within a lush or historic European interior. Ates will be presenting new work made recently at Oude Kerk Amsterdam.

In the past years Lise Haller Baggesen has been working mainly on two bodies of work regarding Female Genius and Feminist Utopias, namely MOTHERNISM and HATORADE RETROGRADE.

MOTHERNISM (2013-) is a book and nomadic audio installation, aiming to stake out the “mother-shaped hole” in contemporary art discourse, at the intersection of Feminism, Sci-Fi and Disco. If the proverbial Mother is perhaps perceived as a persona non grata in the art world, because her nurturing nature is at odds with the hyperbolic ideal of the singular artistic genius, MOTHERNISM amplifies her presence, channeling her energy, complexity, and sublime creative potential in a series of intimate and critical reflections. The resulting collection of letters dedicated with love from one mother to her dear daughter, sister, mother, and reader—fuse biography, music, art, and history into an auto-theoretical testimony that recalls and redefines the future imperfect.

Since it’s inception MOTHERNISM has toured North America and Europe and also served as the “mother-ship” for the academic colloquium “Mapping the Maternal: Art, Ethics, and the Anthropocene” at the University of Alberta, earlier this year.

The book was co-published by Green Lantern Press & Poor Farm Press in 2014, and is available through SPD books:

HATORADE RETROGRADE (2016-) debuted at Chicago’s Threewalls/Rational Park in May 2016 and was received with an Art Forum Critics pick by Matt Morris. It features a selection of sartorial works set against a backdrop of revisionist “lipstick formalist” paintings to present a dystopian vision of the US anno 2033. In this glimmering post-capitalist burnout we must learn to make-do-and-mend, to repurpose art for art’s sake, and perhaps to forgive –but not forget– certain moments in the past when we were all hitting the Hatorade a little too hard. HATORADE RETROGRADE paints a bleak but hilarious picture of our shared predicament: on the intersectional battlefield we traverse there is no one-size-fits-all body armor, yet we cannot let our guards down post-feminism, until we arrive at post-gynophobia.

Annabel Emson will be showing paintings about the feminine in relation to Jung’s writings on the feminine and masculine, and work based on the writing of Gaston Bachelard and his reference to the feminine and water.

Finding something beyond politics, beyond opinion, beyond separation and judgement, a place where all is, and all is well is what excites Emson about painting. Matter just forming and transforming. This pure state is the ecstasy of the artist.

Victoria Adam has created new work for Amsterdam Art Weekend beyond politics beyond opinion. Adam makes sculptures intended to be experienced close-up and will present 3 small sculptures infused with herbal blends of both a real and cognitive variety. Each evokes a specific feeling from a combination of ingredients, smells and tactile familiarity.

Lise Haller Baggesen is based in Chicago and all other artists live and work in London


by Michelle McKeown

From 19-09-2013 To 01-10-2013


Please see the article below on the 2Q13 show on the website of Wall Street International.

Marcelle Joseph Projects is delighted to present: 2Q13 – Women Artists, Women Collectors, an exhibition co-curated by Marcelle Joseph and Lydia Cowpertwait, and sponsored by Hampden.

The exhibition’s title 2Q13 references the cult trilogy 1Q84 written by Japanese author Haruki Murakami and represents a new parallel world conceived by women. If women could rewrite the rules of the universe in 2013, what would they do?

The exhibition will feature over 85 contemporary artworks made by women artists and will represent the art collections of seven prominent female collectors from London, Europe and North America. The art collectors involved include English collector Leslie Balfour-Lynn, art critic, curator and lecturer Sacha Craddock, Dutch gallerist Marian Cramer, Contemporary Art Society trustee Sarah Elson, the writer and contemporary art patron Maryam Homayoun Eisler, Boston-based collector of female photographers Lucille Spagnuolo and chair of the Collections Committee for the Contemporary Art Society Cathy Wills.

Many of the artworks featured in the show will be exhibiting for the first time in the UK.

Artists featuring in the exhibition will include: Samira Alikhanzadeh, Nazgol Ansarinia, Phyllida Barlow, Tina Barney, Becky Beasley, Louise Bourgeois, Ruth Claxton, Prunella Clough, Marian Coutts, Tracey Emin, Laura Ford, Geraldine Gliubislavich, Nan Goldin, Katy Grannan, Shirazeh Houshiary, Chantal Joffe, Josephine King, Beatriz Milhazes, Katy Moran, Catherine Opie, Cornelia Parker, Anna Parkina, Paula Rego, Maaike Schoorel, Kiki Smith, Elif Uras, Kara Walker, Gillian Wearing, Rachel Whiteread, Francesca Woodman and Vicky Wright.

There will also be a selection of new artworks exhibited that have been purposefully made for the exhibition or are recently produced works. These will include works by Afsoon, Güler Ates, Clarisse d’Arcimoles, Alexandra Bircken, Annabel Emson, Sally Fawkes, Jess Flood Paddock, Marenka Gabeler, Margarita Gluzberg, Rachel Goodyear, Vanessa Jackson, Karen Knorr, Julia Kunin, Kiki Lamers, Rania Matar, Michelle McKeown, Josephine Meckseper, Annie Morris, Jemimah Patterson, Alex Prager, Eva Räder, Penelope Slinger, Laurie Simmons, Shellburne Thurber, Mary Webb and Rose Wylie.

The exhibition will also be hosting a discursive programme of events sponsored by the UK Friends of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.  On 7th October, Iwona Blazwick, director of the Whitechapel Gallery, will moderate a panel discussion with some of the featured women collectors.  On 4th November, Sacha Craddock will lead a conversation with three of the featured artists.

The Lloyds Club is a Grade II-listed Georgian townhouse in heart of the City of London with an ongoing contemporary art programme of four exhibitions a year.

For more information please contact Marcelle Joseph or Lydia Cowpertwait:



Tel: 01344 622 064

Mob: 07971 580 572


Tel: 02076 133 643

Mob: 07805 397 071







by Michelle McKeown

From 24-09-2011 To 31-10-2011



Paintings and works on paper

Ter info:

MARIAN CRAMER PROJECTS is delighted to present The Realm of the Mothers, a series of new works by the Irish, London based artist Michelle McKeown. This is the artist’s first solo exhibition in the Netherlands.

McKeown’s work arises from a fascination with the romantic idea of the world Soul, the idea of life immanent in matter and ‘will’ to formation in nature – an idea championed by Goethe who had influence on prominent scientists and mathematicians in the 20th century. Goethe’s approach pre-empts in a way ideas intrinsic to current theories concerning chaos. Chaos theory being the study of dynamical systems; the phase transitions and changes these models undergo over time – in other words systems in flux. For McKeown, Goethe is the bridge between the modern science of chaos and the myth.

The Realm of the Mothers in Goethe’s Faustus could be interpreted  as being the realm of the dark ‘materia prima’ from which all things are born – the womb of creation.

This is also outlined in greater detail throughout James Gleick’s book Chaos Theory (1987), a text that has had increasing impact on McKeown’s most current body of work. James Gleick describes the essence of chaos: a delicate balance between forces of stability and forces of instability.

Central to the construction of the paintings is the use of the process of ‘decalcomania’ to create so-called dendritic fractal patterns; a technique primarily associated with the surrealist Max Ernst whereby two paint surfaces are pressed together. By enacting the process of decalcomania on the portraits there is a subversion of their Apollonian order – creating an opening or a site for the Dionysian nature to emerge – the portraits can be seen as fierce, ‘carnivalesque’  totems of the natural order – disrupting the idea of political, social, intellectual power. The dendritic fractal pattern is the geometry of fluid nature (Chaos) – the portraits are overruled by the nature of the material and forces which are beyond our control. These are portraits transgressing themselves, they become elemental goddesses.

Michelle McKeown is also influenced by De Kooning’s paintings of women of the 1940’s – where the membrane between the women  and the world breaks down – they are as much in the landscape as the landscape is in them. Pollock’s drip paintings in a way are influential in that he allows the forces outside the frame to enter into the work.

Michelle McKeown was born in Northern Ireland and studied at the National College of Art and Design, Dublin 1998 – 2001 and the Royal College of Art 2005 -2007.  Awards include the Basil H Alkazzi Scholarship 2005-2007 and Artist-in-Residence Award from 2007-2008 at Loughborough University School of Art & Design. Solo Exhibitions include ‘Michelle McKeown in Storage’, Project Space at The Agency Gallery, London, 2008, and ‘Strange Attractor’, Loughborough University Gallery, 2008,  Selected group exhibitions include ‘I Have No Use for Truth’, 38B Peckham Rye, London, 2011, ‘The Drowning World’, Airspace Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent, 2010, ‘Rhizomatic’, Departure Gallery, London 2010, ‘L’Apres Moderne’ Projet Midi, Brussels, 2008, John Moores 25 Painting Prize, The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 2008.

Michelle McKeown lives and works in London.

26 September until 31 October, 2011

By appointment:

+31 (0)6 147 80 171

Marian Cramer Projects

Chopinstraat 31

1077 GM Amsterdam

T: +31 (0)6 147 80 171


NOTE TO THE EDITOR: Illustrations and more information can be requested on +31 6 147 80171 or at

Michelle McKeown

The Widening Gyre