'C***', Michelle Mckeown

A painting of a close up of a woman's genitalia with a butterfly painted over it

Oil on paper, 40.5 x 50.7 cm, 2008

Artist's statement

The butterfly genitalia may give rise to possible notions of Psyche, Freud, Rorschach charts and historical references to the butterfly as symbolic of the soul, rebirth and immortality. However, aware of the process that has brought the work into being, what is more pertinent for me is the conflation of two opposing systems of 19th
-century thought, together on one plane - those of Romanticism and Realism. Inspired by the 'Klecksographien' of Justinus Kerner (natural philosopher, poet and doctor of the dark-side of nature, 1786-1862), the enactment of an inkblot experiment while referencing Courbet's famous realist nude might present one with, in the words of Enrico Prampolini, ' . . . taking to its extreme the idea of substituting completely and fundamentally the reality of paint with the reality of matter.' The simple gesture of the fold reinforces the anthropomorphism of the 'nature' that is depicted, while revealing simultaneously the nature of its production.


Michelle McKeown was born in Northern Ireland in 1979. She studied at the National College of Art and Design Dublin 1998-2001 and the Royal College of Art London 2005-07. Awards include the Basil H Alkazzi Scholarship Award 2005-07. Selected group exhibitions include Ritual Abuse The Boy's Hall Dalston London 2007, The Great Exhibition Royal College of Art 2007, Matches and Petrol A&D Gallery London 2006, Taster Hockney Gallery Royal College of Art 2006 and Contemporary Counterparts Belltable Arts Centre Limerick 2005. She had a solo show Strange Attractor at Loughborough University Gallery 2008. She was artist-in-residence at Loughborough University 2007-08.

Please note: 'C***' is not the actual title for this painting. We have amended the title on this website for firewall purposes.

Michelle Mckeown website