Chad McCail’s work recalls the kind of visual information that we are bombarded with every day. His drawings, paintings, prints and sculpture recall school textbooks, how-to guides, comics and the instructional pamphlets, posters and slogans that are a feature of public information campaigns.
This material is often used by authority figures such as governments or teachers, but the artist turns his sources on their head. Rather than telling us what we should or shouldn’t do he uses these techniques to imagine and describe ideal worlds where people take care of each other and share their resources without conflict. Or he uses images as a way to explain the processes that he believes have driven our fear of such change. McCail’s subject is ourselves: how we grow up, are educated, our workplaces, our economy, relationships between the sexes and the very structure of society itself.
Some of his work imagines a utopian future where we are happy and free. Wealth is Shared (2000) is a series of three paintings, influenced by the simple texts and images of Ladybird children’s books. They show a world where the wealthy share their property and where men and women strive to understand and improve their relationships. In the third of these paintings, Wealth is Shared – No One Charges, No One Pays, a supermarket has been changed into a giant greenhouse where people grow and harvest food and children play happily in a nearby river.
Other works describe the processes which McCail thinks restrain or intimidate our emotional and intellectual development. Monoculture (2010) is a large print influenced by the look of early computer games and the way they allow players to progress upwards through different levels of the game. It shows children being educated and finally emerging into the world. However, the teachers are shown as stiff, pixelated robot figures and as the children move upwards through the system they lose their individuality and become robotic too. The adult world they enter is a grey desecrated landscape of factories and smoke. McCail’s work uses deceptively simple means to tell us about our complex world and how we might change it.