City and Sea: Urban Coastal Environment by Kevin McKay

Regular viewers of the AnArt4Life blog will know well the wonderful urban paintings of Kevin McKay and know also how much the blog team love having his regular sharing of his works. And so it is with delight that we will showcase some of the urban landscape paintings he contributed to the City and Sea Exhibition with his son Jay McKay.

If you missed the introductory post on the City and Sea Exhibition a couple of days ago please click here.

Kevin explained that: The works I contributed to City and Sea were selected for referencing the coastal environment or for subjects that alluded to Sydney’s place by the sea.1

For those of us who know Sydney well the two icons of this wonderful city by the sea is the Sydney Harbour Bridge as seen in the background below in Kevin's Fishburn Ferry to Barangaroo and of course, the ferries which connect a city split in two by the sea.

Whilst Kevin likes to concentrate on paintings of the buildings of Sydney and their architectural features please take a moment to appreciate the swirling storm which partly fames this painting and reminds us that this is a city very much affected by the warm tropical air which seeps down from the north.

Fishburn Ferry to Barangaroo, 2022, Oil on canvas 40x60cm by Kevin McKay

We will return to look at atmospheric effects in seascape paintings when we review the paintings Jay had in the City and Sea Exhibition.

For now we are going to return to look at some of Kevin's paintings in more detail some of which you saw briefly in the last post. Often we just glance at a painting and take in whether we find it appealing or not without knowing the significance of the work to the artist. Yes, sometimes there is a short description but honestly how many of us really study a painting and get to know what the artist wanted us to understand.

And so first we are going to look at Kevin's painting Gum tree-Nicholson Pde Cronulla.

Gum tree - Nicholson Pde Cronulla, 2020, Oil on board 35.5x35.5 cm by Kevin McKay

Kevin: The art-deco "P&O" style house (above) is common to many of Sydney’s coastal suburbs. This one is located on a backstreet that I often drive down while heading to Oak Park. It presents as an iconic “home among the gums trees” complete with frangipani tree and wheelie bin. I liked the effect of light on its curved surfaces and the way it evokes feelings of home, summer, and the seaside.2

One Way - Mitchell St Cronulla, 2020, Oil on board 30.5x40.5 cm by Kevin McKay

Kevin: These art deco units (above) face a busy parking area at Cronulla beach and stand proud amid a sea of ubiquitous brick unit blocks. The signage provide a golden section to the composition, and I liked the way the arrow directs us one way while converging parallel lines are pulling us the other into the illusionary depth of the painting.2

Oak Park Pavilion V - Cronulla, 2017, Oil on board 23x35.5 cm by Kevin McKay

This work (above) is from a series I painted in 2017 of the Oak Park Pavilion in Cronulla’s south, which I have returned to repeatedly, as per last years' Hazelhurst Art on Paper Award. The Beach Pavilion appeals as a kind of entrance to the beach interfacing between the city and the sea with a classical effect that belies its utilitarian service as a public toilet/change-room. This work shows its back side facing the sea and is illuminated by morning light. A park bench invites us to sit for a while and savour this moment.2

Lifeguard - Cronulla Pavilion, 2020 , Oil on board 30.5x23 cm by Kevin McKay

Kevin: The effect of light and shadow on Art deco curves (above) appealed again. The form of the lifeguard tower at Cronulla Beach is echoed in a background structure, and is contrasted by the brutal geometries of the RSL club rising behind. The loudspeaker funnels bring variation to the curved form and interfaced strangely with the graphic signage and street furniture that impose on this view.2

When you look at paintings of a familiar place, be it your home or where you have visited, memories come flooding back. The narrative the artist has planted in the painting becomes extended with the memories of the viewer and this is what makes art so wonderful. Each work, be it a painting, sculpture, tapestry and so on through all media, expands in its nature as it is viewed by countless people across the years.

When I look at Just for Fun - Milsons Point I am transported back in time to my childhood, much of which was spent holidaying in Sydney with a dearly loved uncle ...

Just for Fun - Milsons Point, 2022, Oil on canvas 70x70cm by Kevin McKay

... where visits to the sea and especially Bondi Beach were frequent. Notts Ave corner - Bondi brings back so many memories of leaving the beach to catch the bus back to Paddington - no doubt sunburnt from the day in the sun!

Notts Ave corner - Bondi, 2017, Oil on board 80 x 40 cm by Kevin McKay

... and always a little envious of those people who were able to ride the waves in a yacht.

Sailing by - Drydock Birchgrove, 2022, Oil on canvas on board. 30x60cm by Kevin McKay

We commenced this post with Kevin's painting of one of the iconic Sydney ferries framed by the dramtic stormy sky above. It is appropriate to conclude with the lighthouse casting a shadow from the light above - the clouds so erratic and ephemeral in contrast to the solid permanence of the lighthouse aware of its duty to protect all those who dare brave the sea.

Lighthouse Shadow, 2021, Oil on canvas 52x70cm by Kevin McKay

The father and son team of Kevin and Jay McKay complement each other in their art styles, just like bookends: Kevin's urban landscape of city buildings and seaside structures form the human context for an exhibition about Sydney under the rubric of City and Sea. Tomorrow we will will venture into Jay's vision of the sea and how it inspires him to create images which have a poetic touch.

If you would like to learn more about the artist Kevin McKay please follow the Bookmark link below.

Kevin McKay

© Thank you to Kevin McKay who kindly gave permission for the images of his work to be shared on AnArt4Life and who gave considerable assistance in the presentation of this post.

1. Contrasting visions in father and son's art show by Eva Kolimar. First published February 5 2024,
2. Communication with Kevin McKay