City and Sea with Jay McKay and Kevin McKay: A Shared Passion

Yesterday I introduced you to Jay McKay - an exciting new artist who is making his presence felt with his visual poetic seascapes. Not only is Jay one of only 50 HSC students chosen to be represented in the ARTEXPRESS exhibition for 2024, he has also recently shared an exhibition of City and Sea with his father Kevin McKay.
Jay McKay with his father Kevin McKay (Photo provided by Kevin McKay)

Jay received a set of oil paints for his 18th birthday and the work produced for the City and Sea exhibition over the summer holidays are his first paintings in this medium having previously painted in acrylics. It is remarkable to know that Jay produced all 17 paintings for this exhibition over the short period of his summer holidays!!1

Jay McKay (Photo provided by Kevin McKay)

The City and Sea exhibition of more than 30 paintings was held in February 2024 at M2 Gallery, Surry Hills, New South Wales and celebrated Kevin and Jay's shared passion for art. As reported in Eva Kolimar's article Contrasting visions in father and son's art show -

Depicting Sydney's urban and coastal environment - with many of the pieces showing the scenes of Cronulla, the artworks symbolise the pair's equal adoration of their surrounds. 2

Jay paints moody seascapes inspired by Sutherland Shire beaches, where he finds emotional grounding in the ebb and flow of the sea.

"I am drawn to Cronulla's coastline where I lose myself in its emptiness," he said. "I observe the behaviour of light, stillness and movement in the interface between earth and sea which elevates my mood. I try to express this in my paintings, believing there is something universal in the need to visit the sea."2

Rocks at South Cronulla, 2024 Oil on board 20x25cm by Jay McKay

On the other hand Kevin McKay 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.2

Oak Park BBQ - Cronulla, 2017, Oil on board 20x80cm by Kevin McKay

In terms of the coastal environment Kevin refers to above, note that both Kevin and Jay's paintings shown immediately above are of the Cronulla area yet both convey to the viewer different perspectives on the area. Kevin explains the thinking behind the painting above:

Kevin: This panoramic vista of Oak Park (above) began en plein air on Australia Day, when the park was full and the public BBQ was in high demand. It seemed like a fitting national emblem holding the centre of the composition and framing a view of the northern headland to Port Hacking. This is flanked by a house on the left, marking the park’s suburban perimeter, and the Pavilion on the other, facing Bundeena’s Jibbon Point in the Royal National Park and southern entrance to the Port. I returned to complete the work over several days and while the human subject vacated the final painting, I like to think the various park benches allude to many intimate meetings that have and could potentially happen in this space.1

Some of Kevin's paintings included in the exhibition also remind us that it is almost impossible to forget that this beautiful city of Sydney is very, very close to the sea from almost everywhere you look in the inner city and surrounding inner suburbs.

Sailing by - Blues Point, 2022, Oil on board 20x60cm by Kevin McKay

Kevin explains that: This work is from my Harbour City series and came out of a summer spent learning to sail on my brother’s boat. I enjoyed the liberating feeling of open space the harbour brings to the densely populated city. While the postcard view is almost too familiar, it was fun to play with geometric considerations and the poetics of space.1

I tried to counter the horizontal dominance of the panoramic format and bridge by activating vertical dynamics. The Blue Point Tower marks the line of a square equal to the painting’s height while seemingly random sails are placed on the quarter and centre division of the composition. A cropped cloud activates the top edge and reinforces the vertical centre in contravention to the “rule of thirds” art teachers frequently stress.1

As an urban artist Kevin loves to paint the buildings of this sea city because as he has emphasised:

"The built environment fascinates as a manifestation of the human mind that frames our daily lives and records our history, but it is also shaped by the geography of place and the sea plays a powerful role in our identity as a city,"... 2

Kevin McKay Top Left: Lifeguard - Cronulla Pavilion, 2020. Oil on board 20.5x23cm Top Right: One Way - Mitchell St Cronulla, 2020. Oil on board 35.5x35.5cm Bottom Left: Gum Tree-Nicholson Pde Cronulla, 2020. Oil on board 35.5x35.5cm Bottom Right: Oak Park Pavilion V-Cronulla, 2017. oil on board 23x35.5cm

Kevin explains to us that these buildings as shown above are all located in Cronulla, a southern coastal suburb of Sydney, a 20 minute drvie from our home in Sutherland, where the inspiration for Jay's Blue Mind series and the City and Sea works are also located.1

We will return to look at these architectural paintings in more detail in the next post in this series which Kevin McKay's view of the Urban Coastal Environment of Sydney.

Importantly, Kevin has shared with us his thoughts about the connection he and Jay have with Oak Park:

I found it a curious coincidence that Jay's happy place is in Oak Park, which I first encountered on a stormy night of high drama trying to save a friend's sailboat - as reported in AnArt4Life post Exhibition of Hazelhurst Art on Paper Award, and has become a favourite place I return to and paint repeatedly.1

In From the Esplanade #3, Jay has captured the beauty and the terror of the sea where it meets the rocks which become both a source of fascination for the stories that can be found along the shoreline but also a symbol of the precarious life of nature.

From the Esplanade #3 , 2024. Oil on board 20x25cm by Jay McKay

Both these artists take their viewers on a journey: Jay along the shoreline and out to sea. Jay experimenting with the ephemeral nature of the environment...

Rock pool tides, 2024. Oil on board 20x25cm by Jay McKay

Whilst Kevin's journey is into recording the explicit and concrete nature of human habitation and development which has occurred along the shoreline and seeks in his journey of the visual world to protect and preserve all that he sees before him.

Sailing by-Cockatoo Island, 2022 Oil on canvas 50x75cm by Kevin McKay

Kevin sums up the City and Sea exhibition with his son Jay with these words:

"It's a privilege to share this exhibition with him,"..."Despite differences in our focus, we are each responding to the drama of light, the poetics of space, and a sense of the sublime in the world around us."2

Tomorrow we will take a day off and then return the day after to look in detail at Kevin's paintings which were part of the City and Sea exhibition. And then following on from Kevin's work we will return to show you more seascapes by Jay - all of which were part of this exhibition and his very first attempt to use oil paints.

Post Script

The City and Sea exhibition was funded by Matt and Sue Quinliven from Gymea in memory of their son, Troy Quinliven, a former alumnus of the National Art School and departed colleague of Kevin McKay. Here on the AnArt4Life blog we have presented some posts on Troy's wonderful artistic creations which you can view by following the links below.

Geoff Harvey, artist, former teacher, mentor and family friend to the McKays opened the show on 22 February 2024 from 6pm-8pm at M2 Gallery, Surry Hills and which closed on 27 February 2024.

I am pleased to report that Jay did really well at the exhibition selling all but three of his works on the opening night!

Troy Quinliven remembered with love and admiration - Part One
Troy Quinliven painted with talent, passion and courage and today’s post showcases some of his paintings in memory of a remarkable young man. Image credit:
Troy Quinliven remembered with love and admiration - Part Two
Continuing on from yesterday with our tribute to the exceptional talent of Sydney artist Troy Quinliven (1983-2017) we view some of his works in ash and salt solutions and more powerful portraits showcasing his prodigious talent.
Kevin McKay: Repurposed panel in memory of Troy Quinliven
Sydney artist Kevin McKay today pays tribute to his friend and fellow artist Troy Quinliven by repurposing an unfinished and abandoned panel of Troy’s. His study depicts Sydney’s National Art School where he first met and became friends with Troy. Image credit:

The full article on the exhibition written by Eva Kolimar is given in the link below.

Contrasting visions in father and son’s art show
Suburban landscapes and coastal vision.

© Thank you to Jay McKay who kindly gave permission for the images of his work to be shared on AnArt4Life.

And thank you also to Kevin McKay who assisted in the presentation of this post.

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