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Dog Day Circus

Canadian artist Ally McIntyre looks back at her unconventional paintings, made from 2012 to 2019, in a career retrospective, on view now at the Saatchi Gallery in London, England.

Dog Day Circus

Installation shot of Dog Day Circus exhibit, Artist Ally McIntyre, Saatchi Gallery, London, UK. Photo by: Amy McCarthy, Jealous Gallery.

Hailing from Edmonton, Alberta,artist Ally McIntyre is now sharing her collection of playful, bold paintings in Dog Day Circus at the famed contemporary Saatchi Gallery in London, England. Showcasing a combined selection of her works made between 2012 to 2019 for the very first time, the installation gives visitors a look into the artist’s ever-evolving practice in large-scale paintings. 

No stranger to the arts scene in the United Kingdom, McIntyre graduated from Goldsmiths in 2015 and has been marking her position as an artist locally in London ever since. A fan of using contrasting genres and integrating mixed mediums like glitter and spray paint into her paint strokes, her works are unapologetically bold, experimental and rich in colour. From dogs, cartoon characters to still life, the dream-like subjects draw you in with their whimsical storytelling and emotions. Through paintings, McIntyre tackles themes like contemporary feminist activism, the traditional constraints of painting as an art form, and the prevailing association of large-scale paintings with male artists. 

To learn more, we connected with McIntyre to chat about this ongoing exhibition, the art scene in London and her practice as a mixed medium painter. 

AGOinsider: Tell us a bit about the inspiration behind Dog Day Circus. What narratives and subjects did you want to illustrate?

McIntyre: The show is a look back at some of my work over the last decade. I painted all of these pieces in my twenties, but I feel like the Saatchi Gallery has done a great job at showcasing my growth as an artist through those years. The works that are put together in the show, coincidentally, have a dichotomy at play. Earlier works have a theme of destruction and exploitation, while later works have themes of survival and growth. 

AGOinsider: Your playful artwork crosses genres and uses a variety of mixed mediums. How has your artistic practice evolved from 2012 to the present day?

McIntyre: Narrative has always played a big part in my work, but with time, I’ve become more conscious of the materiality of my paintings. When I entered Goldsmiths in 2013, I embraced the aesthetics of raw canvas. Then, as I grew older, my colour palette became more acidic and bright.

Dog Day Circus

Installation shot of Dog Day Circus exhibit, Artist Ally McIntyre, Saatchi Gallery, London, UK. Photo by: Amy McCarthy, Jealous Gallery

AGOinsider: Large-scale art has typically been associated with male artists. As a female artist who works in painting, what do you want to dispel and spotlight?

McIntyre: I was introduced to Jenny Saville’s works in my undergrad and it changed the game for me. I discovered I could occupy a lot of space with painting and I didn’t have to be pretty about it. I think having exposure to many different artists of many different backgrounds is important to challenge self-imposed limitations.

AGOinsider: You hail from Edmonton, Alberta, but you now work as an artist in the U.K. How does the art scene differ between the two?

McIntyre: I have a very localized experience of both art scenes. They are both so vast and differ from region to region. Both are supportive of the arts in different ways. I found the art scene in London has an abundance of possibilities. It was intimidating at first, but once I found my footing, I felt at home (big thanks to Jealous Gallery). Edmonton is smaller but tightly knit so it’s supportive in different ways. It’s accessible. I’ve received valuable mentorship from older artists in the community. There’s excellent access to government arts funding opportunities, too.

AGOinsider: Lastly, what do you want visitors to your solo exhibition to walk away with?

McIntyre: I hope my art makes visitors find something out about themselves; maybe it’s that they don’t like glitter or maybe it’s something deeper than that. Whatever it is, I hope they leave feeling something. 

On view now until January 23, Dog Day Circus is co-presented by Saatchi Gallery and Jealous Print Studio & Gallery Stay up-to-date with cool art happenings inside the AGO walls and beyond by signing up to AGOinsider.

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