Brand new virtual exhibition by the Sebastian Gallery.

In the current times of the Coronavirus pandemic, it is difficult to access the arts as we ordinarily would have done in our spare time. However, it is even more important, given the increasing amount of time we are spending indoors, to have an outlet where we can enjoy culture to help us relax. Thankfully, technology can help hugely in our quest to access the arts while remaining in our homes. For art lovers, on the 11th December, the Sebastian Gallery will be hosting a virtual exhibition of two exciting artists, Joe Webb and Will McNally.

While both have very different styles, they have teamed up to put on a show that will be highly enjoyable for all. While both artists have distinct styles, they both manage to create art that is accessible and not at all elitist – something of which modern-day art shows can be very guilty. Importantly, they both use references to pop culture but their differences can be seen through the mediums that they utilise.

Joe Webb’s work is largely completed through the use of handmade collages. His work can be seen as making comments upon issues such as climate change, war and inequality. Yet, because of his medium of collage, they have a simplistic childlike quality which is very jarring given the subject matters. Notable examples are works with images cut out from children’s books stuck onto a backdrop of the Twin Towers in New York just after the planes hit them in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. His powerful works are why he can count members of Coldplay and Eric Cantona among his many clients.

In comparison, Will McNally mainly uses paint to complete his works, with the addition of some neon lighting and multimedia, like $100 bills. He also, most recently, included braille in one of his depictions of Stevie Wonder. He recalls ‘I painted Stevie Wonder, but on his face it’s the braille for the lyrics to one of his famous songs. I want my art to be for everyone, and this was a way to reach out and create art for people who might not be able to see it’.

His brightly-coloured works also maintain a childlike quality in the main, which also has a jarring effect on the subject matter like Webb’s work. McNally explains where he believes he draws his style from. ‘I think the boldness and the flamboyance of my work definitely has its roots in my Irish side. I’m lucky to have parents who came from such distinct, colourful cultures, and I think that has inspired me to paint and innovate the way I do.’ However, he uses that style to depict darker characters in film, comment on the gross materialistic side of our culture, and to paint portraits of musicians whose lives were dogged by alcohol and drug addiction.

All this comes from an artist who started painting as a profession to help keep him in sweets. He once recalled from his first sale of a painting for a few hundred pounds that ‘as a young lad, I was thinking that was a lot of money, and that was the drive when I was that age – thinking about the amount of sweets I could buy with that’.

Sweets aside, it is the darker themes that connect these two artists and why the virtual exhibition held by the Sebastian Gallery will be one to watch in December. While at first glance their images and works seem light-hearted, upon closer examination they make the viewer question many of the bigger issues in our wider society. In the current Coronavirus climate which has affected every single nation across the world and has damaged so many economies, many of those issues like inequality in the face of other people’s materialism look to be exacerbated. These works are McNally and Webb’s way of commenting upon those issues and bringing awareness to them so that they are addressed.