John was born in Oban, Argyll on the 19 th July 1933 . After leaving school, and following temporary employment as a draftsman in a local architects office, he joined the Royal Air Force, where he worked on aircraft radio/radar. Following further studies in that field, he enjoyed a highly successful career as an aircraft radar, and maritime radio engineer, traveling the world for the Marconi organization. Having a spirit for adventure, he also worked for a time in the deep sea trawling industry. In 1964 he decided to come ashore to work at R.A.F. Sealand, Chester , and at this time he met his partner Brian, with whom he was to remain for the rest of his life.
Becoming bored with the routine of his employment with the R.A.F. and wanting to have more time to pursue the great passions of his life, painting and golf, he decided to become a postman, the hours allowing him the time to indulge these. At one time he played off a golf handicap of three, and won one of the most prestigious golf trophies in Chester . His greatest passion however was for painting, evidenced by what you see in the gallery today. John was a very prolific artist, painting practically every day, and he painted extensively in the Chester and North Wales area, but two or three times a year he traveled to Oban to visit his family and to paint the Scottish landscape. He also visited the island of Iona , a great source of inspiration, whenever possible
John was completely self taught, and it would be difficult to list the artists that most influenced him, although as a child he lived next door to the MacGregor Whytes, so this was an early influence. John admired many artists, too numerous to mention here, but he did particularly like J.D. Innes, Joachin Sorolla, David Bomberg, Matthew Smith, Augustus John, J.S. Sargent, Winslow Homer, D.Y. Cameron, the Canadian Group of Seven Painters, and of course the Scottish Colourists, Peploe and Cadell. In fact, as can be seen, John's paintings are very much in the Colourists tradition, but in his own unique style.
John was something of an enigma to most people. He was a highly intellectual individual with a huge depth of knowledge, a wonderful humanity, and a wickedly dry sense of humour. He played the piano, clarinet, and bagpipes, and loved the music of amongst others, Beethoven, Mozart, and Wagner. He was a very unassuming man who had no desire for public acclaim or financial gain. As a result he generally refused to exhibit, and only with the gentle persuasion of friends, did he occasionally do so, always with considerable success when he agreed. Similarly, he often failed to sign his paintings, only doing so when persuaded, or asked by friends to whom he was giving them. Those paintings that are unsigned can be authenticated by his partner Brian.
John was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus in February 2002, but continued to paint prolifically. Many beautiful paintings were completed at this time, either painted on the spot, or from sketches, notes, and photographs taken. He faced death in a very courageous manner, knowing his illness was terminal, but did comment that he would have liked another three years to paint. Sadly, this was not to be, and John died on the 29 th October 2002 aged 69 years.
John truly loved life and this is reflected in his paintings. They are achingly beautiful, and will bring great pleasure to those who see them and will inspire future generations.
Copyright © 2005-07 The Estate of John MacKenzie
Since John's death in 2002, numerous major exhibitions of his work have taken place in Scotland, England, and Wales, all which were highly acclaimed by the press and the public. Following an exhibition in Edinburgh in 2006, David Buckman, author of “The Dictionary of Artists in Britain since 1945”, asked to include John in his definitive publication which is held by all major galleries, museums, etc.,and John now appears in that edition. Brian Sewell, whom many regarded as the foremost art critic in the United Kingdom , also greatly admired John's paintings, and owed four. He remained in contact with me until his death, encouraging me to promote John's wonderful legacy. He made many positive comments about John's work. Of one Iona painting he wrote, "hardly an hour passes without my being aware of it. I am in love with its freshness and immediacy. I feel I know how every brush stroke was applied. I feel there, looking at the Strand (of the Monks) with John. The painting gives me great pleasure and will, I know continue to do so until my dying day." For a major exhibition at The Grosvenor museum, chester, he wrote, "the paintings cause a frisson of pleasure that is almost physical, as though feeling the temperature and sniffing the pure air, as though being there with him and sharing his experience. Their immediacy is utterly convincing. To relate his colour and brave brushwork to those of his Scottish antecedents (The Colourists) might seem to diminish and justify him – but he needs no justification, and is fine enough a painter to stand on his own “
Additional mixed artists exhibitions took place at the Solo Gallery, Dundas Street, Edinburgh during the Edinburgh Festival 2004, and again in November//December 2004, and at the Tartan Gallery Edinburgh, June to August 2005. A small display of thirty paintings in the room re-named “The John MacKenzie Memorial Gallery” at the Black Sheep Gallery ended in November 2004. A further mixed artists exhibition took place at the Gorstella Gallery, Dodleston, Chester , in November 2005. Further small showings took place in Crail , Scotland , and in Edinburgh in 2006, and from Saturday 27 th January, 2007 until Tuesday 10 th April 2007 , a major exhibition will take place at the Grosvenor Museum , Chester .
For any further information please contact Brian Williams on 01244 677883 or 07786 538641, or contact the Seagull gallery; Louise Brennan Stewart, 48 Kerrynoch st, Gouroch PA19IND, Scotland 01475-632174
Copyright © 2005-07 The Estate of John MacKenzie