b. 1939, London.
While McKenna has lived and worked in various countries since the 1960s, since 1998 he has been based in Ireland. A painter impervious to changing art fashions his work nonetheless achieved particular international prominence during the 1980s as part of the neo-classical strain of painterly postmodernism. Yet, for McKenna classicism is more a question of attitude than of subject matter. Overt pictorial references to classical antiquity gave way during the 1990s to a sophisticated exploration of the enduring value of the time-honoured genres of the still life, the interior, the landscape and the seascape.
McKenna has had many major solo exhibitions. Some of the most recent include MiMA, Middlesbrough (2014), travelling to Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane (2015); The Paradise , Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin (2013) and Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin (2012). Other major solo shows include Museum of Modern Art, Oxford (1983), Stadtische Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf (1986), the Irish Museum of Modern Art (1993), Ca di Fra, Milan (1999), the Douglas Hyde Gallery Dublin (2003), Arp Museum, Rolandseck, Germany (2000) and the Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin (2005). McKenna participated in Documenta 7 in 1982; Classical Spirit at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Falls the Shadow at the Hayward Gallery, London, in 1986; Avant Garde of the '80s, Los Angeles County Museum of Modern Art in 1987 and Dreams & Traditions, at the Smithsonian Institute, Washington D.C. in 1997. In 1986, he was nominated for the Turner Prize.
McKenna's work is represented in the collections of the Irish Museum of Modern Art; the Tate, London; the Berlinische Galerie, Berlin; Staedtische Sammlungen, Rheinhausen; Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels; Fries Museum, Leeuwarden, Netherlands and in many other collections, both private and public, worldwide.