Top3Tuesday: Cathal McKee

Cathal Mckee

Cathal McKee is an independent Creative Director running his own agency CMK1 from Amsterdam and Cape Town. CMK1 specialises in creative strategy and branding for the fashion, technology and lifestyle industries. In 2015, he decided to put the agency team in the ‘cloud’ as opposed to having offices in both locations. Having previously worked for Philips Design and various large online creative agencies, Cathal has been a Creative Director for over 25 years and 12 years his own agency. Having worked for the larger well known brands, from Adidas to KLM, Cathal now prefers the urgency of smaller brands and start ups.
In the past 4 years, his attention has turned towards supporting and managing emerging creatives artists in the fields of design, graphic arts and photography. By curating an yearly exhibition in Amsterdam, as part of the Afrovibes Festival, the focus has been sourcing grass roots contemporary art and design coming out of Southern Africa. The work is predominantly for digital printing that can be bought online in the recently launched Fiercepop digital gallery.  Fiercepop offers a new approach to art – #artforeveryone – affordable art without gallery prices or edition restrictions.

Cathal took a break from his cross-continental lifestyle to chat to us about some exciting new (and old) things, in this month’s Top3Tuesday.

3Gibson Les Paul Double Cutaway

The Clash

I wouldn’t call myself a guitar player at all, but growing up in late 70’s London, a barely teenage punk youth, brought with it a reality that if you can start a band you can start a revolution. The attitude of ‘If you can’t say it in 3 minutes  – the average length of a song – then don’t say it at all. The minimalist short, sweet and simple aesthetic has stuck with me my whole life and in my work. Less is always more. Less; not only by design, but also by lifestyle. Excess is decadent, decoration deforms function. Which leads to the Gibson Les Paul Double Cutaway. Simple, two piece milled wood and glue, no frills, double P90 pickups guitar favoured by all the punk guitarists from Mick Jones of the Clash to Steve Jones of the Sex Pistols. Like i said, it was never about the music, it was about the words, a chance to shout out against the failing establishment of a post-empire Britain. I needed the guitar then, and i have one now. Hardly played.


© Isaac Zavele

Fierceart is not fine art. Its the term i use for work that i am looking for when curating a next pop-up (Fiercepop) exhibition. Art should always ask questions, and not provide the answers. Fine art is to gaze at, Fierce art should get you thinking. Currently South Africa offers some of the most relevant creative work around. While the whole African continent strains under an explosive mix of expansion and repression, creativity is producing some of the most positive, raw work that deals with identity and the need to create building blocks of a new culture. The work of Isaac Zavele comes to mind. His transformation of Colonel Sanders into the hard working Zulu man who buys a KFC for his family at the end of the month, as the ’success meal,’ says everything about how 21st century digital art should be. Fierce.


WhatsApp Interface

WhatsApp is the most democratic communication tool on the planet. Costs nothing to use but has created a completely new dimension to any and every relationship that uses it, whether friends, business or even passing strangers. Intruding, Intimate, addictive, a message can invade your privacy at any moment, conversations picked up immediately after enormous gaps in time, while it offers the chance to chat, leave a voice message, send pics and videos and even documents. The whole psychology behind if someone has seen your message, or how long they take to reply as well how they text or use emoticons can make or break any relationship. Dopamine is to blame as it offers the same instant gratification as other more common activities. Now owned by Facebook, I wouldn’t be too concerned on privacy issues. We all know what we are doing and we know that nothing is for free, yet a small message of encouragement to a friend afar via WhatsApp can go a long way. Indispensable.