We are delighted that our next exhibition in the Gallery Downstairs will feature new works by the internationally acclaimed performance artist and painter, Bruce McLean. As one of the major figures of contemporary British Art, McLean’s approach has proved influential to his contemporaries and also to a generation of younger artists.
McLean is an artist who was at the forefront of the development of Conceptual art in Britain in the 1960s and his work over the last five decades includes paintings, ceramics, prints, film, theatre and books.
McLean was born in Glasgow in 1944 and studied at Glasgow School of Art from 1961 to 1963, and from 1963 to 1966 at St Martin’s School of Art, London, where he challenged what he and others believed to be an overly formal approach of their teachers who included Anthony Caro and Phillip King. McLean’s perception of the St Martin’s sculpture forum can be gleaned from his description of them as ‘Twelve adult men with pipes who would walk around for hours and mumble.’
It was during this time that McLean started to explore the possibilities offered by making sculpture. In particular McLean’s work emphasized the style and behaviour around art as much as the art object itself’; a subject that is still explored today, most obviously by Grayson Perry.
Using materials that were unexpected McLean’s sculpture might have been made in ice or mud. Again his influence can be seen in contemporary artists, such as Andy Goldworthy who makes abstract sculpture in remote or unexpected places. McLean said of his sculpture at the time ‘I liked the idea of a puddle as a sculpture, because it is not eternal, it exists only when it rains’.
As land art became a recognised artistic genre, McLean moved into performance. One of his most celebrated early works is Pose Work for Plinths I (1971; London, Tate), a photographic documentation where he used his own body to parody the poses of Henry Moore’s celebrated reclining figures.
This image has now taken on an iconic quality and was recently recreated by Noel Fielding as part of an exhibition of classic rock images at the Tate Liverpool.
From the mid 1970s, while continuing to mount occasional performances, McLean turned increasingly to painting, in a witty and subversive parody of current expressionist styles, and to ceramics.
McLean’s practice is in a permanent state of change and invention. We are delighted that our exhibition at For Arts Sake will feature pieces from his very latest work which explores the medium of monoprints on a large scale.
Numerous galleries include McLean’s work in their collections, including the Saatchi Collection, Tate Gallery, Arts Council of Britain, Victoria & Albert Museum, along with shows in both Europe and America.