The New Art Centre is presenting an exhibition of ceramics by the Scottish artist Bruce McLean. The show is comprised of one hundred plates, vessels and tiles. Ceramics have played an increasingly important role in McLean’s practice, which has been in an almost constant state of invention and re-invention, to date encompassing performance, sculpture, installation, public art, painting, printmaking, drawing, photography and film. The works in the current exhibition were originally made for the Set in Stoke project for the British Ceramics Biennial in 2015, but this is the first time such a large group of McLean’s ceramics have been shown; en masse, the results are powerful, fluid and painterly. In addition, McLean will also show an example of his ’tile art’ for which he worked with industrial processes and materials supplied by Johnson Tiles. Like his plates, McLean’s tiles incorporate painted abstract and figurative shapes and lines using a restricted palette of seven colours. Each exhibited piece is unique.
Bruce McLean (b. 1944) studied at Glasgow School of Art from 1961 to 1963. From 1963 – 66 he attended St Martin’s School of Art, London, where he famously reacted against the formalist academic teaching of teachers such as Anthony Caro, Phillip King and William Tucker. In 1966 he abandoned conventional studio practice for impermanent sculptures made using materials such as water, along with performances of a generally satirical and subversive nature. In ‘Pose Work for Plinths I’ (1971; London, Tate), photographs record a performance in which McLean appeared in a variety of different positions on plinths to parody the poses of Henry Moore’s celebrated reclining figures. When in 1972 he was offered an exhibition at the Tate Gallery, he opted, with mocking intent, for a retrospective lasting only one day. He has continued to use humour to confront the pretensions of the art world and wider social issues such as the nature of bureaucracy and institutional politics. From the mid 1970s, while continuing to mount occasional performances, McLean turned increasingly to painting and most recently to ceramics.
McLean has participated in many major international exhibitions since the 1960s, highlights include: When Attitudes Become Form, Kunsthalle, Bern (1969); Information, Museum of Modern Art, New York (1970); The British Avant Garde, New York Cultural Centre (1971); Documenta 6, Kassel (1977); Art in the Seventies, Venice Biennale (1980); A New Spirit in Painting, Royal Academy, London; Zeitgeist, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (1982); Documenta 7, Museum Fredericianum, Kassel (1982); Thought and Action, Laforet Museum, Tokyo (1983); The Critical Eye, Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven (1984); Out of Actions; Between Performance and the Object, 1949-79, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1997); Bruce McLean and William Alsop, Two Chairs, Milton Keynes Gallery (2002) and Body and Void: Echoes of Moore in Contemporary Art, The Henry Moore Foundation, Hertfordshire (2014). McLean’s work is in private and public collections around the world and in 1985 he was awarded the John Moores Painting Prize.
Bruce McLean: One Hundred Plates 30 Jul – 11 Sep 2016 New Art Centre Roche Court East Winterslow Salisbury Wiltshire SP5 1BG