The Fine Art Society will be staging a major exhibition of the work of artist John McLean (b. 1939), in September. It will feature a series of important paintings that have never before been exhibited in the UK – regarded by both the artist and the gallery as amongst the strongest work of his career, and lauded in the catalogue preface by John Elderfield (formerly Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York).
McLean has been likened to British art’s secret weapon: a self-propelled missile whose long career has been an unfettered exploration of abstraction and a unique journey into colour. The son of the painter Talbert McLean and an artistic prodigy at a young age, he was raised in Scotland, trained at the Courtauld Institute and then spent the 1960s and 1970s working as part of the renowned Stockwell Depot of artists. In 1981 he was invited as guest artist to the legendary Emma Lake workshop at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada – a place which had grown into a major centre of international creative exchange, with visiting critics, curators and guest artists including Clement Greenberg, Ron Kitaj, John Cage, Barnett Newman and Anthony Caro.
Inspired by the remarkable strength and clarity of light in the area, McLean experienced a period of intense creativity in Saskatoon, and the fifteen works that feature in the current exhibition, titled ‘Another Light – Prairie Journey,’ were produced there; arresting, bold and beautiful abstracts, they might be called ‘Prairie Panoramas’, with slabs of saturated colour shimmering against glowing, fluid grounds.
Despite having had over 40 solo shows worldwide and works, a book on his work published by Lund Humphries in 2009, and paintings placed in numerous public collections including the Tate Gallery, London, Yale Center for British Art, USA and Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, McLean has arguably not yet achieved the full recognition he deserves.
John McLean 6-26 September The Fine Art Society London