Caption: Bruce Mclean sits down in his London studio. Photo from elephant.art
The 24th of June marks an exciting day in the diary for our centre, as one of the most important figures in British contemporary art, Bruce Mclean, begins his three month exhibition of his stunning Black Garden Paintings. The sold-out launch, that is open to the public and personal friends of Bruce, hosts Bruce in conversation and gives guests an early peek of his breath-taking paintings, with the comprehensive free exhibition open to the public the next day.
So, in anticipation of his arrival and to appreciate the man behind the paintings, we’ve explored Bruce’s background and how the show came to be.
Scroll on for more.
Caption: Bruce Mclean applies a layer to one of his paintings. Photo courtesy of Lemon Street Gallery.
Born in Glasgow in 1944, Mclean’s love of art blossomed from the age of 6 with Saturday lessons. Formal studies began in 1961 at the internationally recognised Glasgow School of Art and continued through to 1963, when he moved to the world-renowned St Martins School of Art, London finishing in 1966. At St Martin’s Bruce studied with two giants of sculptural art, Anthony Caro and Phillip King. It was also here that he rebelled against what he saw as the academicism of his teachers and made sculptures from rubbish.
From the mid-1980s Mclean taught at the Slade School of Art, London, becoming Professor of Painting in 1998 and inspiring countless student artists along the way. In 1985, Bruce was awarded the John Moore’s Painting Prize that ran alongside his works being exhibited in countless high profile galleries like the Tate in London and Modern Art Galley in Vienna.
Since retiring from his teaching at the Slade, Bruce creates from his London studios and travels the country to continue his teaching in incredibly sought-after workshops as well showcase his plethora of art. Jon Wood, in the accompanying brochure to the Black Garden Paintings exhibition, said:
“Over the last sixty years Mclean has developed a richly complex and multifaceted practice that has embraced sculpture, painting, photography, film, performance, dance, writing, architecture, design and ceramics”
Bruce Mclean and Our Centre
Caption: Attenborough Arts Centre is preparing for the arrival of Bruce Mclean.
Our artistic relationship with Bruce started in November 2019, when he was invited to speak as a guest artist at our centre for Leicester Art Week. He toured our spacious galleries and immediately fell in love with them. Further conversations as well as visits to his London studio inspired the idea of bringing the Black Garden Paintings together for the first time for an extended stay at Attenborough Arts Centre.
Many of the Black Garden Paintings have never been shown in the UK, so our open galleries provided a fantastic opportunity to display their vibrant qualities of space, scale and colour. The pictures are large, measuring at 225 x 200cm, and are positioned vertically in orientation so they dwarf even the tallest person. Popping with colour and a stunning variety of brushstrokes, they exhibit an imposing presence that pulls you into each painting.
Our Deputy-Director Jeremy Webster, a painter himself, spoke on how the experience is enhanced in our galleries “Monumental in scale, the bright, colourful paintings are shown here without any dividing walls, allowing uninterrupted views from one end of the gallery to the other and creating a cathedral-like atmosphere” (from the brochure, Bruce Mclean: Black Garden Paintings”
More of Bruce Mclean…
Caption: Bruce Mclean showcases his skills one of his workshops. Photo courtesy of 1882 Ltd
In support of the Black Garden Paintings exhibition at our centre we’ve come together with Bruce to draw up two further fantastic events with the man himself. Bruce will teach a masterclass in ceramics on Friday 15th of July, where he will delve into his sixty years worth of experience to create a truly outstanding workshop. For details on how not to miss it, click here
Another incredible event happens the very next day on the 16th of July. Bruce will partner with pioneering choreographer Lea Anderson in leading a participatory dance-workshop that explores Mclean’s live sculptures influence on Anderson’s choreography. Tickets, like the ceramic workshop, go on sale on the 24th of June and we expect them to double-step out the door. So, be quick and click here