Bruce McLean: Black Garden Paintings

25 June – 2 October 2022, Gallery 1 & 2
A sculptor, performance artist, filmmaker and painter, Bruce McLean is one of the most important figures in British contemporary art. This summer, Attenborough Arts Centre will present the most comprehensive exhibition of McLean’s Black Garden paintings.
A wide shot of gallery 1, showing an array of Bruce McLean's paintings on white walls with windows above them that look into the Salmon Gallery.
Photo by Reece Straw, 2022
A closeup of ceramic vases made by Bruce McLean, the nearest one white with black abstract shape and the further one dark blue with black markings.s
Photo by Reece Straw, 2022
A wide shot of gallery 2, showing a row of colours made out of metal across the left white wall, and two abstract paintings hanging on the adjacent wall.
Photo by Reece Straw, 2022

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Bruce McLean’s garden paintings are inspired by the beautiful, vibrant garden his wife Rosy has created at the couple’s home on the Spanish island of Menorca. The works showcase McLean’s virtuoso technique and dazzling use of colour – hot pinks, cobalt blues, and deep oranges vivid against a dark background. Monumental in scale the paintings hover somewhere between reality and abstraction with hints of pathways, ponds, flowers, and shrubs.
As his inspiration, McLean considers the garden as a ‘moving sculpture’. Bursting with foliage and flowers, the outdoor space is constantly transforming. He has been investigating the condition of sculpture since the late 1960s, creatively interrogating the possibilities and meaning of sculpture in an extraordinary range of media including performance, installation, public art, printmaking, photography, film, ceramics, printmaking, and painting.
For McLean the Black Garden paintings are a response to the garden as a physical space, exploring aspects of light and shadow; they are paintings made by a sculptor. It will be on exhibition throughout Gallery 1 & 2 from 25 June – 2 October.

“Everything I do comes from the fact that I am a sculptor, although some of it looks like painting, some of it looks like poetry, some of it looks like dance.”

A grey scale photo of Bruce Mclean sitting down and looking into the camera with a yellow tint over-top.

Bruce McLean by photographer Andy Weekes.

Bruce McLean

Bruce McLean (b. 1944) studied at the Glasgow School of Art from 1961 to 1963, and from 1963 to 1966 at St. Martin’s School of Art, London, where he and others rebelled against what appeared to be the formalist academicism of his teachers, including Anthony Caro and Phillip King. In 1965 he abandoned conventional studio production in favour of impermanent sculptures using materials such as water, along with performances of a generally satirical nature directed against the art world. When in 1972 he was offered an exhibition at the Tate Gallery, he opted for a ‘retrospective’ he titled “King for a Day” which lasted only one day. From the mid-1970s, while continuing to mount occasional performances, McLean has turned increasingly to painting/sculpture and film work. In 1985, McLean won the John Moores Painting Prize. Since retiring from his professorship of painting at the Slade School of Art, he has taken on a large studio in west London where he has been making increasingly large paintings and sculptural film works.

Garden Art Challenge

Brought to you by Bruce McLean’s Black Garden Paintings at Attenborough Arts Centre, we are hosting the Garden Art Challenge. Through social media we will be presenting 3 creative tasks over the summer to inspire creativity at home, in garden’s and outdoor spaces.

Each first Monday of the month during the exhibition a new task will be announced. Anyone can take part, children and their families, adults, artists or anyone who wants to connect with nature and get creative. Each last Friday of the month the works will be showcased on our socials and on this page, with a chance to win 2 free tickets to an upcoming performance of your choice.

Take a look below at submissions from our first challenge, Garden Mandela’s, and check our socials to get involved with the next challenge.

Garden Art Challenge #1: Garden Mandala

Straw and flowers presented in a circle moving outwards, laying on top of yellowing grass.
Submitted by Christine Race.
Straw and flowers presented in a circle moving outwards, laying on top of yellowing grass.
Submitted by Christine Race.
Leaves and snail shells form a circle in the middle from which flowers and stones are placed around it in a repeating circular pattern, all laying on top of stone tiling.
Submitted by Anonymous.
An arrangement of stones and flowers forming a circle, with pinecones and dead leaves coming off the middle laying on top of a wooden table.
Submitted by Rosie Lovelock.

Garden Art Challenge #2: Garden of Colours

Garden Art Challenge submission
Submitted by Caroline Jane Creative
Garden Art Challenge submission
Submitted by Zeenat Hassam
Painting featuring red flowers, a hanging chair and other green vegetation in the foreground, against a black background.
Submitted by Marian Lovelock
Garden Art Challenge submission
Submitted by Christine Race
Garden Art Challenge submission
Submitted by Maria Potempski
Garden Art Challenge submission
Submitted by Maria Potempski
Outside shot of Gallery 1, including the courtyard.

Furthering Access

We use AccessAble to easily showcase further information about our venue for everyone. By clicking here you can see pictures of the centre, inside and outside, access in-depth information about our site, and learn about our stair and door widths as needed. We want to be as open and honest as possible to allow everyone access to our building.