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.

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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. Black Garden Paintings has been curated by Jeremy Webster, Deputy Director of the Attenborough Arts Centre, and 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.”

Abstract colourful painting of Bruce McLean's garden.
Bruce McLean 'Carol's Garden', 2008
Dark abstract painting of Bruce's garden, with a purple path leading into distant flowers.
Bruce McLean 'Dark Pink Path, Son Caragol', 2008
A colourful abstract painting of Bruce's garden, filler with textures and movement.
Bruce McLean 'Pink Path', 2008
A grey scale photo of Bruce Mclean sitting down and looking into the camera with a yellow tint over-top.

Bruce McLean by photographer Andrew 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.

Outside shot of Gallery 1, including the courtyard.

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