John McLean is the son of a painter, the late Talbert McLean (1906-92), and was an artistic prodigy at an early age. He is now in his seventh decade of giving independent painterly creations to the wide world. For, despite his Scottish heritage, McLean is an internationalist. Raised in Kirriemuir and Arbroath, he studied at St Andrews University before moving to London to join the Courtauld Institute of Art in the mid-1960s. At the Courtauld his innate judgement of painting (and sculpture, and architecture) was enlarged by expert discussions of European and American culture in former centuries. He also met people who knew about recent American art and its clear new beginnings after the decline of Abstract Expressionism.
John McLean says of his works in this exhibition,
"In 1981 I was thrilled to be asked as guest artist to the Emma Lake workshop in Saskatchewan. The place had become legendary. Artists preceding me included John Cage, Barnett Newman and Anthony Caro, whose Emma series was begun there. It was my first visit to Canada. I knew little of the country; so nothing had prepared me for the impact of the prairie light. It was far stronger, brighter and clearer than I had ever seen. I revelled in it: so much that, throughout the eighties I kept going back to the workshop, and sometimes spent whole summers in the city of Saskatoon, borrowing a studio from the landscape painter Greg Hardy, who naturally spent those seasons working outside. Once, descending into Saskatoon airport, I glanced from the plane’s window at the setting sun scintillating off every drop of water from the distant horizon, right to my eyes. The brilliant golden shimmer seemed scarcely broken by the darkening land and made me wonder how much the millions of lakes and sloughs of the prairies contribute to the marvelous light. My Saskatchewan paintings remained stored in Canada until this year when I decided to show them for the first time as a group. I think the colour especially, in these canvases, shows how inspiring the light was for me."
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