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“John is a gem: bright as a jewel. Enviably blessed with a Matisse-like ability to dispose colour to dramatic and meaningful effect in the visual music of his paintings…he has created some of the most important abstract paintings of our period”
Albert Irvin RA, Painter
“John McLean has produced some of the most lyrical, beautiful and intensely pleasurable paintings to appear in Britain since 1960…British art’s secret weapon”
Ian Collins, Author and Critic
A special screening of 'Which Way Up' directed by Michael Proudfoot about the artist John McLean, whose artwork features in Proof Positive, the current special exhibition at the Gibberd Gallery.
John McLean is one of Britain’s foremost abstract artists: his paintings and sculptures are on display in some of the worlds great collections; the stained glass windows he designed for Norwich cathedral have been compared to Matisse’s at Chapelle Du Rosaire in Vence. Although he is well known amongst his fellow artists and many private collectors, McLean has never made the “big time”; the great American critic, Clement Greenburg was both a fan and a friend and curators like Richard Morphet of the Tate and Paul Moorhouse, now of the National Portrait Gallery, are fulsome in their praise of his work and its importance to contemporary British art.
In the late sixties and early seventies when many artists of McLean’s generation abandoned painting for conceptualism, John, and a few like him, stuck with the brush, the canvas and paint. For them, the medium still held unresolved issues; far from being “dead”, abstract painting offered infinite visual and intellectual avenues to pursue. For these stoic painters the studio is their laboratory of experimentation, a place that sees ecstatic success and crushing failure. In John’s case the result is some truly beautiful works of art.
In “Which Way Up”, a documentary film by director, Michael Proudfoot and cameraman Chris Morphet, we see John McLean revelling in both the successes and the failures of his explorations into shape, colour and line. We get a rare glimpse of an artist at work; eavesdropping on his thought processes, insights, influences and his ever present, irreverent, Scottish sense of humour.
Towards the end of 2013 McLean was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Latterly this diagnosis has been adjusted to the more serious MSA (Multiple Systems Atrophy). Despite the disability brought on by the disease, McLean continues to paint enthusiastically. His movement and ability to travel to his studio in Deptford, South London are severely restricted but with the help of two assistants McLean’s exploration into painting continues.
“Which Way Up” is not the sob story of an elderly artist in physical decline, it is a life-enhancing portrait of one our greatest unsung creators. You come away from Proudfoot and Morphet’s film wanting to take up painting yourself and see the world as McLean sees it: as a place full of possibilities, of colour, humour, beauty and optimism.
Award of Excellence – IndieFest 2017
Glasgow Film Festival – 2018
All welcome. Refreshments will be provided. This is a free event.