Artist Biography - Bruce McLean
Bruce McLean is one of the major figures of contemporary British Art. Born in 1944 in Glasgow, he studied at Glasgow School of Art (1961-63) and at St. Martin's in London (1963-66), where he was taught by Anthony Caro and Phillip King.
He found the attitude there ponderous: "Twelve adult men with pipes would walk for hours around sculpture and mumble." In reaction he too...k an unconventional approach: making sculpture out of rubbish or other impermanent materials, turning to performance art and producing photographic works in which he often posed.
Working across performance, sculpture, photography, and painting, he consistently challenges art world hierarchies using sharp satire and subtle subversions. McLean’s work employs the formal language and aesthetics of work he parodies, thereby confusing traditional understands of authenticity, skill, and sincerity for his audience.
McLean lead the development of Conceptual art in Britain in the 1960s, often working outside in the urban and suburban landscape. All his work brilliantly sent up the pompousness of the art world and mocked established art forms. He was given a one day retrospective at the Tate Gallery at the age of 27 (King for a Day, 1972), as well as other solo shows in The Modern Art Gallery in Vienna and Museum of Modern Art, Oxford.
McLean's practice is in a permanent state of movement and invention; from the late 1960s his range of media has included painting, printmaking, sculpture, film, photography, drawing and live work. His work seeks to challenge the concept of 'sculpture' and indeed of 'art' by creating work that questions establishment thinking, materials and methods of display.
McLean's work parodies human conditions and relations and the ability to communicate. He took up painting in the eighties after his career as a sculptor and performance artist, moving on to monumental architectural projects and film with the ever-recurring theme being how humans behave amidst architectural and social space. McLean combines humour with a satirical view of both the art world and established art forms. Though he uses multiform concepts, McLean has constructed a consistent and recognisable body of work, faithful to his critical philosophy. However, he refuses the confinements of what could be called a 'personal style'.
After St. Martin's McLean went on to teach at numerous art schools including The Slade School of Fine Art, where he became Head of Graduate Painting (2002-2010). He has obtained international recognition for his paintings and prints, work with film theatre and books. McLean's bold and confident approach to printmaking proved influential to his contemporaries and also to a generation of younger artists. His work is in private and public collections world-wide including the Saatchi Collection, Tate Gallery, Arts Council of Great Britain, Victoria & Albert Museum and the National Museum of Modern Art, Edinburgh. He has had numerous one man shows in both Europe and North America.
Now approaching his seventh decade McLean's energy, vision and work ethic remain undimmed. 2014 saw two major exhibitions exploring his work: 'Bruce McLean: Another Condition of Sculpture' at Leeds Art Gallery, and 'Bruce McLean: Sculpture, Painting, Photography, Film' at First Site in Colchester. Both shows included works spanning five decades.
His works are in the collections of the Tate Gallery in London, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and the National Museum of Modern Art in Edinburgh, among others.
McLean was awarded the John Moores prize for painting in 1985. He lives and works in west London.