Five art exhibitions to look out for during the Festival, compiled by Beatrice Colin.
. 23"k_ \ ' I An Open Exhibition of Contemporary Scottish Art Sixteen hot young artists working in photography. sculpture. tapestry and painting wave the ﬂag. Out of the Blue Gallery until 7 Sept.
I Syrcas Acclaimed photographer. Maud Sulter. constructs large scale images using old postcards. classical paintings. African sculpture and masks and portrait photographs to examine the presence of Black people in Europe during the l930s and ~10s.
Portfolio Gallery until 3 Sept.
I The Spirit of Romanticism in German Art Unmissable visual roller coaster through a century of German art featuring work by Kurt Schwitters. Joseph Beuys and Emile Nolde. Royal Scottish Academy and l’rttitmarket (iallery until 7 Sept. [3 ( £'l.5())for tit‘ket to both galleries.
'3 e.‘ I I I Witness of Existence Six Bosnian artist‘s response to the War has been air-lifted front the Sarajevo's ()bala Gallery to Edinburgh. Shocking but vital viewing.
The Dentart‘o European A rt Foundation until 3 Sept.
I lllne Sculptors in Scotland Varied and wide-ranging show featuring the work of Jake Harvey, Bill Scott and Aileen Keith.
Edinburgh College ofA rt until 3 Sept.
:— Adventures in
the colour ﬁeld
Beatrice Colin talks to artist John McLean about abstraction and the joy of colour.
‘Sitting in here. I'm acutely conscious of the daylight coming in on those bald-headed old blokes sitting there.‘ says John McLean. ‘I can imagine Bonnard coming here and capturing that.‘
Downing a beer with McLean in Edinburgh's old town takes on a whole new perspective. Sunlight streams through the window and is diffused by tobacco smoke. ‘lt's the joy of visual experience] he continues . ‘that‘s my inspiration. A delight in being alive.‘
Across the road in the Talbot Rice Gallery, two dozen paintings confirm
transparent colour and cut and collaged with line and form. they are both confident and seductiy e. Indeed. McLean‘s work goes straight to your head. His first show in [Edinburgh for nine years. the exhibition co-incides with a re-growth of interest in abstract painting. Yet McLean has been working with form and colour since the early (30s.
‘When I was in Scotland. my work was like watered down Chagall.‘ he remembers. ‘But when I went to London. I was knocked out by the
his comments. Blazing with opaque and
colour-field painters such as Kenneth
Skink (detail) title than a number. Numbers are so
Noland and Morris Louis. ljust felt that l boring. One simple word. that is very
the future had opened out. there were so many possibilities in abstract painting. When you get so involved like that without knowing it. you burn boats. and I‘ve been an abstract painter ever since.‘
[it works such as (iu/ly. Tide and Skink. some of the forms look like frshtails. slices of fruit or boat sails. but this is pure projecture. ‘The fact they
' look like birds‘ wings or sycamore
seeds wasn‘t intentional.‘ he says.
; ‘Everything‘s arrived at through the
internal dynamics of handling paint. consistencies and brightnesses and you
L can‘t make every colour bright. It‘s all
contrast, contrast, contrast.‘ He continues: ‘l‘d rather give them a
direct and I try and match the feeling of the painting. I'm not frightened of making them suggestive figuratively. but I‘d hate to make it too much so. because I think it's a red herring to chase figurative references. I like to see them as musical compositions.‘
McLean works from sketches in which he juxtaposes sharp lines with broken ones and bright colours with muted. Although his work has a spontaneity. it is arrived at with a mixture of confidence and risk-taking. ‘Painting should look casy.‘ he says. ‘Even Piero dclla Francesca looks easy. You have to put the paint on with a professional facility. If it‘s daubed amateurishly or hestitantly. it doesn't work.‘
By far the most arresting aspect of his work is his use of colour. The paintings shimmer and shout with vivid scarlet. pale blues. ruddy browns and acid greens. ‘I want to have the same degree of colour as Matisse or a stained glass Gothic window.‘ he points out. ‘I think colour is one of the magic things paintings can use. It‘s taken me a long time to use saturated black. white and primaries in a painting. Hitherto I‘ve always somehow tried to harmonise them. but now I think I can get a kind of harmony out of cacophony. the colours coming into collision.‘
John McLean pauses to light a cigar. ()ld men shout at the football match on the television behind us and the red ash glows against half-full green bottles. It's as noisy and lively as one of his paintings. ‘lt's the joy of looking.‘ McLean says simply. ‘That‘s it in essence.‘
Recent Work by John McLean is at the lit/hot Rit‘e Gallery until ll) Sept.
60 The List 26 August—8 September l994