John McLean, British, b.1939 in Liverpool to Scottish parents. Lives and works in London.
Colour is at the root of all McLean's paintings. He works on a large scale, painting spontaneously onto the canvas using fluid paints to make rhythmic abstract compositions. McLean has often cited Matisse and Miró exhibitions as having had a profound effect upon his work, through them he discovered ‘a much more sophisticated way of using shape.’ McLean’s shapes however are more formal, introducing a minor degree of narrative, offering the potential for any shape to be open to interpretation as a sign or metaphor. McLean regards the abstract elements in his work as being informed by external experience and having an emotional dimension. The influential American art critic and essayist Clement Greenberg was a great advocate of John McLean’s work.
McLean studied at St Andrews University from 1957 to 1962 and at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London from 1963 to 1966. McLean taught at various art schools in London from 1966 and had his first solo exhibition in 1975. He lived in New York in the late 1980s. McLean’s work can be found in many public collections, including Tate, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and China Central Academy of Fine Arts Art Museum.
Wang Jian, Chinese, b. 1972, Handan. Lives and works in Beijing.
Wang Jian’s works could be considered as visual autobiographies. Everything and nothing are equally important to him and to his work. Every thought and feeling, his time in the studio and every other moment of his life, is compressed and held in the vast emptiness of his black canvases as well as in the small blank spaces he sometimes leaves unpainted. To some extent Wang Jian’s work could be defined in terms of Chinese Maximalism.
Wang Jian’s ideas are fixed, complete and finished – almost in an instant as his practice often has a starting point in photography – and then fixed again in the pragmatic form of a painting. Yet many of his works are simultaneously in a state of continual flux and uncertainty. Many of his photographic ‘sketches’, artworks in their own right, also act as departure points for other works. The liminal – the fissures and areas of intense blackness in his paintings – all gesture at ‘nothingness’ and bring us full circle resolving Wang Jian’s practice once again into a coherent body of work that is simultaneously spiritual and ￼sublime, relevant and provocative.
As a young adult Wang Jian worked as a train driver while following a period of self-directed study – reading extensively on literature, art, history and Zen. He completed the Plastic Arts Studio course at the Chinese Painting Department, China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in 2003. His work, both abstract and minimal, refers his early exploration of Eastern philosophies and demonstrates in its maturity and sophistication, his growing interests in Western poetry and sociology.