Bruce McLean’s distinctive, irreverent practise is hard to pigeon-hole and his multi-disciplinary approach attests to this, with the artist noted for his work across the mediums of painting, print-making, sculpture and performance. An alumni of the Glasgow School of Art and Central Saint Martins, McLean’s impact on the artworld was immediate and has proved long-lasting. At the tender age of just 27, McLean had a solo exhibition at the Tate Gallery in London before going on to teach art, most notably becoming Head of Painting at the Slade School of Fine Art. His teaching practise and forthright, colourful approach to his own work has influenced subsequent generations of British artists.
We were delighted to offer some rare to market early career works by this enigmatic figure. They were painted in McLean’s garage studio in Barnes during the period between the spring of 1983 and 1984 after McLean had returned from some time in Berlin. He found the space and the domestic situation around it immediately congenial and it was close enough to home for him to work in a way that suited his temperament; at odd times of the day or night, unpredictably and spontaneously. These pieces were part of a body of paintings that have a marked stylistic unity.
Though his work is characterised by a sense of fun and approachability, it is in fact frequently underpinned by political discourse, stemming directly from a belief in the centrality of art to the development of human consciousness and to social and domestic well-being. For example, in the case of Lot 136, we see one of his recurring motifs from this era of his work; the stepladder, with its connotations of social ascent and descent. These garage paintings are notable for their extreme economy of means, directness of address, stark simplicity of style, gestural vehemence and passionate indignation.
Characterised by competitive bidding, strong results and a high selling rate, our Contemporary & Post-War Art sales are among our most popular auctions. Held three times a year in our Scottish saleroom, highlights are also regularly exhibited in our London gallery. Our strong private client base and excellent international marketing reach has seen these sales grow into flagships of our company.