15/11/2017 - 09/12/2017

McLean Edwards

McLean Edwards
The au pair


oil on board

61.00 x 46.00 cm



Born in Darwin in 1972., McLean Edwards studied at the Canberra School of Art and had his first solo exhibition in Sydney in 1995. Known for his theatrical, darkly humorous take on figurative painting and his bold use of colour, he has had over 20 solo shows and is collected widely by private institutions across Australia and is in many International and Australian private collections… 

Edwards paints in an intriguing manner, his brush strokes are confident and loose and yet by contrast are reinforced with delicate lines and considered details. He scribes his age in the artwork, often in the corner of the canvas - a signature to his work. 

His practice to date has concentrated on the human figure - especially the history of portraiture. There are allusions to European art history as ‘old master paintings’ are subverted and the sitters are made to look impotent and ridiculous as characters set in a dark comedy on stage. Their features are often exaggerated; bulbous noses with swollen ears are paired with comic sullen expressions juxtaposed with a carnivalesque colour palette and/or heightened through a dark background.

McLean’s late father Gregson Edwards was a diplomat, and the artist spent much of his youth in transition between borders. This exhibition ‘Passport', essentially a portraiture show, relates to the migration of people and the reality (or not) of their true identity.

I have been painting all my adult interest in the essential human form and condition has sustained me in the studio through thick and thin. I first started off painting the people I knew and less successfully strangers, and then I started inventing characters which was very liberating. I found I could manufacture a whole character in my head which served as a conduit to completing a picture. 

Needless to say I am a figurative painter. I perceive the painting as more than any method or technique. It is a map of a personage. What I mean to say is I feel like a novelist taking detours, unexpected turns or grisly endings depending on my mood. Many of the guys I conjure up strike me as almost a duplicate of myself, a doppelgänger with my anxieties, my secrets and my own unknowability. A lot of the responses are habitual which requires a corrective self editing technique. Its not a fixed technique and it can vary from a quiet break for lunch with a friend, playing with the kids or a reflective smoke.

My approach is somewhat risky I suppose comparative to some of my contemporaries. I paint straight onto the canvas with no studies or photographs. This entails risk, because I have absolutely no idea what road blocks will come up. I find this spontaneity gives me a heightened sensation when navigating through the plate tectonics of the conscious and unconscious. The physical decisions even if unresolved provide an emotional sensitivity which would be absent if I planned it all. 

I recently had a show in New York and travelled there for the first time. The art blew me away, of course, but I couldn't help but notice the Australian painters I grew up with are just as good and in many cases better. I wonder if this is because of their ‘Australian quality’, whatever that vernacular is. Regardless, I have many favourites that are painting today in Australia and the lists gets longer all the time. I think it is important to meet artists and have a chat, especially when you are young. I was very apprehensive about approaching artists I admired when I was a kid, but almost universally I found when I met them my heroes were responsive, kind and generous. The really good artists tend to be open and curious not closed and opinionated. I have been lucky to meet quite a few. 

McLean was recently selected as one of 30 finalists in the 2017 Doug Moran Portrait Prize with his work titled ‘Self Portrait’. Tim Storrier won the esteemed prize with his portrait of McLean Edwards titled ‘The Lunar Savant - McLean Edwards’.

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