For an online version of this interview from Abstract Critical, click here

Art Media Agency | 12 October 2012
Interview with Bruce McLean

On occasion of the exhibition The Shapes of Sculpture presented by the Bernard Jacobson Gallery from 10 October to 10 November 2012, Art Media Agency had the pleasure of meeting with Bruce McLean. The Scottish artist, born in Glasgow in 1944, has answered our questions.

Could you introduce yourself and your background?
My name is Bruce McLean, sculptor. I have been sculpting since I was 6. I studied at the Glasgow School of Art from 1961 to 1963, and then at Central St. Martins College of Art and Design from 1963 to 1966. I had the fortune of exhibiting throughout the world, notably at the Tate Gallery in London. I was also a professor of Fine Arts at the Maidson College of Art. In my creations, I always wanted to exceed the boundaries of sculpture. For me it is something of a great importance.

How can you define your art and creativity? Where do you find inspiration?
I do not call it "art", I leave it to others. For me they are just sculptures. I do not have inspiration, I seize the day. I am not someone who can just sit somewhere, waiting for inspiration to come. I rely more on the moment, the unexpected event. Then I see something interesting, and I use it to create a sculpture, everything is in the instant.

Considering your new exhibition at the Bernard Jacobson Gallery, can we say the paintings displayed show you have taken a new artistic direction? Could you give us some more information?
Actually they are paintings of sculpture. In the 1960s, as a young artist, I was struck by all these artistic creations, ending up as photographs in magazines. It seemed, and it seems today as well, art is often reduced to mere photographs. In this exhibition, I inquired the condition of sculpture. I took a kind of backward step, that is to say I started from photography to end up with the work itself, in order to reveal the function and state of sculpture. These paintings can therefore be called "photographic sculptures." For me it is clearly a new direction, for I was used to work outside a studio, but for this exhibition I had to go back inside.

Could you tell something about the collaborative performances you were involved in (like Academic Board, 1975)? What is the difference with a solo show, apart from working with other artists?
I was never interested in being a celebrity. I do not seek glory and sparkles. I like the idea of people working together, combining experiences and know-how, there I can learn something. This kind of experience makes me grow. A parallel can be made with musician Miles Davis: as he grew older his band always got younger, his music changed. This is what I want to achieve and to convey through my work, I want things to change, to be different. I do not know what will happen tomorrow, what I will do tomorrow, and that is good.

You are also involved in film work. How different is it from painting and sculpture?
Most of my films are based on sculpture ideas. I realized 10 minute short films, like Soup, showing a couple in a restaurant. This couple orders soups, in which they find sculptures. Modern Minestrone, realized in 2011, is rather a reflection on the place given to sculpture in today's world, through an experimental performance. These are short films, whereas Urban Turban (1995) is a long one, and describes the life of an artist willing to become a banker. He succeeds in becoming a banker, but the bank goes bankrupt and it brings a kind of apocalypse.

Since when have you been working with the Bernard Jacobson Gallery? How would you define your relationship?
I have been working with the gallery since 2009, we have a good relationship. Indeed Bernard Jacobson and I go along very well. He is more attentive to the artists' work and realizations than to the artists and their character. I like this traditional side, it suits me perfectly.

Do you have already particular plans for the future?
I will continue with the paintings, although I don't know yet what the topics will be. My main project consists in the creation of a publication about art. I will do everything in my power to make this publication a top-quality magazine. Indeed, I think current publications do not reach what they should and could be. I want to create a magazine with top-quality articles and photographs. I want it to be based on a fantastic background thought.

What is your view on the current art market?
I think the current art market is really odd. It has taken a rather frightening turn. I think the artists must strictly persevere in their own way, and stick to what they believe in. My films deal with this will to continue on the artistic path in spite of all difficulties. As for me, I think the art market is not on the point of collapsing, but on the contrary is about to spread. The machine is too big, and the stakes too important, to yield to the crisis. I also remarked some artists are not taking the direction dictated by many players of the art market, that is to say they create not in order to make money, but because of their passion and desire. This shows there is still some hope, and everything is not lost yet. It seems a new revolution is running, it seems the young artistic scene is refusing to be manipulated, like in the 1960s, when we rejected the notion of the gallery, and rebelled against our times' mentalities. Besides, I would like to say there are some great artists in Paris, I think the French capital is becoming, or rather becoming again one of the major cities for modern and contemporary art. I like this diea, and I am anxious to see this.