He attended Glasgow school of Art, where he was taught by influential sculptor Anthony Caro, an experience which he is characteristically irreverent about stating that art college was where, "Twelve adult men with pipes would walk for hours around sculpture and mumble." He then went on to Central Saint Martin’s School of art in London. With a strong artistic training behind him he quickly became a highly respected artist always critiquing the art world and always challenging the viewer to look further. Often placing himself as part of the work he has a humorous nature that gives life to his artistic practice and a liveliness that is free to mock the art establishment for all its pompousness.
In a piece entitled “Pose Work for Plinths” he positions himself in various poses between three plinths. Using himself as the subject he draws on the tradition of sculpture whilst simultaneously sending it up. Interestingly, comedian Noel Fielding has since re-created his own version of McLean’s piece last year as part of show re-creating classic Glam images.
Rebellious in nature and subverting the pretentious nature of art world he offered a humorous, challenge to the conventional art world through a somewhat irreverent tone. In 1972 he was given an exhibition at the Tate Gallery titled “King for a Day” with the original idea to show his installation work for one day only!
Working primarily in paint now, Bruce McLean has returned to nature, expressive, painterly style with these prints “Tulbagia” and “Tall Dutch Tulips” beautifully printed and hand-finished with paint and collage they really do justice to the original paintings. Larger than life and employing bold colour, he takes the traditional still-life genre and makes it contemporary allowing us to see the genre with renewed interest and appeal.
He was honoured to represent the Great Britain in the Venice Biennale of 1980 where he exhibited alongside the likes of Gilbert & George and has since gone on to become a major figure in British contemporary art with world-wide acclaim. He now teaches at the Slade School of Art as head of Graduate painting where he continues to motivate and inspire the next generation of artists working in the UK.
You may well have walked past a huge public sculpture of his outside Liverpool Street station in London on Bishopsgate without realising... “Eye-I” is an enormous deconstructed female figure made from coloured steel that provides a cheerful, glamorous splash of life against the London city skyline. It towers above the street and forces the viewer to look up and encounter the piece from beneath its tall presence.