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Artist’s new show explores our drive for material success

Published on

Cathy Dobson

Livin’ the dream.

Isn’t that what everybody wants?  But what exactly does it mean?

Sarnia artist Ian McLean has spent years examining modern society and how we so often equate attaining our dreams with living in beautiful houses surrounded by material things.

His latest exhibit, “Elusive Utopia” at the Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery, continues to focus on the fascination we have with attaining success, what that means, and what it doesn’t mean.

“There’s this idea that you can achieve a sense of nirvana if only you have the perfect home,” says McLean who uses oils to cover huge canvases with architectural themes and alluring colours.

“The question is, does the pursuit of happiness depend on material things?” he asked during a preview of the exhibit.

“Despite all our efforts, there are elements you cannot control,” he said. “The message is that you sometimes have to give it over to other forces that may be at play.”

McLean is a rare combination of communicator and artist – he teaches art at Northern Collegiate and has found commercial success working in Toronto’s art community.

“I spend a lot of time on the 401,” he says. But he also receives considerable support from the Sarnia art world.

“To have (curator) Lisa Daniels here and this gallery supporting me is a huge thing for my career,” McLean said.

Elusive Utopia opened Feb. 3 and will be at the JNAANG until May 7. On Feb. 9 at 7 p.m., McLean will host an artist’s talk about his work and on Feb. 25 present a workshop called Embracing the Unexpected. Call 519-336-8127 ext. 3226 for details.

Elusive Utopia also features works by Canadian artists Matthew Carver, Renee Van Halm and Kevin Yates.

Lisa Daniels says she brought the works together because of their common architectural theme and the similarity of their colour palettes.

Winter Light, a still life video installation by Petrolia artist Jane Austin, is being exhibited simultaneously and features three pieces that play with light and shadow.


Homegrown musician Edward Sayers is performing solo Friday, Feb. 10 at Paddy Flaherty’s.

Edward grew up on a farm near Petrolia and moved to Toronto to pursue a music career when he was 18.

He’s released two EPs with diverse combos of rock, country, blues and folk influences and toured Canada’s east coast.

“My voice is a soulful rap that speaks in thoughtful lyrics,” he says. “I’m excited to be returning home.”

Sayers takes the stage at 9:30 p.m. There is no cover.

The Arts Journal welcomes your ideas related to the cultural fabric of our community. Contact [email protected] or call 226-932-0985.


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