Sarnia artist finds commercial and critical success

Sarnia painter Ian McLean in his studio. Just behind him is “Hard Edge,” a study of a painting of a painting. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

Artist Ian McLean admits he used to worry about whether people would “get” his paintings, which tend to teeter between reality and the abstract.

“I stressed about whether they’d understand it,” he said. “But I really don’t stress about that so much anymore because I’m getting a lot of positive feedback now.”

In fact, it’s been a banner year for McLean, with shows in Kelowna B.C., Toronto and Sarnia. He’s also been shortlisted for a Bombay Sapphire Artisan prize.

As an established artist, he is represented by Sopa Fine Arts in Kelowna where he had an exhibit in July, and at CFA Gallery in Toronto’s Yorkville district, where a solo show opens Nov. 5.

Commercial success is affirming for any artist, but McLean has the added confidence that comes from positive reviews in the Globe & Mail and Toronto Life magazine.

He’s been listed in an article entitled “Exciting Artists You Should Have Heard Of But Probably Haven’t,” published in Graphic Art News, and he has paintings hanging in private and corporate collections in Australia, the U.K. and the U.S.

McLean, 50, is a high school art teacher at Northern Collegiate. He also has a home studio big enough to hold half a dozen of his larger 6-foot by 5-foot pieces. He’s spent decades producing big, bold paintings of familiar images like houses, hot tubs and cars.

Unexpected colour combinations to add mystery, so that “just when you think you understand the space, something disrupts that,” he said.

A product of the 1960s, he uses the decade for inspiration, incorporating modernistic furniture, décor and architecture into much of his work.

“I want them to be beautiful,” he said. “I want them to be a little unsettling so I use bright colours like fuchsia.”

This month, he’s preparing for his solo show at Toronto’s CFA (Canadian Fine Arts) Gallery at 88 Scollard St. where he’ll have 14 paintings on display.

Titled “Recent Works,” McLean says the show focuses on architecture.

“It seems to be a thing that I have where I reference modernism and explore the abstract with colour.

“I find I’m trying to go a little further with the balance of abstraction and realism, adding a little more of the unexpected.”

As he gets ready for his Toronto show, as well as another one at Sarnia’s Judith and Norman Alix Gallery in February, McLean awaits the results of the Bombay competition.

He’s been chosen one of 100 finalists in North America for a painting he calls “Hard Edge.” The finalists who garner the most online votes by Nov. 7 will be this year’s Bombay Sapphire Artisan winners and exhibit in Miami in December.

Visit  www.bombayartisan.com and search McLean to view “Hard Edge,” the piece he submitted for the competition.

The Arts Journal reflects Sarnia’s rich cultural community. If you know of any great stories, contact Cathy Dobson at cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca or 226-932-0985.