About the Artist
Most of the work in the show is inspired by the East Lothian coast, and in particular Skateraw near Dunbar, a place that is part of my family history. I visited this place as a child and as a teenager when my Uncle Bob worked as a Grieve at Skateraw Farm and the place clearly had a greater impact on me than my younger self could have imagined. Bob Jeffrey was my uncle on my mother’s side of the family, the farming side, my Uncle Adam being a shepherd and my grandfather William a ploughman.
With my impromptu plein air studio established in the dunes that separate farmland from shore I try one tack then another until the rhythm of work takes over and a collection of possible approaches form on the various surfaces I surround myself with.
Before me the land gives way to wide terraces of rock that waves crash against, sending spirals of spray high into the air that also stirs the grasses surrounding me as I work. It’s when this movement gets into the paint that it’s fundamental connection with the earthy materiality of the land and the fluidity of air and sea take over and painting really begins.
I tend to take a lot of my studio with me when I go out to paint and have a beach cart that I fill with materials and equipment. Canvases, boards and sketchbooks, paints inks and pastels fill the trolley which I pull over the fields and dunes toward the sea.
Some paintings are completed plein air along with work on paper. I like a painting to find it’s form on site and see the studio paintings as a distillation of emotional experience, extending what’s possible on location, often recombining ideas from the plein air works and raising questions that again take me back to field and coast.
“To see the breathtaking vitality of McClenaghen’s work is to be reminded of Joan Eardley’s late output. For both artists, painting is a way of keeping pace with nature, spatially, temporally and emotionally.”
Laura Vida, Scottish Field Magazine - August 2021
I studied at the Glasgow School of Art, the University of Huddersfield, University of Liverpool and the University of Chester and I was until 2020 Programme Leader for Fine Art at the Wrexham School of Art, Glyndwr University. I then went part time in order to focus more on painting and exhibiting.
I also write about art practice with book chapters recently published by Q-Art and Black Dog, London and have presented papers on painting at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester and to the National Association for Fine Art Education.