John McClenaghen


Born in Falkirk in 1964, McClenaghen initially studied Fine Art at the Glasgow School of Art (1983-87) alongside the likes of Alison Watt OBE FRSE RSA and Simon Laurie RSW RGI. McClenaghen’s work can be found in private collections the world over. Yet it was only recently that he substantially reduced his teaching commitment after twenty years as Fine Art Programme Leader at Glyndŵr University, in order to focus on painting.

Being the grandson of a ploughman (and nephew to a shepherd and grieve) meant frequent visits from Falkirk to this very different world. And thus an attraction to rural Stirlingshire has been with the painter since childhood.

This collection of intimate landscapes is particularly significant because it took shape during the last few weeks and days of his mother (Maisie’s) life. As he listened to her childhood memories of growing up on the farm, they mingled with his own. The result was a visual celebration of their rural heritage, nature’s abundance and the cycle of life.

The paintings in this collection were largely executed outdoors, close to where his mother’s farm once was. By taking the time to directly absorb what is in front of and around him, he not only captures the energy and dynamism of the living landscape, but also his inherited and half-remembered memories of a world now gone.

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.

I am interested in time and change within the landscape and coast and in painting’s ability to relate experience by drawing parallels between the action of weather upon the land and the action of colour and mark upon the canvas.

The main focus of my practice is in painting and drawing, something that began when I was a student at the Glasgow School of Art. My interest in landscape has no doubt been informed by the generations of Scottish farmers that I am descended from on my mother’s side. I make work throughout the UK but I am continually drawn back to my native Scotland.

I tend to return to the same places again and again as I try to establish a relationship with the space through drawing and painting it over time. Ideas often begin with me sitting in a field or on a beach just trying to respond to what’s going on in front of me, a conversation between the subject and the surface, finding out what it is possible to say about the experience of a place and time in paint.

Back in the studio I make spontaneous gestural works in colour on canvas or paper trying to make sense of what I was experiencing on site. This stage is about bringing various elements together, a process of recollection in layers of media, of trying to think in materials. A whole range of media often come into play as I attempt to reconstruct the experience of space and place through colour and mark.

Through the rhythm of work I am trying to move from the representation of something seen to the reconstruction of something felt.

John McClenaghen