Bruce McLean: Not Trendy But Twitchy.

jonni ray tichet

As we embark on our ‘careers’ there are no guarantees, especially in ‘art’, a term Bruce dislikes. He prefers ‘sculpture’ or ‘painting’ which he taught at the Slade for 20 yearns. And our Bruce has balls. Lots of them, Scottish balls at that, like mine. The cheeky chappie type Rod Stewart always hankered after. Bruce had a better grounding than most having spent most Saturdays in the Glasgow School of Art when he were a laddie. Rather than choose the obvious easy route to become one of the Glasgi Boys he took the long road to London, partly cos he never did like following the expected way. He was lucky to arrive in London in the middle of the 60’s revolution with his teachers the likes of Caro already breaking the mould.

On page 146 in his ‘Acid Test’ book Tom Wolfe talks about (time)’lag’s: There are historical & social lags, where people are living by what their ancestors  perceived, maybe 25, 50 years or centuries behind, and nobody can be creative without overcoming those lags first of all.’

I (Apulhed) see it as my mission to leave behind those lags and break new ground, all my days I have tried to do that. I found however the danger is that you leave others behind, they cannot catch up, you run too fast. A lot of my life I been slowing myself down. Only now 39 years after I compiled Apul-One are people catching up. Bruce McKlean is such an artist. He was lucky to be in the groups who broke free from the lag. The sixties spawned lots of folk kicking against the lag. I was a late-comer. My work started in about 1968 when I wer 17. A lot of (now) famous folk like Bruce, and David Bailey, Jagger, Lennon had kicked off the traces long before I started. That’s one of the reasons it’s so good to have Bruce in Colchester. He was an innovator, and still is pumping against the lag.

He jumped right on in posing as Henry Moore’s Fallen Warrior wearing a tin hat he’d bought in a second hand shop on the way. ‘George from Gilbert & George reminded me I used to do impersonations of Moore’s sculptures in the dining room at Central. So we did them.’ Or as Elvis in Jailhouse Rock as part of a gang of 4 or 6 or maybe 8 now and then, the first, maybe the last, pose band, Nice Style. He still does a good pose, posing like Forsythe his namesake at the drop of a het. ‘This is ‘it’ poses hands up. ‘Johnnie Ray created a myth. I’m still trying to do it…Failed miserably!’

Inspired like Brucie by Frankie’s Rat Pack too. Impressed like Elvis by Johnnie Ray’s screaming and crying about Bruce told us his mother took him to see rock and roll’s first wild man Johnnie Ray falling over in Glasgow, ‘First conceptual singer (he couldn’t sing) first action singer.’ He also had a bad experience in the company of Eddie Cochran, but I shall let him tell you abart that.
He’s made a massive impression on all the staff at Firstsite, they all grown to love him with his quick wit, charm and considerate ways. Despite feeling a bit ‘twitchy’ with pre-match nerves before he appeared in front of probably the biggest audience ever at firstsite (hooray at last, maybe they all thort johnnie ray would come and cry all over them?) he even went out of his way and consented to come meet Rachel mcGivern who’d spent all day showing little kids how to make their own mcLean sculptures. She were made up girl, well pleased, star stricken too.

bruce an rachel

John Woods had flown in from Leeds (ain’t not got no football team never) after getting to know BMc during a show JW had curated at the Henry Moorish centre up there. He was the master of ceremonies questioneer cos Bruce Forsythe could not be there to say ‘Nice to see ya, Bruce from Olde Brucie’, art as pose.

macleen dancing

Now am gonna just type up me notes, all 10 page on em, cos they say all that BM said yesterday:

An image of the London ‘pose’ event High up on a Baroque palazzo goes up on the screen and JW says it has some resemblance to the scaffold in Jailhouse Rock, this prompts BM to say, ‘The work was the set BEFORE the action, nobody saw that’ meaning the set was constructed and photographed before any audience arrived and those photos were the piece, ‘I’m a Minimalist’. Referring to his relationship with the then prevalent ideas of Minimalism where it was often the idea, the record (usually in writings) the concept which were deemed the real nub of the work. Language art. Art’s the problem. People identify what they do as ‘art’ when really, it’s painting or sculpture.’ (It seems most everything is sculpture for BMc). ‘Performance art, that’s a term of the Arts Council. A 40 page form to get 30 quid. “‘Art’ is something Saatchi deals (with). I think I’ll be a merchant banker. I wanted to be an architect. My dad (who was an architect) said you’re too small to be an architect. Artist, tap dancer etc, you’re ok for that. I tried to join the Ballet Rambert at 21, big turbans & red lips, they said, you can be with the Modern contemporary Dance lot but not here. ”
BMc realises the audience may fall asleep when minimalism is mentioned and asks, ‘Are you finding this interesting…or not?’ and frowns. Audience giggles, he’s got them. ‘We had dress suits (& bow-ties) on, with padded shoulders. Bump. They allowed us to go BUMP into the wall or scaffold’. ‘How about that?’ he motions, Bump. JW had arranged a re-enactment in 2012 and one of the posers hadn’t been able to come., ‘Paul Richards said it’s such a bad idea, let’s do it. Robin Fletcher had a bad leg and didn’t turn up to the re-union.’
Image of Victor Mature. ‘Victor Mature is a hero, 1st conceptual actor in 150 films.’ Then he starts talking about Mussolini as a waiter in one of the pieces they did and Hitler as a house painter. ‘A nod and a wink can change the world’.
‘Slade was influential early on. The pop group I mean (not the art school). We supported the Kinks at Maidstone college. We used mirrors on the audience, blinded them, creating johnnie ray hysteria’.
JW- you met Eddie Cochrane didn’t you? ‘I ran away’ laughs. ‘No really I was scared. I was taken in to his dressing room and he stood there screaming, ‘Bring me horse!!!!’ Well, you know heroin is horse. I thought what the hell? He was actually calling for whores, I ran’. Reflects. ‘Wish I’d stayed in the room.’ ‘saw Gene Vincent play to 15 people in Putney, the great rock & roller, then we went over to the Spotty Dog and got pissed.’ ‘I never saw Barnet Newman (best Abstract Expressionist) singing in Glasgow, saw Liberace tho. I have this idea for an opera, Liberace meets Barnet Newman. Elvis turns up and pushes him off the stage.’
Image of poster for Midnight Cowboy starring John Voight & Dustin Hoffman goes up. ‘We became John Voight & Dustin Hoffman for a week.’
He goes on to talk about his dislike of dishonesty. With BMc what you see is what you get. This reflects in his work. There are no cover ups, no second goes, he draws it and it stays drawn, there’s a spontaneity in his pieces. He can’t understand why in Hollwood they used stands in for ugly people or in Mario Lanza’s case he was replaced by the non-singing unknown Edward Purdum who mimed to Lanza’s singing. Same with the use of the tall Jose Ferrer who knelt down while taking the part of the tiny Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in Huston’s Moulin Rouge. ‘great film…for a six year old’ (when his ma took him.) BMc made films which often take the mick out of existing iconic films. This prompted one of the audience to say he was a good film maker. ‘Film is more interesting cos it’s cheaper to make. You can switch the camera on and off.’
He loves Tony Hancock’s film the Rebel, says ‘it’s still like that at the RCA schools, nothing’s changed in 60 years, still sitting in black suits talking bullshit.’
His film Urban Turban was dissed. It’s a parable of the D’Offay gallery, based on the Rebel only artist wants to become banker.
A shot of a BMC posing as the Moore Fallen Warrior in 1969 goes on screen. ‘Hey, what about if he misses the plinth? Falling Warrior misses plinth. How come they always fall spot in the centre of the plinth? I once went to Much Hadham to seek work with Moore. He came out to see us, ‘Turned out nice again’ he said. I expected this guy to say something profound not ‘Turned out nice again’, offered us four shillings an hour, half what Bill Turnbull was paying I got back on the bus. Bit tight! I come frae glasgi and I know what tight is’. Bill Turnbull made me think this whole (art) activity is fraudulent.
Image of Irina Moore standing by a construction Moore had erected around a big sculpture to protect it as he fabricated it. Did that influence your constructions? ‘Yes well, I liked his constructions, they were good but a lot of his sculptures were sloppy when he put them out for others to do them. I liked the ones he did himself.’
Image (apparently) photo of a sculpture in a plate of soup goes up. ‘That was a collage, the sculpture was a photo, not real, which I filmed. ‘Waiter waiter there’s a sculpture in my soup.’
Art history should be taught backwards. I’m trying to do the sculpture that I didn’t get done. I’m a Minimalist. (I don’t want to make things accessible, too much of this bums on seats. Let’s keep everybody out. Went to the Tate’s Matisse cut outs, you could smell the sweat from all those people, I had to get out for some air. I like making invisible sculpture. I found one I lost. I couldn’t actually find it. Audience titters. It’s there. It’s gone. Is that a sculpture? It might be. Where is it? Does it exist. It’s gone. (BMc is on a roll here) Am using old stuff, but am not re-making it. Look, photocopies of (his old late mate) Flanagan’s Hare –cheap to make.

He mentions Walter de Maria (that shows how far out I been, never ever heared of him.And he seems important, how did I live this long sans eering abart him?) .
BMc and me do have a shared appreciation of Barnet Newman! One ting is BMc has carried out the images I have only thought of doing tham!
He goes on, ‘ It was there it wasn’t there. Shadow obsesses me, am going to Spain to find some good shadow. I WILL find one.
Curtain. Audience invited to contribute.

I offered him a drawing i dun back in 1994 at Tate. He graciously accepted one. then he posed wid it with some blArty bloke what had a rod (stewart?) thru his neck.

apic o me a pic o brucefoto (c) CC (ta dancer)

A plug for his return in conversation with 4 of his ex students on Sept 17th then One of BMc’s ex-students suggests artists have become the bankers now. Says, yes the egg stain in the trousers is now considered art. And if you are looking for a good shadow- Hank Marvin. On that note I am posting this.

bruce amung sculpts


I have now been able to watch Bruce’s film on the three screens in full. It’s a fun ting and it refers back to many of McLean’s moments of creativity in his oeuvre. He throws in some gratuitous nudity, art has always had the attraction of nude models. In 1969 when I attended a all boys gwamma I was attracted to ‘art’ night classes becos there was a lady sitting naked as a jay bird posing for us to aspire to be little leonardos. I had never seen a woman naked and althoshe looked more like Edna Everidge than Kate Moss I was trapped into ‘art’ for the rest of my days! The bait has reeled me in, once an artist (an incredibly poor one at first, some say that never changed) always an artist. Anyway, there’s a nice young woman in bruce’s film with all her kit off except her cowboy hat. The music by Dave Stewart is strong, bit like a second rate Philip Glass, gets a bit mesmeric and a bit tedious to. But I like the overall effect of the film with all of its references to the corruption in the world of art. The very best bit for me is the bit where three men dance but you can only see their legs. It is wonderful. Not cos of the legs, (am no gay) no it’s just wonderfully irreverent. I like the woman in the tall hat, well the hat at least. And Bruce’s drawings on the wall and in the little £5 book about its planning. Good that.

Also Venue done a little but very positive mention of the show:

2 thoughts on “Bruce McLean: Not Trendy But Twitchy.”

Leave a Reply, let me know what you tink about this blArty ting

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s