Galleries - April 2010

12. GALLERIES APRIL 10 You have to be of a particularly tenacious character to succeed as an ab- stract painter in this country – Basil Beattie and Bert Irvin had to wait until at least their 60s for proper recognition – and here is another, John McLean, who has just had the first serious publication on his work pub- lished at aged 70! Nicely described by the book's author Ian Collins as "British art's secret weapon: a self-propelled missile", he's had to be to sur- vive and now finally, with shows like this, of his recent forays into print- making, he is at last emerging into a deserved limelight. ( School House) J ohn McLean ‘Aitchsie’, 2008, (detail) The whole 'pitmen painters' story is one of the great 'against the grain' episodes of English 20th C. art, the survival of just one of their number into 21st C., Norman Cornish, a poignant reminder in a post-Thatcherite age, of the genuine vitality that lay within working-class values. A product of the Spennymoor Settlement in the 1930s, Cornish has been painting since 1935, the last 58 years since leaving the mines working as a professional painter. And what a painter he is as this very welcome retrospective at King's Place makes clear: passionate, resonant and intensely atmospheric. Norman Cornish ‘Pit Road with Telegraph Poles and Lights’ Something very interesting has been going on in Mark Shields' work over the last 3-4 years as this distinguished Belfast-based figure painter has steadily shifted his work away from a penumbral, hieratic stillness towards something lighter-toned, stronger coloured and altogether earthier in char- acter. It first became apparent in the pastels on canvas he showed at the Grosvenor Gallery in 2008 and seems to be gathering strength and con- viction in this latest show. Entitled 'Here and Elsewhere', the outcome is work filled with a powerful sense of physical presence and mental reverie. M ark Shields ‘Captives’ In his intensely thoughtful introduction to Louise McLary's latest exhibition at Millennium, Michael Bird directs our attention to the drawn, map-like quality that infuses all her recent work and indeed they do all possess (whether paintings or works on paper) the distinct sensation of being like maps of interwoven, almost inextricable pathways. Not just of the twisting creek landscape of the Helford River on her doorstep, but of an emotional landscape also, one that has encompassed the grief felt at her father's death in 2008, with the landscape a means to quiet poetic redemption. Louise McClary ‘Liquid Dark’ THUMB nails Nicholas Usherwood