About the work.
These paintings are a celebration of nature’s abundance and of the cycle of life.
I am the Grandson of a ploughman and nephew to a shepherd and a Grieve, or farm foreman and my way of looking at the landscape has been informed by being part of a Scottish farming family on my mother’s side. As a child I viewed my world with wonder, I grew up in a town but my uncles remained in farming and I would visit them with my parents which felt like moving between two very different worlds, perhaps heightening my experience of both and providing a way of seeing the world that remained with me into adulthood.
I studied Fine Art at the Glasgow School of Art in the 1980’s where in the first year my head spun with all the possibilities this education offered in the interactions of materials, of colour, line and a diversity of media creating synergies with my surroundings through which I genuinely found a new way of seeing the world. I explored drawing on a monumental scale, mixed media and assemblage even film, eventually returning to painting with a new found wonder at its uncanny ability to capture the sensations and dynamism of the world around us and to relate human experience.
The land offers a rich visual history of what we leave behind. This is a material history that can be touched as your brush follows a line of fence posts or the outline of some farm buildings. It’s a tapestry of lives of so many organisms including ourselves, all reshaping what we encounter there. But how do you paint something like that?
Something must form there in that surface conversation. I believe I only start to see a place properly as I draw or paint it. It’s not there in my head before I go out into the field and it’s not there in the things I initially see there either. They just get me started. As I move the paint it’s a process of having a conversation with what is going on in a transitory moment in a moving, changing landscape. Expressing something like that would suggest that the painted surface also needs to also be a moving changing thing.
The wonder I continue to feel alone in the landscape and the way I find I can express it in paint is about the physical contact with a material that, through the rhythm of work can begin to resonate with the physical world and for me that is when painting begins.
In an era dominated by the moving image painting could seem too static a medium to trap the energy and dynamism of a living landscape and the authentic trace of life. But as you are delineating the structure of a hedge or finding the right tone for a line of rooftops something inexplicable is slipping between the layers of actions like an alchemical process changing thought and feeling into material and you have to listen and respond.
I use an extensive range of implements and actions to keep pace with what nature is doing. It’s not simply about picture making, although that plays a part, it’s about finding what it is possible to say and how it is possible to say it in the medium of paint. Through the rhythm of work, I am trying to move from the representation of something seen to the reconstruction of something felt.
Born Falkirk 1964
BA(Honours) Fine Art The Glasgow School of Art 1983- 1987
PGCE(Further and Higher Education) University of Huddersfield 1996
MA Fine Art the University of Liverpool and the University of Chester 2009
Fellow of the Higher Education Academy 2007
PhD “Looking for Shadows with a Torch” (in progress)
Summer 2021, White Fox Gallery 2021
Return to Light, Coast Gallery Dunbar 2021
All Summer Long, Fidra Fine Art, Gullane 2021
Spring 2021, Morningside Gallery, Edinburgh 2021
Spring show, Green Gallery, Buchlyvie and Dollar 2021
Four Landscape Artists, The Lemond Gallery, Glasgow. 2021
The Hampshire Art Show, Nadia Waterfield Fine Art, Andover 2021
Autumn Serenade, Eion Stewart Fine Art, Stonehaven 2020
Winter Exhibition, The Russell Gallery, London 2020
Summer Exhibition, The Russell Gallery, London 2020
Of Night and Light, The Velvet Easel Gallery, Portobello, Edinburgh 2019
Early Summer, Rowan Gallery, Helensburgh 2019
The Listening Hill (solo exhibition), The Bingley Gallery 2018
Fully Awake, Part One, Blip,Blip,Blip, Leeds 2017
Moving Minds, Oriel Sycharth 2016
Carbon Meets Silicon, Oriel Sycharth, Wrexham 2015
Facing North, Storey Institute Gallery Lancaster 2015
Play Serious, 2022NQ, Manchester 2012
Wrexham Print Internationa,l Oriel Wrecsam 2011
Distance 2 Sofia, Academia Gallery, Sofia, Bulgaria 2011
Y Lle Celf, National Eisteddfod of Wales 2011
Relocation, Oriel Sycharth, Wrexham 2010
Facing North (touring exhibition), Storey Institute Gallery Lancaster 2009
Distance, Avenue Gallery, University of Northampton 2010
Seeing Walls, Vanguard Gallery, Shanghai, China 2007
On the Brink, Gallery ZPAP, Krakow, Poland 2006
Borderlines Gallery Bielska, Bielsko Biala, Poland 2006
Hybrida, Artists Book Exhibition, Bristol City Art Gallery 2006
Communicating Space, (solo show) the Gascoigne Gallery, Harrogate 2004
Beneath a Changing Sky, (solo exhibition), Maidenbridge Gallery 2003
Currently represented by a number of galleries located throughout the UK including:
Allen, J and Rowles, S (ed.) (2016) Professional Practice 20 Questions, Q-Art publications, London
Against Production in Hartshorne I, Quaife M, Moloney D (ed.), (2017) Teaching Painting: How Can Painting Be Taught in Art Schools? Black Dog publications, London).
Fully Awake at Blip,Blip,Blip Leeds 2017
Y Lle Celf, National Eisteddfod of Wales catalogue 2011
Wrexham Print International catalogue 2011
Distance 2 Sofia, National Academy of Art, Sofia/Beehive Press 2010
Distance, Avenue Gallery, Northampton, Beehive Press 2010
Facing North, Maiden Bridge Arts Centre 2008
Seeing Walls, Arts council Wales, Vanguard Gallery Shanghai 2006
Borderlines exhibition catalogue, Gallery Bielska BWA, Bielsko-Biała, 2005
Works Held in Collections
Maiden Bridge Gallery
University of South Western China
Vanguard Gallery, Shanghai
Hospital Arts Trust
Cunningham District Council
McClenaghen J. and McHugh C. Between Hands, Painting as a Negotiated Space
Austerity, Adversity, Art?
National Association for Fine Art Education,
University of Wolverhampton (2018)
McClenaghen, J and Liggett S. It Wasn’t What I Thought I Was Making
The Hidden Curriculum, National Association for Fine Art Education (2016)
London Metropolitan University.
McClenaghen, J. Against Production at Teaching Painting, a Conference.
The Whitworth Art Gallery & Manchester Metropolitan University (2015)
Other Professional Subject Engagement
Teaching Painting, an Organisation, Steering Committee Member 2016-
Society of Scottish Artists 2019-