John McLean: Another Light: Prairie Journey

6 - 26 September 2013

In 1981 I was thrilled to be asked as guest artist to the Emma Lake workshop in Saskatchewan. The place had become legendary. Artists preceding me included John Cage, Barnett Newman and Anthony Caro, whose Emma series was begun there.
It was my first visit to Canada. I knew little of the country; so nothing had prepared me for the impact of the prairie light. It was far stronger, brighter and clearer than I had ever seen. I revelled in it: so much that, throughout the eighties I kept going back to the workshop, and sometimes spent whole summers in the city of Saskatoon, borrowing a studio from the landscape painter Greg Hardy, who naturally spent those seasons working outside.

Once, descending into Saskatoon airport, I glanced from the plane’s window at the setting sun scintillating off every drop of water from the distant horizon, right to my eyes. The brilliant golden shimmer seemed scarcely broken by the darkening land and made me wonder how much the millions of lakes and sloughs of the prairies contribute to the marvelous light.

My Saskatchewan paintings remained stored in Canada until this year when I decided to show them for the first time as a group. I think the colour especially, in these canvases, shows how inspiring the light was for me.