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February 3 to March 4, 2017

Everything is Being Perfected

Neil McClelland

My current body of paintings explores tensions between utopic and dystopic visions. I inquire into notions of human happiness and perfectibility, the creation of Edenic paradises, disruption and dissolution of society, alienation and consumption, nature and culture, the monstrous and the beautiful, myth-making and storytelling. I am especially drawn to the title of Paul Gauguin’s painting "Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?" as evoking crucial questions for contemporary examination. I take imagery and inspiration from literature and film, along with art historical, historical, contemporary and personal sources. Drawing on an array of source material, I create combinations and layers of digitally edited compositions that form the basis for beginning a painting in oil. Using the qualities and possibilities of paint, I seek to convey a visceral sense of place and time to suggest what is simultaneously familiar but strange. Fragments of the real and unreal merge to create possible futures that have potential to evoke the dangers inherent in thinking that human ingenuity and technology can create a perfect society, but that might also hint at possibilities of a new beginning. I see my painting process as a form of inquiry in which I am attempting to grasp and create a sense of the utopic and dystopic contradictions that pervade our lives at this time. My narratives are ambiguous and open, leaving the viewer to create their own story and meaning. Merging fragments of the present, the past, and an imagined future I hope to create a fictitious world, a “no place” but one in which we might find something of ourselves and our world. 

Neil McClelland is a Canadian artist originally from Quebec and currently located in Victoria, British Columbia. He received his MFA from the University of Victoria in 2014 and is a 2016 Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation grantee. He has exhibited in artist-run, public and commercial galleries across Canada and teaches at Vancouver Island School of Art and sessionally at the University of Victoria. In his paintings, McClelland frequently engages with art historical conventions and traditions, intentionally disrupting their boundaries as he seeks to understand their meaning in an increasingly mediated and troubled world. 

Neil McClelland wishes to thank The Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation for its financial support.

Times Colonist Article