Jason McLean: in the corner, there is a light

Toronto

Jason McLean: Mild Toronto Observation (2000): Acrylic ink on paper, 24-3/4 x 32-3/4 inches (63 x 83 cm). Courtesy Jessica Bradley Art + Projects, Toronto.Jason McLean: Mild Toronto Observation (2000): Acrylic ink on paper, 24-3/4 x 32-3/4 inches (63 x 83 cm). Courtesy Jessica Bradley Art + Projects, Toronto.

By Carolyn Tripp

Jason McLean: in the corner, there is a light
Jessica Bradley Art + Projects
March 20 – April 17, 2010

In the works in this exhibition, Jason McLean didn’t just draw train tracks; he used the text ‘gogogogo’. The Dufferin Street Bridge tunnel was turned into an eye attached to an enormous face, and vague impressions of cities, both visited and resided in, are thrown up in the air, landing far away from their original locations. McLean may be way off, geographically, but the fuzzy memories and first impressions the artist commits to paper, canvas and found objects make an indelible impression.

McLean’s practice criss-crosses the border of sculpture and mixed media, but his most prolific work has largely remained in print, including self-published zines and illustrated works that weave complex narratives about haunts in his hometown of Vancouver. His characters often rival some of today’s best illustrators, including heavy-hitters like Stanley Donwood and Gary Taxali.

Jason McLean: Gump (2007): Mixed media on found object, 39-1/2 x 15-2/4" (100 x 40cm). Courtesy Jessica Bradley Art + Projects, Toronto.Jason McLean: Gump (2007): Mixed media on found object, 39-1/2 x 15-2/4" (100 x 40cm). Courtesy Jessica Bradley Art + Projects, Toronto.The strength of each piece lies in the simplicity of its medium. When considering a gallery show, viewers are likely to wonder why an artist uses “this” material or “that“ one, and I found myself doing this. McLean often utilizes found materials such as light bulbs and boxing gloves as ‘canvases’ for drawings. Such choices result in some hits and some misses; however, whether something is a ’miss’ seems to depend on the objects he chooses to draw upon. At times, they can detract from the strength of his drawing.

The pieces, The Morning After, and Blue in 95 (both 2008), portray painted maps with light bulbs embedded into the canvas. Each light seems to mark an elusive location experienced on a specific day, or perhaps the hazy memory thereof. Another piece, Gump (2007), is made up of 1970s-carseat-like padding and is among McLean’s most successful integrations of found objects. The fabric is sewn in sections, and painted with various text and markings piled on top of one another, giving the impression of an exhausted traveler whose suitcase has seen many a country, a sticker from every capital city slapped onto its surface.

The mapping on another strong ink-on-paper work, Mild Toronto Observation (2009), encompasses Dufferin Street and ends somewhere around the CN Tower. Its northern and southernmost points are Queen Street and the edge of Lake Ontario. The shadow of the CN Tower extends into the city, piercing north into the streets below like an oversized knife. The train tracks that run along the shore of Lake Ontario, which are used by CN and Go Transit trains, are represented by the whimsical text ‘gogogogo’, trailing off the page in their easterly and westerly directions.

Although explorations of different media are essential to the progression of an artist’s practice, it may not always produce consistency across an exhibition, and this was the case here. McLean’s faculties are undeniably solid when it comes to the pen and the brush. His drawing is already so full of wit and whimsy that it feels like there is no need for light bulbs.

Carolyn TrippCarolyn Tripp is a Toronto-based artist and writer whose work has been featured at the Contact Photography Festival (Contacting Toronto), the Gladstone Hotel (upArt), the Centre for Culture and Leisure No. 1 and the Toronto Urban Film Festival. She has been published in Eye Weekly, Broken Pencil, and Spacing and C Magazines.