Artist Clive McBain emerges from lockdown reflection with energy renewed

After a year of locked-down reflection, artist Clive McBain is delighted to find himself in a refurbished Oxmarket Gallery which is now “simply stunning.”

Monday, 19th April 2021, 10:05 am
New work by Clive McBain
New work by Clive McBain

“I am so excited about it,” says Clive who lives in Graffham. “I will be in the (Oxmarket’s) John Rank Gallery which has always been one of my favourites. My work always looks really good in there. But it is wonderful in the gallery now.

“They have painted the walls a very delicate grey. It is so subtle, but it really does make it look quite different. The floor is different. The lighting is different. The lighting is superb. It is just brilliant. I don’t think there is another gallery that can touch it locally.”

It certainly makes re-emergence from lockdown all the more enticing.

“One of the great disruptions, obviously for all artists, is that I have had zero exhibitions. It has been very difficult. You spend your time painting, but you have no idea whether you are ever going to be able to show your paintings. But I have now been invited to the Oxmarket, and I am very happy about that.

“I think for me it has been a year of reflection and to see if there is room for improvement on the work that I do which is representational, and I do think that with the latest paintings I have pushed my creative boundaries. There are one or two of them that I am particularly proud of, that are quite different to things I have done in the past, paintings where I feel that I have somehow stepped up.

“There is a difference in colour. There is a difference in energy. There is a difference in contrast. Most of my work is on a level plain but then suddenly you will come across something that is different. It is more vibrant. It has a different energy. One or two of my paintings are still incredibly realistic, but there feels a slight looseness to them that doesn’t actually come across as looseness at all… if you see what I mean!”

It all comes as Clive moves towards his 30th anniversary next year as a full-time artist: “And I feel better than I have ever felt.

“Going right back to those early days, my works were architectural and very Sussex… very, very much Sussex. That has changed.

“I have had six solo exhibitions at Petworth House. And I was commissioned to paint Darcy which was a beautiful white peacock from the owners of Amberley Castle. They wanted it against one of their beautiful windows.

“Another visitor to Petworth House commissioned me to paint a red panda in their own private zoo. I had to climb up a tree with a camera whilst this red panda decided that I was not a threat and come over to me. I took dozens of snaps and went away and painted this beautiful red panda.”

Clive is quick to stress he would never paint from a photograph. There is simply no point. The photograph is for guidance… and then the artistry comes in.

But these two commissions were crucial to the way Clive has since developed as an artist: “It took me in the direction of painting birds and mammals in more natural or man-made situations. There is a certain beauty you get from fur or feather against an ancient wall or against peeling paint.”

A recent painting Clive is particularly proud of is his red fox: “I was driving along the road one day and the bracken had all started to turn these beautiful colours. I stopped the car and pulled out lots of bracken and took it all home to my studio. It looked so beautiful.”

And into this Clive placed a red fox, using photos, but just for reference: “I made the fox what I wanted it to be. And I am very pleased with the result.”

The Art of Clive McBain runs from April 20-25 at The Oxmarket Gallery off East Street, Chichester. The Gallery is open daily 10am-5pm, closed Mondays.