Arusha Gallery, Edinburgh
The winner of the Elizabeth Greenshields Grant (2017), the RSA John Kinross Scholarship (2016), the Dewar Art Award (2015), and a graduate of the Glasgow School of Art (MLitt Fine Art Practice), Blair McLaughlin’s is a mature talent rarely evident in an artist so young.
Situated at the intersection of violence, politics and postmodernity, McLaughlin challenges one to question situated notions of shared space, civil society and time itself. This is work which perverts and reassembles art history, whether Gentileschi, Courbet or Caravaggio. Its tactility — boils of thick oil paint swell on the canvases of even the artists most serene subjects — distinctive of an impressionistic approach to reference and the visual arts canon.
McLaughlin’s recent work further experiments in genre convention, synthesizing ever more art historical tropes. Though unmistakably a landscape, Ascension (2017) is dominated by figures: three horses, their riders in riot helmets and goggles, foreground the lightly painted ruins favoured by 18th century bucolics.
I’m Afraid (2017), referencing Botticelli’s representation of the coming of spring, paints the onset of the Trump administration within the cyclical process of American democracy. The title, lifted from the placards raised in protest of the inauguration, speaks to the anxieties of voters on both ends of the political spectrum. The president’s dark figure encroaches on the center of the scene – a fearful portent for both those who support him and those who denounce him.
Though McLaughlin describes himself as being ‘analytically detached’ from his work, his work is clearly driven by emotion and intuition. In the lashings of heavy paint, and the thundering motion of his subjects, McLaughlin’s work is kinetic, disquieting and darkly intellectual.