Artist in Residence: Paul McLean

Currently Artist in Residence at The Model,
recipient of the Cara Award in 2023.

Irish artist Paul McLean is known for his surrealist automatism paintings, using pen and watercolours, as well as employing oil paint for his portraits. With his surreal automatic drawings, he begins by laying down a cornucopia of chaotic lines with a pen and transforms them into a solidified structure of characters, animals, and buildings, all cohesively melding together on the page. These creations are highlighted with vivid watercolours to bring them to life.

In recent years, McLean has taken up oil painting, primarily focusing on portraits of emotionally hurt individuals. These portraits feature piercingly sharp white backgrounds with a single person gazing back at the viewer. When observing the artwork, viewers may find themselves almost colliding with the canvas, swaying back and forth inward to appreciate its somewhat small and delicate size, and then stepping back to take it all in. McLean explained his approach, stating, “I don’t include backgrounds because I want the viewer’s focus solely on the person, with no distractions. Additionally, many of my skin tones appear bruised to an extent, which I feel is a small way of visually bringing out a gloomy glow of their emotional state.”

Born in 1990 in Donegal, Ireland, McLean has had two successful sold-out solo exhibitions, the first in 2013 and the second in 2016, both held at the ArtCo Gallery in Donegal. McLean has exhibited his work twice at the Glebe Gallery in Donegal and had one of his oil portraits added to the OPW (The Office of Public Works) art collection. In 2023, McLean was awarded the “Model Residency Award” for his piece “Death Stranding,” which was displayed at the Hamilton Gallery. McLean studied at the North West Regional College in Derry and achieved a diploma in art and design in 2023. Currently, McLean is working on his next body of work, titled “Quiet, Subtle, Suffering,” set to be completed over the course of 2024.


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