Curated Member Showcase November 2019 - Michael Clarence

Nov 21st 2019

Every Month we will showcase three Visual Arts Scotland members, spotlighting their work & practice.

These showcased members will be chosen by a monthly guest curator. The invited curator will select makers & artists that interest them from our amazing membership. This will be based on a theme of their choice. 


November 2019

Curator: Barry McGlashan

Theme: Painting

Barry McGlashan is a painter. 
A significant part of his early work was informed by travel thanks to a number of scholarships and awards, most notably from The Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh. 
This left him fascinated by the language and seemingly endless dialogues which exist throughout the histories of Painting. In response to that interest and love of lineage, and following on from his most recent exhibition at John Martin Gallery in London (2018), he was invited to exhibit his work in the studio of the great Flemish Baroque artist, Peter Paul Rubens at the Rubenshuis Museum in Antwerp for a period of four months. The only contemporary artist to be included in the acquisitions and loan scheme, it was a career highlight.
His work has been exhibited extensively since graduating from Gray’s School of Art (Aberdeen) in 1996, with many paintings being held in public and private collections worldwide. He has also worked with institutions such as Aberdeen University, The Royal Scottish Academy (Edinburgh), Grays School of Art (Aberdeen) and The Mall Galleries (London) in various roles both in selection and judging but also as a mentor and in an educational capacity as a tutor at Grays School of Art between 1998 and 2005.
However, most important to him is that valuable time spent alone in the studio, painting. 
He shows regularly with John Martin Gallery in London, his next major show being in the Autumn of 2020, and also at The Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh where he will have a major exhibition in the Winter of 2021.
The Royal Scottish Academy -
John Martin Gallery -
The Scottish Gallery -



"The paintings of Michael Clarence feel hard fought, they are by no means ‘easy' paintings (if such a thing ever existed.) The old battle between material and image here affords us a view into a dream-like world of assembled characters and brilliantly confused interiors. As observers, he drops us into the narrative at points whereby we are left unsure of what is happening, has just happened, or will happen. His wonderfully confident use of colour and mark-making create these theatrical statements, paintings which remind us of that valuable thing: answers often mean more questions." Barry McGlashan



Tell us a little bit about your artistic background/education

I studied painting at the Gray’s School of art graduating with a first-class honours degree in 2017. Having initially studied Sculpture and Environmental Art at the Glasgow School of Art, my current practice encompasses several approaches that reflect a diverse artistic background.


Could you describe your practice?

My work explores contemporary figuration and ideas surrounding representation in painting; I am specifically interested in the relationship between figure, ground and colour. A fine line is often traversed between representation, illustration, narrative and abstraction. I enjoy working in a variety of scale and surface, and have recently been experimenting with found surfaces and ceramic techniques; these works encompass a variety of subject matter, including interiors, encounters, tables and scenes of an intimate nature. These staged or theatrical situations reflect my core interest in the act or performance. Drawing is a fundamental activity within my studio practice, an essential part of most days, it is used to give form to ideas, to prepare and inform work in the making. Painting itself is an ongoing experiment: a challenge in harnessing materials to submit to specific form. Often paint is applied and then removed in equal measure, mistakes and hesitancy made visible in a charted history upon the surface. Within the studio, I enjoy pushing the versatility and limitations of paint and its associated materials to achieve unexpected or unpredictable outcomes.


What are your art influences? Which contemporary artists/makers do you admire and why?

Historically, I return to Piero Della Francesca with an appreciation for the coolness of his nuanced arrangements. Paintings retain a sense of flatness, remarkable considering the degree to which he engaged science and mathematics within compositions. His influence can be traced through many artists whom I admire, most notably David Hockney and Craigie Aitchison. Hockney’s early work has a directness and intent which I find particularly enjoyable. Craigie Aitchison explores figure, ground and flatness tremendously well as does Milton Avery. In terms of combining subject matter and application, Keith Vaughan and Francis Bacon are masters. Both are explicit in conveying their desires, love and sexuality through material form. Contemporary artists I turn to include, Andrew Cranston, an exceptional artist and storyteller. I was privileged to be under the tutelage of Cranston at Gray’s School of Art. His sumptuous paintings range in scale. Small works on book covers are richly layered and sculptural, the larger employ the use of encaustic which has a lightness like the watercolour of his drawings. His handling of material into narrative form is sublime. I particularly enjoy Peter Doig’s recent work and Merlin James. Genieve Figgis and Katy Moran explore figuration and material in quite exciting and experimental ways. Rose Wylie has a candour and joy in her enviable freedom of expression.


What makes a good day in the studio for you?

Surprising myself. When something works out that I didn’t anticipate and I go home on a high!


In the studio – music, audiobook, podcast, Radio 4 or silence?

A combination of radio, music and silence. I love to listen to music; the studio is a great place to dance - inhibitions freed up! Music can get you in a meditative state but my mind can also wander off the job. Radio 4 can be great for ideas so I often listen to that, however as The Tremeloes sang: Silence Is Golden.


What is coming up next for you and where can we see more of you work?

VAS and SSA Open in December!

Read more about Michael here