Artistic DNA: Family of artists exhibit work together for first the time

A mother, father and their daughter are set to exhibit their artwork together for the first time. 

Relative Colour will showcase pieces from a range of artists and ceramicists, but front and centre will be the work of the McClenaghen family, who are exhibiting together for the first time.

The exhibition will open on 10 September in Buchlyvie’s Greengallery and run until 8 October.

John McClenaghen.

John McClenaghen, from Falkirk, met his wife, Lorna Bates, from Buchlyvie ,while they were both Fine Art students at The Glasgow School of Art in the early 1980s.

After graduating John set up his own studio in The Tolbooth in Stirling for three years where he painted and ran workshops before moving down south to take up a teaching position in York. 

Since then John has worked in a number of art schools across England and Wales and now teaches Fine Art at Wrexham School of Art, part of Wrexham University in North Wales.

While John taught, wife Lorna worked in museums and took a career break while she had her children, Kate and Peter.

John never gave up his first love and always combined his teaching with painting. It’s only since going part time in 2020 that he’s been able to carve out more time to focus on his painting.

‘I am descended from farmers and my paintings of the land and the sea, which are expressive and gestural, allow me to relate experience and reconnect with history, particularly my family history,’ John said.

‘There is no doubt that Scotland is still very much my home and it’s where I still make most of my work.

In 2018, Lorna decided to go back to university to pursue an MA in Art Practice in Wrexham, where the couple now live and share a studio. It was during her time there that she became interested in painted pattern and motifs.

‘Whereas often people see pattern as background, for me it’s the subject. I find the language of pattern, and the possibilities it holds, endlessly inspiring,’ Lorna said.

‘We’re all really looking forward to the exhibition and for me, growing up in Buchlyvie where my mum was the post-mistress, the place is very special.

‘I am sure seeing all of our work hanging together in the same space will be very emotional and a real eye-opener.’

Following in her parents’ footsteps, the couple’s daughter, Kate, graduated from The Glasgow School of Art in July this year and has now moved to London to do a Masters degree in Painting at the prestigious Royal College of Art.

Kate McClenaghen.

‘My work is mixed media and that’s probably because I have been influenced by both my parents, subconsciously,’ Kate said.
‘The pieces I create combine painting, mark, pattern and gesture and look at how the fragmented nature of experience and memory create place.’

Becky Walker, who runs the Green Gallery said: ‘I have exhibited John’s paintings before but when I saw Lorna and Kate’s work I was struck by both the similarity and differences.

‘All three clearly stem from The Glasgow School of Art’s Colourist tradition but they have unique approaches. 

‘John’s use of paint, which is considered yet spontaneous, captures the process of time and change harnessing the fluidity of the medium and often telling a story of his engagement with a place.

‘Lorna’s painting is concerned with surface, shape and texture, as she merges and layers colour and pattern.

‘Her wallpaper designs combine the historical and the contemporary.

‘Kate has undoubtedly inherited her parents’ use of colour although her style is completely her own and feels very fresh.

‘In a world where we’re all very interested in delving into family history, I thought an exhibition highlighting a family’s artistic DNA would make a fascinating show.’

Read more on Scottish Field’s News pages. 

Plus, don’t miss the September issue of Scottish Field magazine.