Jason McLean in ISSUE MAGAZINE // Interview by artist Ryan Sluggett

Jason McLean SODA GARDNER closes March 14th

Jason McLean in his studio in Brooklyn

Jason McLean in his studio in Brooklyn

The experience of Jason McLean’s work is like following a train of thought back to its root. Where did it start? Where did it branch off along the way? McLean’s drawings have this same meandering, web-like quality. You can follow the tangents of his thoughts and daily routines across his canvas (which is often not a canvas at all, but a found object such as a door, a backpack or a baseball glove). Fragments of text interact with his drawings – overheard conversations, pop culture, art history and street names – all merging into a bright and surrealistic map of his life. It’s no surprise he draws from influences including the automatic drawings of the Surrealists, the text-image paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat, and the ready-mades of Marcel Duchamp.

Fellow Canadian artist Ryan Sluggett talks to McLean about finding scraps, keeping humor as part of art, and using his Mom’s letters as material.

His current show, “Soda Gardner,” is up at LA’s Wilding Cran Gallery from January 19 – March 14.

Ryan Sluggett: We share an interest in the work of rather obscure Canadian artists, and you have quite an impressive collection of works on paper. Do any of these works serve as a kind of talisman for you?

Jason McLean: One of the first pieces of Canadian art I acquired was a signed print of Harold Town’s “The Great Divide.” I received it in exchange for helping a neighbor move. The piece was from her ex-husband, and she wanted to completely forget about him so she gave me the work, I think without knowing about Harold Town.

Definitely, the Pettibon pieces I have act as a sort of inspiration, not Canadian but important to my collection. We had traded the work in the early 2000s when I showed with him in Vancouver.

RS: Most of the text in this show is pointed outwards, almost away from the artwork. Quite a few references to Los Angeles. Is this outwardness simply a way of giving a drawing a subject, or is the outwardness meant to disorient and mislead the viewer from an orthodox and more internalized way of looking at art?

JM: It is so intertwined to me that I do not even think about internal or external narratives. I work automatic in some ways, more stream of consciousness, with triggered memories where one thing triggers the next. My work is a personal view, and not in references but in my memories of my own experiences, much like how a family tree would be structured. They are not meant to disorient the viewer, quite the opposite, much of my work is an invitation to immerse themselves and explore my work like a treasure hunt. Think of the overview maps, or city directories. I’m really into secrets of the city, or roadside Americana with its obscured landmarks and pop culture oddities.

RS: Yes I see the work grow and spread like a web chart. I wonder, does this complexity automatically make a work more open-ended and harder to pin down?


“I DO TRY TO STAY UP
AND POSITIVE ABOUT WORKING AS AN ARTIST,
AT TIMES I’M QUESTIONING JUST HOW IMPORTANT
IT IS TO TAKE ONESELF SO SERIOUSLY.”
— JASON MCLEAN

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