Sargent’s Daughters is pleased to present Something I’ve been meaning to tell you, a solo exhibition of new paintings and ceramics by Saira McLaren. This will be the artist's third solo show with the gallery.
The exhibition takes its title from Alice Munro’s 1974 short story of the same name, in which the duality of illusion and reality shape the lives of two sisters. The 'something' of the story is either a revealing secret or a total fiction; the reader does not know.
This duality infuses McLaren’s new work with mysterious imagery where the body is both present and absent, and natural world is both artificial and realistic. Unlike her previous work, in which human presence was only hinted at, the new work puts the body directly into the landscape. Eyes float through a botanical tangle; fingers pluck plants and leaves are stuffed in mouths. These unattached body parts serve as allegories for aging and change, the loss of one part of oneself and the decline of sexuality.
The paintings reference theatrical scrims-- a scrim that if you could pull away, the scene might easily disappear or remain, and are constructed like dioramas rather than observed places. They begin with fabric dye, after which layers of light oil are washed to create the screen effect. The line and brush work remain on the surface, creating a flattened plane that enhances the dramatic scene. The ceramic vessels are similarly enigmatic. The vases are glazed multiple times with over glazes to create their light washes, giving them a further aesthetic connection to the paintings.
McLaren drew inspiration from a wide variety of sources, including 17th century religious paintings of St Lucy, St Agnes and St Agatha, Victorian ‘Lover’s Eye’ paintings, 19th century Romantics, 19th century botanical drawings and Georgia O’Keefe. The resulting works portray the power and problems of the female body, both in reality and in art, made manifest through a thin film of unexplained beauty.
Saira McLaren (b. 1976, Toronto, Canada) lives and works between New York City and the Catskills. She is a 2015 Edward Albee Foundation resident and has exhibited at Essex Flowers, NY; Bushel, NY and George Gallery, NY. Her work has been reviewed in Artforum and Time Out New York.