Born in Darwin in 1972, McLean Edwards studied at the Canberra School of Art and had his first solo exhibition in Sydney in 1995. Known for his theatrical, darkly humorous take on figurative painting and his bold use of colour, he has had over 20 solo shows and is collected widely by private institutions across Australia and is in many International and Australian private collections.
A newspaper reviewer once commented that McLean Edwards’ strange psychological portraits ‘had the ability to expose an essential vulnerability of the human condition, and that his comic sense of social realism presented individuals as refugees of a bygone era floating anchorless in today’s ostensibly classless society.’ (SMH 10.2.1995)
An Australian arts reviewer stated his work has the ‘same sour humour as Samuel Beckett’s plays and prose, an absurd, theatrical sadness that celebrates idiosyncrasy while acknowledging the seeming impossibility of fighting the universe…His work is marked with a palpable sense of mortality and humility, a tragicomedy of figures and apparitions, thought-bubbles and asides, a diary of his anxieties and dreams.’ (Art Collector Australia, Issue 57 2011)
Painting in oil on canvas, Edwards’s works are fluid and change sometimes dramatically as those thoughts and ideas correspondingly reform. He also scribes his age in the artwork, often in the corner of the canvas as a countdown to his mortality and signature of his work. Edwards paints in an intriguing manner, his brush strokes are confident and loose and yet by contrast are reinforced with delicate lines and considered details. He skilfully makes this technique look easy, however this approach is achieved through his many years of painting full time.
Edwards’ practice to date has concentrated on the human figure - especially the history of portraiture. There are allusions to European art history as ‘old master paintings’ are subverted and the sitters are made to look impotent and ridiculous as characters set in a dark comedy on stage. Their features are often exaggerated; bulbous noses with swollen ears are paired with comic sullen expressions juxtaposed with a carnivalesque colour palette and/or heightened through a dark background.
Edwards’ influences are wide ranging as he reads and watches media constantly. Edwards’ does not hide his influences through art history and viewers associate Ingres to modern greats Picasso and Bacon to contemporary painter Condo with his work. Australian artists such as Sidney Nolan, Donald Friend, and William Dobell also can be traced as influences. As such direct comparisons can be made with historical iconic paintings often providing a uniquely European and ultimately ambiguous, yet compelling quality to the work of the Australian artist.
McLean Edwards studied at the Canberra School of Art. Since that time he has exhibited his work in numerous group and solo shows including the Archibald Prize at the AGNSW in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2013, and is the 2019 Sulman Prize Winner.
McLean currently lives and works in Sydney.
Born: 1972 Darwin, Northern Territory Lives: Sydney, Australia
Education: Canberra School of Art
2020 One Way, Nicholas Thompson Gallery Melbourne
2020 Rebecca, Olsen Gallery, Sydney
2019 Everything Once, Olsen Gallery, Sydney
2017 Marsupials, Olsen Gruin, New York, U.S.A
2016 Knock Knock, Nicholas Projects, Melbourne
2014 Local Heroes, Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney
2013 The Art of Connecting: McLean Edwards, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Sydney
2013 Imaginary Friends and Black Portraits, Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney
2012 Here Comes Everybody, Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney
2011 Dream Juggler, Gallery Ecosse, Exeter, NSW
2011 Basic Instinct, Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne
2010 Bad Habits, Goulburn Regional Art Gallery, Goulburn, NSW
2010 Bad Habits, Martin Browne Fine Art, Sydney
2009 New Works, Martin Browne Fine Art, Sydney
2008 The End, Martin Browne Fine Art, Sydney
2007 New Works, Martin Browne Fine Art, Sydney
2006 Non Fiction, Martin Browne Fine Art, Sydney
2005 The Revenge of Maggie Dubrovnik, Martin Browne Fine Art, Melbourne
2004 Mexican Brides, Martin Browne Fine Art, Sydney
2003 Down and Dirty for the Lord, Martin Browne Fine Art, Sydney
2003 Opening Exhibition, Martin Browne Fine Art, Sydney
2002 Year of the Rat, Martin Browne Fine Art, Sydney
2002 Recent Paintings and Drawings, Chapman Gallery, Manuka ACT
2002 Australian Contemporary Art Fair, Martin Browne Fine Art, Sydney
2001 Headway, Legge Gallery, Sydney
2000 I wanted to be normal for You, Legge Gallery, Sydney
2000 The trembling man paintings, Chapman Gallery, Canberra
1999 Recent works, Legge Gallery, Sydney
1998 Nudes and other recent works, Chapman Gallery, Canberra
1998 New Paintings, Legge Gallery, Sydney
1998 Give ‘em hell Galeri Tenguh, Jakarta, Indonesia
1997 Pygmalion, Legge Gallery, Sydney
1996 Silly boy paintings, Legge Gallery, Sydney
1995 Portraits, Legge Gallery, Sydney
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS:
2019 McLean Edwards & Rhys Lee, Nicholas Thompson Gallery Melbourne
2019 Sulman Prize, Winner, Art Gallery of New South Wales
2018 Antumbra, Olsen Gallery, Sydney
2017 Sydney Contemporary, Olsen Gruin Gallery
2016 Salon des Refuses, SH Ervin Gallery, Sydney
2016 Winter Exhibition, Heiser Gallery, Brisbane
2015 Art Month Collectors’ Space, The Hughes Gallery, Sydney
2015 Five Artists, Gallery Ecosse, Exeter, NSW
2014 Doug Moran National Portrait Prize, Juniper Hall, Sydney
2013 Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales
2010 Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales
2010 Quirky from the Collection, Newcastle Regional Art Gallery, Newcastle
2009 The University of Queensland National Artist's Self-Portrait Prize, Brisbane
2009 Linde Ivimey and McLean Edwards, Martin Browne Fine Art, Sydney
2008 Autumn Exhibition, Martin Browne Fine Art, Sydney
2008 New Works by Gallery Artists, Martin Browne Fine Art, Sydney
2007 Summer Exhibition, Martin Browne Fine Art, Sydney
2007 Autumn Catalogue, Martin Browne Fine Art, Sydney
2007 Winter Catalogue, Martin Browne Fine Art, Sydney
2007 Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales
2006 Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales
2004 Archibald Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales
2004 Sulman Prize, Finalist, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney
2003 A Selection of 20th Century Contemporary Australian and New Zealand Art, Martin Browne
Fine Art, Sydney
2003 A Selection of Important 20th Century Australian Paintings, Martin Browne Fine Art, Sydney
2002 Seventh Australia Contemporary Art Fair, Melbourne
2002 A Summer Show, December, Martin Browne Fine Art, Sydney
2001 Seventh Australian Contemporary Art Fair, Melbourne
2001 Sulman Prize, Finalist, Art Gallery of NSW
1999 Contemporary Art: Allen Allen & Hemsley Collection, UTS Gallery Sydney
1998 Sixth Australian Contemporary Art Fair, Melbourne
1997 Yogyakarta Art Fair 1997 Five Painters, Legge Gallery
1997 Sanguine Valediction, Legge Gallery
1996 Kings Art Prize, Kings College
1996 Fifth Australian Contemporary Art Fair, Melbourne
1995 Summer Exhibition, Legge Gallery
1994 Travelling Art Scholarship, Works Gallery, UNSW
1994 Artists Don't Believe In Sanity Clause, Legge Gallery
1346 Venice Collection
Australian War Memorial Museum, Canberra Newcastle Region Art Gallery, Newcastle
Allens Arthur Robinson
Dubbo Regional Gallery
Germanos Collection, Sydney
Gold Coast City Gallery
Goulburn Regional Art Gallery
Hong Kong investors
Orange Regional Gallery
PT Kodel (Indonesia)
Private Collections in Australia, New Zealand, UK, U.S.A and Indonesia University of Queensland Art Museum
Saskia Beudel, ‘McLean Edwards’, Artist Profile magazine, Issue 47, 2019.
Erik Jensen, ‘McLean Edwards’ portrait in the Salon’, Look magazine, Art Gallery
Society of New South Wales, December 2016/ January 2017.
Helena Geilinger, ‘McLean Edwards’, Knock Knock, August 2016.
Carrie McCarthy, ‘McLean Edwards, Delightfully Dishevelled’, Cultural Flanerie, 21 July, 2014. Elizabeth Fortescue, ‘Portrait of the artist and his imaginary friends’, Daily Telegraph, 30 May 2013. Nick O’Malley, ‘Palettes loaded, lines drawn’, Sydney Morning Herald, 27 December 2011 p. 4-5. Andrew Frost, ‘Head-into the Black: McLean Edwards’, Art Monthly Australia, Issue 237 March 2011, p. 23-25.
Andrew Frost ‘McLean Edwards: Eventually No More’, Art Collector magazine Issue 57, July- September 2011.
Steve Lopes, ‘McLean Edwards’, Artist Profile magazine, Issue 08 2009 p. 54-58.
Dr Marcus Bunyan, ’Review McLean Edwards: Songs from the Ghost Ship at Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne’, Art Blart, June 2009.
Daniel Smith, ‘The Sitting’, Harper’s Bazar Australia, April 2006, p 34-40.
Elizabeth Fortescue, ‘Right on Topsy of his World’, Daily Telegraph, 21 April 2006.
Sebastian Smee, ‘Old masterful vision with stories full of colour’, The Australian, 11 April 2006. Megan Doherty, Canberra Times, 29 April 2006. The Art Life ‘The Darkness’ April 2006.
The Art Life ‘Eyes are Hard to Paint’ March 2006.
John McDonald, ‘Year of the very Big Head’, Sydney Morning Herald, 17 March 2006 p 14.
Sophie Tedmanson, ‘Artist’s mate puts Cate in the Archibald picture’, The Australian, 8 March 2006. ‘Archies Pack ‘em in’, Weekend Australian, 11 - 12 March 2006 p 31.
Clay Lucas, ‘Studio Chaos suits Edwards’ Style’, The Age, 30 May 2005, Metro section p 5.
‘McLean Edwards – Paintings 2002-2005’, Martin Browne Fine Art, 2005 c ISSN 1323-7675,
Design Strategy, Sydney, Australia.
John Kavanagh, ‘Blue-Chip Contemporary’, BRW, 18 -24 December 2003.
Sony Barron, ‘Flaws Fail to deter Queues’, Canberra Times, 16 January 2002.
Ron Cerabona, ‘A Challenging Display’, Canberra Times, 10 January 2002.