The Art of Connecting: McLean Edwards

The commercial setting of a bank is a far cry from the stark white gallery – but McLean Edwards’ striking paintings have found a new home on corporate walls in ‘The Art of Connecting Rotating Art Program’, a new initiative by the Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Showing until February next year, McLean Edwards is the inaugural artist in this rotating program, which will periodically feature the work of Ben Quilty, Adam Cullen, Euan MacLeod, Lucy Culliton, Neil Frazer, Wendy Sharpe, Joanna Braithwaite, David Griggs, Guy Maestri and Jasper Knight.

Edwards’ works were selected by Martin Browne and Merrill Lynch’s Max Germanos, dictated not by theme, rather, simply by what the pair liked. Kevin Skelton, CEO and country executive at the Bank says, “What we have sought to do with this innovative program is to celebrate contemporary artists who are destined to shape the future of Australian art. We will showcase featured artists’ work for up to four months, enabling our valued clients, employees and other stakeholders a unique opportunity to experience some of Australia’s finest contemporary art.”

Art Almanac talks to the program’s inaugural artist, McLean Edwards, about his work and the program.

How did you get involved with the project?
I was approached by Germanos (Max) with this idea, who said that they (the Bank of America Merrill Lynch) have all these corporate offices, and that it would be a good way of introducing important artists to an audience that doesn’t tend to visit galleries. His idea of reaching a broader audience really appealed to me, and certainly the other artists that he’s lined up in the program. I was very pleased to be the first one to be asked.

Your work is quite dark and highly psychological. How do you think it will be received by this audience; and how will it interact with this corporate environment?
I put more trust in people than some artists, who might be more wary about putting their work out there in an environment that isn’t a gallery.  Over the last 5 years there has been a trend in the broader spectrum for art to be in different places at different times, beyond the gallery. I anticipate that my work is strong enough to transcend any prejudice, and I feel fairly confident that people within a corporate working environment will appreciate the work, even the darker elements. It’s an exciting prospect as a new venue for art to be shown.

What was involved in the selection process? Were there any particular considerations in the choice of works?
The works were sourced through Martin Browne Contemporary, my dealer, and private collections. They’re all relatively recent works – it is in no way a retrospective or survey. Max Germanos had a certain idea of what works he liked, and in conjunction with Martin Browne, selected a series of works that they thought struck a balance. The earliest painting is around 7 years old, and they’re a motley crew – but without the strictures of a retrospective or survey show, they came up with a bunch of paintings they felt gave a broad overview of what my intentions are as an artist and my practice.

What do you think the significance of this project is, in terms of challenging conventional contexts for art to be shown?
There is a broader audience out there, and for a long time there was a sense that the art world was living in its own bubble, and I think this has been broken. What’s innovative about this project is that you get a broad cross-section of people walking though this corporate environment who might not consider themselves art lovers, but might have been intimidated by art at some stage. So it is really breaking down barriers.

The Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Plain Clothes, 2007, oil on canvas, 122 x 102cm
Courtesy the artist and Martin Browne Contemporary, Sydney