There were a number of good reasons for Proudfoot Ltd to finance the making of “Which Way Up with John McLean” but one of them was the paucity of films available about artists and their process. Hardly surprising really that most painters wouldn’t really entertain the idea of a film crew cluttering up their workspace and asking them daft questions about why they are doing something, but McLean was different. He didn’t mind us being in his studio and happily answered questions on all manner of things from, “Why choose red?” to, “Are your paintings intrinsically Scottish”?
John McLean suffers from Parkinson’s disease and this has a part in the film, but John’s only stipulation when we started the venture was not to make a “sob story”. It would be quite difficult to make a maudlin film about John McLean because he’s a very funny guy. Even as the disease has got more disabling he retains a cheeky and mostly ribald sense of humour.
A test for me as to whether the film stands up is do I still enjoy watching it after many private shows in art colleges, galleries and institutions since the first showing in Soho almost a year ago? I surprise myself by saying, “Yes” – even though I was there all the time while we shot, with repeated viewings I keep finding little insights in the film about painting and about John McLean’s subconscious and intellectual thinking as he goes about making beautiful art works. The paintings are abstract, so you can’t say they represent a thing or a feeling, but looking at them provokes some other kind of inner emotion, a kind of kinship, an acknowledgment that the world is a complex but beautiful organism – and we are lucky enough to be in it. Basically, a John McLean painting can make you feel better about stuff.
It’s been great to sit with audiences and feel them being entertained and moved by it and many have written to us expressing their gratitude.
“Guess it’s all about feeling passionate about a subject – and that certainly comes across throughout the John film. The camerawork is superb – it’s all so jaunty and perky and so acutely and sometimes slyly observed”
“I congratulate you again so warmly on a brilliant film. Everyone there seemed to share this view.”
“Of course the film was especially moving for that particular roomful of people on Tuesday – I think it will be for wider audiences too – as well as tremendously informative and thought-provoking about the whole process of creating a painting”.
“More thanks for the special preview of your most excellent film. I had to keep laughing or I would have started crying.”
“It is a really wonderful film – luckily we laughed and laughed at the great comic on the screen, and reveled in the life force and the wonder of the work. But the difference between the John even of less than a year ago and the man sitting beside me was pretty tragic. Great you got this in the nick of time to celebrate now and to add to his legacy.”
“….just wanted to say that was absolutely brilliant.
I have come away with such a better under standing of John Mclean and what makes him tick as an artist. Also I loved the sound of paint on canvas”.
“What an inspiring piece of work, a funny, gentle, affectionate, moving portrait of one of the great minds of art. I feel sure it’ll be shown in cinemas and on television for years to come”.
“Thank you so much for the fantastic film last night”.
“Which Way Up with John McLean” is available to download from Vimeo On Demand. If you want to feel better today it will only cost you $10.00