Bruce McLean

150ft Seaskape, Largiebeg


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Bruce McLean born 1944
2 photographs, black and white, on paper and typewritten caption on card
Unconfirmed: 505 × 787 mm
Purchased 1973

Display caption

This work records McLean’s attempt to make paintings in which the landscape itself played an active, creative role. He laid a 150-foot roll of sensitised paper on the seashore at Largiebeg on the east coast of the Isle of Arran, and intended to let the incoming tide mark the paper. However, the tide came in so quickly that the paper floated out to sea.

The paper is of a type used for reproducing architectural drawings, which changes colour when exposed to light (not water). But the location McLean chose was the sea, because in seascape paintings the sea is blue.

Gallery label, February 2010

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Catalogue entry

Bruce McLean b.1944

T01738 150ft Seaskape, Largiebeg 1969

Not inscribed.
Two black and white photographs and typewritten caption, laid on white card, 19¿x 31 (50.5x79).
Purchased from the artist through the Situation Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1973.
Exh: When Attitudes Become Form, I.C.A., September–October 1969 (listed in catalogue under 66, ‘work to be installed by artist’).

The caption, which is stuck to the bottom right corner of the card and is cut off at its right edge, reads,‘2 Views of 150 ft. Seaskape, Largiebe (sensitized paper) turns blue in sea September 1969 Isle of Arran.’ Each photograph measures 8¾x11¿if in. Largiebeg is on the east coast of the Isle of Arran, Scotland, and the left photograph shows Holy Island in the distance.

The artist told the compiler (conversation May 1974 and letter 10 June 1974) that the 150 foot roll of sensitised paper was of a type used for reproducing architectural drawings, which changes colour when exposed to light (not to water). But the location he chose for the colour-change was the sea because in seascape paintings the sea is blue; location of the colour-change of the paper in the sea marked acceptance and reaffirmation of the notion that ‘the sea is blue’. McLean’s seascape, like his rock and shorescape documented in T01739, was a response to artists’ prevalent concern with land art. But these works also referred to the treatment of sea and landscape in other art idioms, and the substitution of the letter ‘K’ for ‘C’ in the suffix ‘scape’ in the titles was intended to imply these other interpretations. McLean’s original idea had been to lay the roll of paper on the shore and let the tide mark it as it came in. ‘I wanted to let the sea make the mark, a perfect pure mark, over which I had “little control”.’ However, when the tide came in so fast as to make the paper float out to sea, McLean changed the structure of the work. (The roll of paper was finally retrieved from the sea and disposed of in a nearby litter bin.)

The photographs in T01738 and T01739 were taken, from angles not determined by the artist, by Dirk Buwalda. The artist wrote that to his knowledge no other prints existed taken from these negatives.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1972–1974, London 1975.

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