A work of art
BBC documentary on William McCance
The work of a Cambuslang artist is to be looked at in a new BBC documentary.
William McCance was born in Cambuslang in 1894, going on to be a prominent artist throughout the 1920s.
His work brought together elements from the cubist, abstract and machine-inspired art that became prominent after the First World War, and now McCance’s important role in Scottish art is being examined in an episode of the BBC series The Story of Scottish Art that will air next week.
Presented by the artist Lachlan Goudie, the episode covers the past 100 years of Scottish art - starting with McCance’s work, such as Heavy Structures in a Landscape Setting, a startling vision of futuristic weapons.
A student at Glasgow’s School of Art, the Cambuslang born artist was a complex character, who was imprisoned during World War One due to being a conscientious objector, but then channelled his energies after the war into creating art inspired by trends that were sweeping across Europe.
In the programme Lachlan Goudie, the son of the artist Alexander Goudie, states that McCance “would attempt to forge a new and very different vision of Scottish art.
“William McCance was a man who defied convention - he had been imprisoned during the First World War as a conscientious objector.
“A sense of violence, trauma and rupture with the past would permeate his art. His own approach to the canvas was completely atypical of anything that was happening in Scotland at the time.
“As a man, McCance detested violence yet curiously his images have the energy of a tightly coiled spring and he completely subverts what a canvas should look like.”
The programme then looks at his links with the poet Hugh MacDiarmid, who believed that McCance’s art could help trigger an artistic wave of the Scottish Renaissance.
MacDiarmid believed that Scotland’s greatest minds had become engineers rather than artists, and that McCance represented the future.
Alice Strang, of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, also appears on the show to praise McCance’s influence.
She said: “In the early 1920s, more than any other Scottish artist, McCance is looking at the latest developments in art, interpreting them and making them his own.
“He’s not looking to Scotland’s history, whether art or any other kind of history it was very much about the now, and very much a Scottish take on things and a reinvigoration of Scottish culture.
“It’s throbbing with suppressed energy and a sense of almost sinister energy.”
McCance later took up a post as controller of the Gregynog Press in Wales, before going on to teach book design at the University of Reading. He died in 1970. A collection of his paintings is held in the National Galleries of Scotland and Dundee Art Gallery.
The Story of Scottish Art will air on Wednesday, October 28, on BBC2 at 9pm.
Innovator William McCance was influential on Scottish art
Classic work one of William McCance’s original works