A work of art

BBC doc­u­men­tary on Wil­liam McCance

Rutherglen Reformer - - News - Jonathan Ged­des

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

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