Will Maclean: Collected Works 1970-2010, The Fleming Collection, London

3.00

When we think of artists who make sealed, glazed boxes filled with objects, we immediately conjure up the dizzyingly delightful worlds-within-worlds of Joseph Cornell. Will Maclean, who also makes wooden box constructions, lives in an entirely different country of the mind. There is no shrieky surrealist dancing on display here. There are no mirrorings, and there is no cheeky visual play. In fact, there is an air of profound melancholy about Maclean's fabrications. A spume from off the North Sea seems to have blown up from nowhere. It is nothing to do with the fact that all except the earliest almost entirely lack vibrant colour, and that they are arranged around the walls of this gallery in a way that rather reminds you of a funeral procession. That is just a part of it. It is also about the fact that this artist, the son of a harbour master from Inverness, is memorialising, with great and impassioned sorrow, that which is quietly passing away: the Gaelic maritime culture of the Highlands and the Islands. Like his late friend, the Gaelic poet Sorley Maclean, he tends to strike a note of sustained lamentation.

Maclean is a scavenger of often fiddly bits of bone, wood, fishing line, canvas, weights, hooks, scraps of log books, ceramic fish. All remnants of a once vibrant culture. He reassembles them to create oblique narrative worlds that tell bygone tales about local traditions, doomed sea voyages, emigration, the Clearances, his own relatives. One large tableau, Abigail's Apron, shows us the apron of this aunt, carved out of a single, shapely, down-lapping piece of polished wood. It has a pocket that contains a wooden-doll-like representation of her husband and some of the fishing clutter that were a part of his everyday world. This is pure shamanism, almost voodoo. The objects are often arranged, even stacked inside their boxes, hieratically, as if they are religious symbols of a kind, reliquaries, ex-voto images, ghostly echoings of the crucifixion. The way in which some of these objects are organised and suspended makes us reflect upon how much the shape of a fish resembles that of a coracle. Everything tends towards paleness and ceremoniousness. There is no humour here. Laughter would be quite out of place. One work in particular shows us a rowing boat end-on, skewered by a thin length of pale wood. Its oars fan out like the helpless arms of Christ. Mummified forms lie in the bottom of the boat, and beneath the boat there is a raised area covered with near invisible crosses. The dead. The piece is called Canada Passage, Cholera Bay.

The works often tend towards abstraction, but they almost always stop short. Maclean is a gentle pedagogue. He wants to teach us about these things, to have us recognise the provenance and the significance of what he is showing us. He wants the sadness to be shared around among the neighbours. So many of these bits and pieces were usable once. Now they are fragments shored against their ruin, things set aside and apart, to force us to reflect upon everything that they were once good for.

To 4 June (020 7042 5730)

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future