CURATOR Aaron Lister
Rob McLeod's first and last City Gallery solo show was in 1981. Thirty years later, the Wellington painter returns, his work utterly transformed.
After he emigrated to New Zealand from Glasgow in 1973, McLeod worked as an abstract painter, in the tradition of Willem de Kooning and Alan Davie. However, some ten years ago, he saw Micky Mouse ears in one of his abstracts and turned figurative.
Rejecting his modernist origins, McLeod’s painting became a bawdy, raucous, cartoon-based figuration, heaving with confounding, rude, amorphous figures. His large, multi-part paintings on plywood shapes have fled the frame, invading the viewer’s physical and psychological space. Some have interchangeable parts that can be rearranged.
To McLeod, his cartoon-inspired characters are 'familiar and initially endearing ... but ... often aggressive and with a dark underside'.
Most of the work in the show is from the last ten years, but it also includes a large abstract painting on folded paper—Lanark 86: Kelvin's Break (1988)—to demonstrate the continuity of McLeod's formal concerns, from the earlier abstract works to the later figurative ones.
The show’s title refers to a running joke in Scotland. The Partick Thistle soccer team never wins, so supporting it is an act of faith. For McLeod, this parallels continuing to paint, working in ‘a medium which everyone keeps saying is dead’.