CLINT McLEAN at XEXE Gallery (624 Richmond West) to June 5. 416-646-2707. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Clint Mclean insists he's a photographer, not an artist. If you press the issue, he'll even tell you that photography is not art. So what is his show The Shape Of Space doing in the Contact festival at the plush XEXE Gallery ? Despite his claims, McLean's work exhibits artistic integrity. In his images, large foregrounds introduce wet, empty spaces in a compelling light. The subject can be nothing more than a struggling plant in an urban setting or an old sewage pipe in a field. Rural and civic spaces are contrasted even while McLean erodes the differences between them.
These are portraits of the traces of people in the absence of the people themselves.
Unfortunately, some of his images break with this theme, notably the shots in the gallery's front window of urinals and sinks.
These photos are beautiful and meticulously printed, but the departure in style and content undermines the show's cohesion. Several night shots with long exposures don't seem to fit either, and one even breaks the no-people rule.
This is where McLean's claim not to be an artist may be true. Rather than harnessing a specific idea in his work, the subject of his photography is continuously evolving. McLean shoots first and asks questions later.
Still, although the threads that tie the works together can be tenuous, each 20-by-20-inch print is striking. The night scenes offer a dreamlike intensity, whereas the day-lit images are provocatively demure.
Unless you're planning to buy them all, the inconsistency in the show won't cause you any problems.