Diane Maclean

This week’s #BeConnected blog looks at the sculptures of Diane Maclean.

Plume (detail)
(Coloured stainless steel, stainless steel tube, 2011)

There are three works by sculptor and environmental artist Diane Maclean on campus, and their siting and scale means that they are a familiar sight. The first of the three distinctive works to be installed at the University was Shoe. It was purchased by the Art Collection in 2002 (having already been on loan since 1995). Plume and Wing arrived in 2015, on long term loan from the artist.

University Art Curator Jane Cameron talks about installing Wing on campus

Wing (Steel, 2011) is based on the skeletal structure of a bird’s wing. Although made of industrial materials, it has a look of lightness that belies its strength. Using tough industrial materials to make something as delicate as a bird’s wing may seem perverse, but the scale and durability required to stand up to being in the open in a busy public area with high winds and changeable weather led Maclean to experiment with mild steel tube and the idea of a wing just touching the ground. The sculpture is galvanised and etched.
The artist adds: ‘It was exhibited in my solo exhibition ‘Bird’ at the Lead Mining Museum in the Pennines in 2011. I made 4 sculptures relating to parts of a bird and also showed large scale photos of birds in exotic habitats from my travels in Africa and South America’.

Plume (Stainless steel, 2011) is a feather, a quill, a hackle. Using coloured stainless steel means the sculpture has many variations of colour depending on the viewpoint, the weather and the time of day or season. The red coloured stainless steel from which Plume is composed is an oxide layer on the surface of the polished material. The polished sheet is dipped into a tank of clear oxide. Light entering the infinitesimally thin layer at different angles creates colour which changes when seen from different viewpoints, through red, blue, purple and gold.

Plume was also created for Diane Maclean’s ‘Bird exhibition.

Shoe (Steel and wood, 1995) was made for the Scottish Sculpture Open exhibition in 1995 which started at Kildrummy Castle, Strathdon, Aberdeenshire, (near the Scottish Sculpture Workshop which organised the exhibition), and then moved to the University of Stirling. The sculptor says that ‘ideas for the sculpture came from visiting the 13th Century ruined castle and thinking about life at that time. Fortified with round towers and a moat, the castle had been the scene of many sieges. I was conscious of my feet, walking around the ruins in sandals ‐ only bishops, princes and people of high rank would have worn stylish footwear like a sandal in those days. Somehow the two ideas came together. In the process of making a model of the sculpture, the giant sandal emerged as a tower and a bridge or ramp. I think it spans the distance in time. In fabricating Shoe I worked with a blacksmith at Tomatin near Inverness. We curved the steel sheet by feeding it through a hand‐operated machine like a mangle, then welded 15 mm tube along the edges before galvanising and etching. Galvanising gives a very durable surface and the etching gives a varied, silvery surface to the galvanised metal. The pine logs are individually bolted on.’ (Diane Maclean, 2012)

Diane Maclean with ‘Shoe’

In this recent film (Spring 2021), Diane Maclean talks about her practice, on the occasion of the purchase of a new sculpture by the University of Hertfordshire.

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