Niall McClelland‘s exhibition at Wil Aballe Art Projects is titled He To Whom The Early Bird Runs Best Learns Wisdom and Knowledge, after a proverb misremembered by Charlie Brown. It’s a compact show comprised of four pieces, which all come together under McClelland’s vested interests in personal history, time, and labour.
The ‘Catholic guilt’ he ascribes to his work ethic seems at odds with the punk references that inevitably turn up in reviews, though it’s this intersection of careful labour and anarchic carelessness that shapes McClelland’s work most clearly. Like a scientist determining the fixed variables in a lab experiment, McClelland sets the parameters under which chance accidents can happen. It may seem instructional in description, but in experience it’s all visceral: rich, kaleidoscopic colour blots and movingly deep toner blacks populate his works, where rot blooms beautifully in administered patterns and shattered fluorescent tubing provides the stratum for a seepage of earthy pigment.
“When I can explain how much work I’m putting into something to members of my family, it can make sense to them. And in a weird illogical way, it makes sense to me,” he says. “It’s justifying [my practice] to a whole part of my life that doesn’t understand art but can understand work.”