Jason McLean’s expansive and energetic practice spans works on paper, sculpture, mail art, performance, found audio compilations, hand-sewn costumes, and scavenged collections of everyday objects. Best known for his diaristic drawings, which trace the contours of his life through self-reflexive mapping and word play, he charts the world around him with a sense of humour and whimsy, while also deftly capturing the anxiety and precarity of the present moment. As writer Matthew Ryan Smith notes, he is, “a mapper of memory, a cartographer of the everyday, an archivist of minutiae, a chronicler of the prosaic.” Which is to say that McLean’s practice is world making. In his drawings, the surrealist roads and buildings loosely reference the towns and cities he has lived in and are marked with locations of celebrity sightings or important sporting events from his youth, and contain ruminations on everything from real estate speculation to the state of his career. There is an infectious energy and peculiar logic to the ways things are pulled together, reconstituted and presented again. A small sample of Pez dispensers from the now infamous “Felix and Henry’s Pez Museum” (a project started with his sons in 2012), as well as collections of cereal boxes and candy wrappers, are presented in the gallery alongside the drawings showing both his obsessive interest in material culture and also an irreverence for what is considered “important” art.
If you see me, say hello, a reference to a Bob Dylan song by the same name, marks a moment of looking back from the vantage point of the mid-career mark in the artist’s practice. Bringing together works from the last twenty years, the exhibition draws on emergent themes: critical regionalism, collaborative production, collected ephemera, and an intense preoccupation with the cult of celebrity. While at times deeply personal and confessional, the works point to larger societal questions that chart the uncertainty of our time, sharing insights on the parts of life that cause anxiety and also the parts that bring the most joy.