Over the coming weeks, British Council Scotland is celebrating their 70th anniversary by spotlighting works from the British Council Collection that map the vitality and record the activity of just some of the artists who were born in, or studied, lived or visited Scotland in the last 70 years.

Read an introduction to the project and the 70 chosen works by Susanna Beaumont, an independent curator based in Scotland

For this first in a series of blog posts about seven of these works, Susanna has written about a photograph by Bruce McLean.  

Bruce McLean, Fallen Warrior, 1970
Photograph, 93 x 62.5cm

Bruce McLean studied at Glasgow School of Art in the early 1960s and went on to Central St Martins School of Art in London. Here he reacted against the formalist teaching of his tutors and explored the exploding world of performance art: the idea that an artist’s own body could be both art’s subject matter and medium.

A brilliantly curious artist, he believed art could change the world and in the subversive climate of the 1960s, when old ways were being demolished, global change did seem optimistic yet possible. And McLean’s work gives visual evidence of this belief.

In 1971 McLean made Pose Work for Plinths, whereby he precariously and somewhat acrobatically arranged his body, like a wayward sculpture, between three white plinths. At a time when sculpture on plinths was seen as dated, McLean delivers a punchy parody. 

Fallen Warrior sees McLean once again working with a plinth. Here he lies prone on a slab of stone, mimicking sculptures from the classical era: heroic warriors shown down but defiant. McLean admired the work of Henry Moore and it’s probable he had seen Moore’s bronze Fallen Warrior of 1957. McLean was however more than just a warrior. In 1972 he was invited to exhibit at the Tate Gallery, McLean titled his solo show King for a Day.