Jean McNeil was born in 1940 and spent her childhood in the USA and France, but has been living in Britain for most of her adult life. After working in social research, translation and all sorts of odd jobs she started to paint in her late thirties. She studied art at the Camden Institute, City Lit (with Cecil Collins) and Hornsey Art School (then Middlesex Poly). For the past 3 decades she has been inspired by East Anglian land and seascapes and now lives in Wivenhoe near Colchester. She has had solo exhibitions in galleries in London and East Anglia and participated in many group shows. A retrospective exhibition of her work, A Life in Painting, was held in 2015. Her work is in many private collections.
About my work
Is it still possible to say something about the English landscape? I paint the environment that I know well, the East Anglian coast, the parks and views of London, and increasingly the marshes and estuaries of Essex. I am attracted to elements of strangeness in these familiar scenes: an unusual light, surprising arrangements of shapes. These effects are sometimes heightened by the process of recording the scene in a photograph: the colours may be distorted, the shapes fixed by the frame may suggest a composition which can be taken further in the studio.
Distance and horizon fascinate me, as does trying to record matter with a minimum of structure, as in my paintings of the sea and fields. More recently I’ve been preoccupied by rhythms and patterns of growth, trees providing the grid on which to hang colour and gesture. I am also interested in how the composition of a painting resonates within our bodies; I try to record balance, gravity and the forces that work against it, such as wind and growth.
Up until the late ’90s I mainly aimed to produce largish oil paintings which were the culmination of many rapid, smaller sketches. I now regard my smaller works in gouache, acrylic, pastel as ends in themselves, often better able to say what I want without becoming laboured. I have recently been making monoprints on the theme of the sea.
- 2018 Aspects of the Sea Over the Sofa Gallery, Wivenhoe Bookshop
- 2015 Seascapes and Other Scenes The Naze Tower, Walton-on-Naze
- 2015 A Life in Painting, Peggy Jay Gallery, Burgh House, Hampstead, London
- 2014 Land, Sea and Sky; Wivenhoe Library
- 2013/4 Woods and Trees, Pavilion Gallery, Highgate, London
- 2012 Sea Changes, The Wivenhoe Gallery
- 2007 Trainscapes, The Wivenhoe Gallery
- 2006 At the Edge of the Woods, Les Livres Gallery, Colchester Central Library
- 2002 Digby Gallery, Mercury Theatre, Colchester
- 1996 John Jones Art Centre, Finsbury Park, London
- 1992 Dryden Street Gallery, Covent Garden, London
- 1986 Smee Gallery, Norfolk
- 1985 Original Gallery, Hornsey, London
- 2019 Design by Accident: responses in ink, clay and light Wivenhoe Printworks
- 2017 The Reveal: Five Artists, Five approaches to Printmaking Wivenhoe Bookshop Shed
- 2012 Ongoing Exhibits with the Colchester Arts Society
- 2007 The Naze Tower, Walton-on-Naze
- 2000 Highgate Gallery, London – 2-person show with Maria Pinschof
- 1998 Atrium Gallery, Whiteleys, West London
- 1996 London Group Biennial, Barbican Concourse Gallery, London
- 1995 Florence Trust Group, Collyer Bristow Galleries, London
- 1994 Burlington New Gallery Summer Exhibition, London
- 1993 Florence Trust Open Exhibition, Islington, London
- 1988 Women’s Eye Group, Lauderdale House, Camden, London
- 1987 Islington Arts Factory, London
- 1983 Original Gallery at Crouch End Festival, London