Exhibition review: John Meade: It’s Personal!, McClelland Gallery

Humble in scale, but deliciously rich, John Meade’s solo exhibition plays on form and entices intimate viewing.
‘John Meade: It’s Personal!’ installation view at McClelland Gallery. Photo: ArtsHub.

”It’s personal!” can be read as a form of social self-defence, a teenage battle cry against probing parents – but, it has to be admitted, the seductiveness of John Meade’s works is all too tempting to not get up close.

John Meade: It’s Personal!, currently on view at McClelland Gallery, is a solo exhibition of humble scale but hypnotic depth. Sculptural forms that intersect the ready- and hand-made blend with sleek lighting to entice visitors into intimate encounters.

Light (and, as a result, shadow), sets the scene. Spotlit and boxed into one corner is an alluring fuchsia, which when viewed from a particular angle, seems to radiate from the large-scale Resonance Needs a Body (2023) and adds a softness to the aluminium serpentine beast. It’s a long-held misconception that works of industrial aesthetic require less labour due to the obvious absence of “the artist’s hand”.

As with Resonance, Meade worked with Fiona Abicare, Jethro Harcourt, Ben Storch and Stephen Insall for its fabrication and design. Each circular disc was hand-made and then recast through 3D printing, all of which adds to its tameness despite the hovering and slightly sinister form.

Meade’s sculptures are steeped with humour and curiosity. An earlier work, Honeymoon Hitching Post (2016), appears to emerge from the concrete ground – the play-dough purple saddle more comic than functional. Similarly, The Salon (2023) – comprising Silvia (2014), Mean Yellow (1997) and Double Pin with Heidi Plait (2008) – creates the atmosphere of its namesake with a surrealist sensibility, pointing to the capability of the mind to extrapolate ambiguous pointers into definitive imagery. Meanwhile, the wall sculptures are imbued with personality, such as Charles James (2023), inspired by the 20th century US fashion designer renowned for his ballgowns with architectural beauty.

John Meade, ‘The Puschelhockers’, 2018, installation view at McClelland Gallery. Photo: ArtsHub.

The only drawback of John Meade: It’s Personal! comes down to its side gallery (again). Closed off from the main exhibition space with competing natural and artificial light, The Puschelhockers (2018) hovers awkwardly between too much, or not enough, illumination, making it difficult to experience that real burst of joy from the furry installation.

Read: Exhibition review: Ian Gentle and The Gentle Project

Despite this slight curatorial (perhaps architectural) shortcoming, John Meade: It’s Personal! is a deliciously rich presentation of the artist’s experimentation with form that opens up dialogue between artworks, the space and its viewers.

John Meade: It’s Personal! is on view at McClelland Gallery until 17 March; entry fees to McClelland Sculpture Park & Gallery apply.

Celina Lei is an arts writer and editor at ArtsHub. She acquired her M.A in Art, Law and Business in New York with a B.A. in Art History and Philosophy from the University of Melbourne. She has previously worked across global art hubs in Beijing, Hong Kong and New York in both the commercial art sector and art criticism. Most recently she took part in drafting NAVA’s revised Code of Practice - Art Fairs. Celina is based in Naarm/Melbourne.