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France-Lise McGurn review

Stuart Bush Studio Notes, France-Lise McGurn

Possessing the beauty of nature – France-Lise McGurn review

When I look at a person, like most artists, I look deep. I look beyond the surface to enable me to distil something much more than just a transcript of what I see. Dynamic lines and complex space carefully introduced produce a pleasurable form for all eyes to enjoy. However, in order to take those strokes and lines into a rhythmical ecstasy, out of the frame and across the walls of a gallery space, I would have to learn more than just being able to look.  l would also have to learn more than a rudimentary understanding of the subject matter. Like France-Lise McGurn, I would have to be capable of creating, a new world of pleasure by capturing and possessing the beauty of nature.


France-Lise McGurn was born in Glasgow in 1983, and she lived there until she was seventeen. She then spent time in Berlin, London and New York, before returning home to Glasgow. She gained her master’s degree in Fine Art at the Hunter College of Art, New York and the Royal College of Art in 2012. As well as being a busy mother, France-Lise McGurn has recently had a solo museum show, Sleepless, Tate Britain London, in 2019. Her previous solo shows include Bosse and Baum, in London in 2016 and at the Alison Jacques Gallery, in London in 2017.


Then as I walked past the Simon Lee gallery in London, I noticed that a France-Lise McGurn show that starts outside the gallery, it began in the windows. Tantalising lines invite passersby to stop, to look and to think. The viewer is welcomed to step inside and is asked for their presence and participation.

Stuart Bush Studio Notes, France-Lise McGurn

France-Lise McGurn Baby, 2019 oil, acrylic, marker and spray on canvas, 220 x 180 cm, Simon Lee Gallery

Stuart Bush Studio notes: Possessing the beauty of nature

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When l entered the show, my eyes inadvertently darted around the walls. For France-Lise McGurn had made a remarkable series of canvases which hung on the walls of the gallery space. There was also a scattered response to her work on the surrounding walls. Expressing herself in the language of mark-making McGurn had moved on to express herself in work that escaped the material constraints of the frame, thereby creating a new world of pleasure.


This site-specific work held euphoric energy. I had to ask myself; am I in a girl’s bedroom or at a pretentious night club living hedonist lifestyle? Wherever it is, an immersive feeling came through my senses, it was undoubtedly a place of happiness and bliss.


As my eyes moved around the exhibition space, McGurn’s work appeared to be shifting and changing, going first this way and then that way. As my eyes circled, l was reminded of Matisse. In the later part of his life, he worked directly onto the walls of the Hôtel Régina, in Nice. Matisse had laid his cut out series all around the rooms of his suite.

France-Lise McGurn review, Stuart Bush Studio Notes

France-Lise McGurn, Simon Lee Gallery

France-Lise McGurn review

Simon Lee Gallery - France-Lise McGurn page

My eyes and my brain viewed the walls of the room like they do an unusual canvas. The formal elements unite in colour and line. However, to take it all in, I had to move forwards and backwards, left and right. I noticed the little smudges and the marks above the threshold. Then l realised that my eyes were not enough. The show was penetrating much deeper.


There was an embodiment of life in the brush strokes. As the overlapping nature, revealed the familiarity and unexpectedness of modern city life. When talking about her, McGurn said:


“I was lying awake at one point, and I could hear my neighbours, in the middle of the night, moving under their covers. It made me think like how you’re only two-feet (the size of the wall) away from people in the next flat, and they’re naked, and you’re doing your most intimate things, and how we actually live on top of each other.”

Stuart Bush Studio Notes, France-Lise McGurn

France-Lise McGurn, oil, acrylic, marker and spray on canvas, Simon Lee Gallery

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As I looked around at other visitors and gallery staff with their happy faces, I slowly began to feel that I was losing my inhibitions. As the figures escaped their frames and one mark lead to the next, before l knew it, I was wandering around in an almost hypnotic state. Was it the fumes from the bar or the white lines that were leading to me through the painted marks? But of course, as I looked across the room l knew it was a pleasurable, immersive experience. It is France-Lise McGurn’s courageous performance, a truly painted plastic space.


As l reached the end of the experience, I felt like I just had an intimate encounter with the personal life of a sensualist artist. Not only into her pursuit of pleasure, enjoyment and delight but also into her mind as she directly gained possession of the experiences of gratification. It was a genuinely engaging experience. It remained me of listening to percussion in a theatre when the sound comes at you from all directions as the sound links with its title, ‘Percussia.’ I felt submerged in delectation.


As the fragments spilt out, and I spilt out the exhibition, my imagination and psyche spill into thoughts of euphoric memories. Although sober, I was drunk on McGurn’s power to fill my mind with stunning images and concepts. France-Lise McGurn show closed on the 22 February 2020 at the Simon Lee Gallery, London.

France-Lise McGurn, oil, arcylic, marker and spray on canvas, Simon Lee Gallery

France-Lise McGurn, To Rent the Night, 2019 oil, acrylic, marker and spray on canvas, 200 x 400 cm, Simon Lee Gallery

Stuart Bush Studio Notes

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Do you find it hard to get to the bottom of what an artist’s work is about?  I use to feel the same.  I use to look at art, feel curious but often duped as I didn’t understand what it was all about.  However, I had a curiosity to draw and paint and study art to get to the bottom of what I felt I didn’t apprehend. If you are curious to learn about the artist’s important role of meaning-making, I would love you to join me on my artist’s journey.  Join me each week on my journey by subscribing to my email newsletter. 

2 thoughts on “France-Lise McGurn review”

  1. Thank you Stuart for introducing me to France-Lise McGurn’s work.
    I love its lightness and joyfulness. So refreshing.

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