The Austin Chronicle

Arts Review

Reviewed by Robert Faires, December 31, 2010, Arts

'Ian McLagan: Paint From Pain'

Yard Dog Gallery, 1510 S. Congress, 912-1613


Maybe you're of an age to recall those old TV ads for aspirin, in which people with stricken expressions rubbed their temples as animated lightning bolts stabbed at them or jagged cartoon balloons marked "PAIN" and stuck to their foreheads throbbed away. Similar sharp, spiky forms figure prominently in the paintings of Ian McLagan, and it isn't out of place to relate them to those vintage commercials for headache relief. These works of art were, in fact, inspired by the migraines that have plagued the veteran keyboardist (the Small Faces, the Faces, the Bump Band) for almost 10 years. He's set on canvas the shapes and colors that he sees when the pain sets in.

The serrated edges crop up in almost every painting, like the zigzag lines of a cardiogram or ranges of miniature mountains in some surrealist landscape of melting meadows and liquid skies. That recurring sense of sharpness, suggestive of jabbing pain, and the prevalence of dark colors in the works, with the occasional shot of bloody crimson, might initially give the impression of discomfort, even agony.

Spend a little time with the paintings, however, and a playfulness bleeds into view. Against these dominant blobby masses of forest green, indigo, and black run squiggly ribbons of mustard, magenta, chartreuse, and tangerine. And the spikes themselves are frequently rendered in a rainbow of hues: sea green, rose, periwinkle, lavender, cerulean, blood orange, olive, and brick. Once you attune to all the colors McLagan is playing with – and there are so many, it's like he's a kid wanting to use every color in the 64-crayon box – the works make a surprising shift; they seem to transcend this representation of a debilitating physical condition and become some kind of anarchic variegated revel. I can't say that was what McLagan intended to do when he embarked on this exercise, but for this viewer at least, he has made his migraines undergo that sea change of Shakespeare, into something rich and strange.

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