The Perfect Nowhere

Merging fragments of the present, the past, and an imagined future, McClelland creates a fictitious world, a “no place”, but one in which we might find something of ourselves and our world.

I inquire into notions of human happiness and perfectibility, the creation of Edenic paradises, disruption and dissolution of society, alienation and consumption, nature and culture, the monstrous and the beautiful, mythmaking and storytelling. I am especially drawn to the title of Paul Gauguin’s painting “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?” as evoking crucial questions for contemporary examination.


I take imagery and inspiration from literature and film, along with art historical, historical, contemporary, and personal sources. Drawing on an array of source material, I create combinations and layers of digitally edited compositions that form the basis for beginning a painting in oil. Using the qualities and possibilities of paint, I seek to convey a visceral sense of place and time to suggest what is simultaneously familiar but strange. Fragments of the real and unreal merge to create possible futures that have potential to evoke the dangers inherent in thinking that human ingenuity and technology can create a perfect society, but that might also hint at possibilities of a new beginning. I see my painting process as a form of inquiry in which I am attempting to grasp and create a sense of the utopic and dystopic contradictions that pervade our lives at this time.


Neil McClelland is a Canadian artist originally from Quebec and currently located in Victoria, British Columbia. He received his MFA from the University of Victoria in 2014 and is a 2016 Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation grantee. Neil was the 2010 artist-in-residence at Harcourt House and an active member of the Edmonton art community during the many years he lived in Alberta. He has exhibited in artist-run, public, and commercial galleries across Canada and teaches at Vancouver Island School of Art and sessionally at the University of Victoria.


Neil acknowledges The Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation for their grant that supported the making of this body of work.