McCann, Sean

“The Clearing” (Cheshire) 75 x 90 cm oil on panel

Sean McCann

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Sean McCann was born in Ballymoney, Co Antrim, N Ireland in 1959. His interest in painting was sparked from an early age. From his early teens he joined his father in evening art classes to be taught oil painting. At eighteen he did a foundation art course at the Ulster Polytechnic, followed by a Bachelor of Fine Art degree at Brighton College of Art and a Master of Fine Art at Birmingham Art College.

From Birmingham he moved to London where he had a studio in the east end, an area where most artists gravitated to because of the affordable studio accommodation. Since London he has lived and painted in the Highlands of Scotland and the West coast of Ireland, and now lives in Liverpool, England, an area which is also close to the magical landscapes of the Lake District and North Wales.

Sean has taken part in numerous exhibitions including The Mall Galleries, London, The Morley Gallery, London, The Gardner Art Centre, Sussex University, The Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, The Tom Allen Centre, London, Phoenix Gallery, Brighton and The Foxford Exhibition Centre, Mayo, Ireland, and The Irish Club, Dublin, Ireland.

He has works in private collections in Ireland, UK, Germany, Holland, Israel and the USA.


My work is essentially about feeling, using the landscape motif as a way to express this. Painting is a powerful vehicle to investigate this. For me using landscape as a starting point in my painting provides a tangible access point that allows a dialogue between painting and viewer to begin. If the viewer has connected with the work this may evoke different experiences and feelings in them, although it is not my job to say how they should feel.

The paintings are a series of paint marks arranged to form a structure that provides a link to these feelings. If you look closely at them, they are just a collection of abstract marks that make no sense. What changes them from “just marks” is the way they alter as you move further away from them. The image becomes clearer. That this can happen is the magic of painting. For me landscape is a basis for my work, because using landscape I can create structure with these marks that makes sense to me. Somewhere along the line great artists have stumbled on the fact that they can through various alchemistic marks create a dialogue with the heart and feeling itself. This dialogue helped them understand and explore that which was mysterious, beautiful, truthful and real. And thus feeling was made tangible and real, and to them not abstract at all. After all, the great magic of painting is to make the unseeable, seeable. So anything that can point us and others in the right direction is doing a great service.

Landscape reminds us of our connection to nature, to the earth, the moon, the stars and the whole universe. We often forget this and so great painting, great music, great literature, great landscapes, beautiful sunsets, stormy seas, people to love, etcetera, always like a good compass points us back home. That is why we acknowledge it when we come across it, and why we are so grateful for it. We instinctively know what it has done for us, what it has reminded us of and where we need to go. Landscape can ignite the spark in us. The best paintings can also ignite this spark and remind us who we really are. But what I think one really wants is to make work which touches the soul.


Journey through Landscape – Seán McCann at the Williamson Art Gallery from Handstand UK on Vimeo.