McLean’s father was a painter, whose later work was influenced by Abstract Expressionism, although McLean himself had studied art history at university and was largely self-taught as an artist. His father’s work may have had an influence, as the artist developed a recognisable style of abstraction, characterised by broadly brushed shapes, strong colours and gestural marks. He maintained that his work was not a form of metaphor and that any meaning was self-evident in the painting; viewers could look and make their own connections or associations.
Having had many solo exhibitions in the UK and internationally, McLean’s work is held in collections throughout the country. He is regarded as one of the outstanding British abstract painters of his generation.