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SCOTTISH ART NEWS
SCOTTISH A RT N EWS
Alistair Smart, Allan Ramsay: A Complete Catalogue of his Paintings, New Haven and London, 1999, cat. no.441, fig.477
AU T U MN 2 02 0
Elizabeth Robertson née Love (d. 1795) Oil on canvas | 29 ½ × 24 ½ inches (74.9 × 62.2 cm) Signed and dated lower left: A. Ramsay 1757
ISS UE 33
A L L A N R A M S AY ( 1 7 1 3 – 1 7 8 4 )
ISSUE 33 AUTUMN 2020 £3
GLASGOW BOYS AND GIRLS VISIT BERWICKUPON-TWEED AS THE FLEMING COLLECTION EXHIBITS AT THE GRANARY GALLERY
SPECIAL FEATURE Scottish Art after Lockdown
PLUS Lachlan Goudie Ian Hamilton Finlay David Roberts
SCOTTISH ART NEWS
NEWS 3 Robin Fleming (1932-2020) CBE DL
Private View David Roberts
40 Recent Acquisitions Rachael Cloughton
Scottish Art Unlocked
Lines from Scotland Neil Cooper
Sylvia Wishart: Orkney Drawings 1968–1977 Greg Thomas
FEATURES 16 The Glasgow Boys & Girls Lachlan Goudie 22
Postcards from the Front Greg Thomas
24 My Favourite Scottish Work of Art 28
Artist Profile: Brandon Logan Susanna Beaumont
30 Caroline Walker Susan Mansfield 32
Gavin Hamilton Duncan Macmillan
Cover Image Flora MacDonald Reid, Fieldworkers ©Fleming Collection
46 Alistair Peebles: The Gledfield Effect Greg Thomas
Scottish Art News The Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation, 15 Suffolk Street, London W1J 8DU United Kingdom T: (0)207 042 5730 E: firstname.lastname@example.org Scottish Art News is published biannually by the Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation, London. Publication dates: May and October.
EDITORIAL Director James Knox Editor Rachael Cloughton Editorial assistance Paul McLean Design Lizzie Cameron www.lizziecameron.co.uk Print co-ordinated by fgrahampublishing consultancy Print Elle Media Group
Director James Knox T: (0)207 042 5730 E: email@example.com
© Scottish Art News 2020. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted in any form or by any means without the written permission of the publisher. Scottish Art News accepts no responsibility for loss or damage of unsolicited material submitted for publication. Scottish Art News is published by the Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation but is not the voice of the Fleming Collection or the Foundation. All images copyright of the artist or artist’s estate unless otherwise stated.
The Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation pursues a programme of cultural diplomacy furthering an understanding and appreciation of Scottish art and creativity outside Scotland through exhibitions, events, publishing and education. The Foundation also owns the finest collection of Scottish art outside institutions comprising over 600 works from the seventeenth century to the present day. The Foundation has established a ‘museum without walls’ strategy using its collection to initiate exhibitions of Scottish art outside Scotland. It is a registered charity in England and Wales (No.1080197).
ISSUE 33 / AUTUMN/WINTER 2020 DIRECTOR’S NOTE
This issue opens with a tribute to Robin Fleming, who died peacefully at home on the 26 June, aged 87. His role was pivotal in securing the future of the Fleming Collection and in establishing the Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation with its unique remit in promoting Scottish art and creativity through exhibitions, events, publishing and education. In the tribute, foundation trustee, James Holloway, sums up his achievement: ‘Thanks to Robin Fleming, Scottish art has an additional, powerful voice across the United Kingdom and beyond.’ Our exhibition of the Glasgow Boys and Girls at the Granary Gallery in Berwick-upon-Tweed includes many works which were acquired under Robin Fleming’s chairmanship, not least Flora MacDonald Reid’s ‘Fieldworkers’, illustrated on the cover. Her dispassionate record of a labourer harvesting potatoes must rank as one of the finest and earliest expressions of the values of the Glasgow School. Painted in 1883 when Reid was just 22, it is the harbinger of the great things to come from women painters in Scotland, starting with the group known as the Glasgow Girls, which emerged in the 1890s. The impact of the radical group of Glasgow Boys and Girls, which was an international phenomenon in its day, has been an enduring thread in the story of Scottish art, as artist, Lachlan Goudie reveals in our feature describing his pilgrimage to Berwickshire where, in the February gales and rain, he painted a wonderful series of landscapes. These works will be shown in an exhibition opening in October at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh. His contemporary take on historical schools is also on display in his riveting book The Story of Scottish Art, which begins c.3000 BC and ends in the 21st century. His last sentence quotes
Robin Fleming (1932–2020) CBE DL
Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who wrote: ‘that there may be, there are, things more precious, more beautiful than life itself.’ This belief has fed peoples’ love of art in these difficult times. Galleries have faced many challenges this year, as recounted in our Scottish Art Unlocked special feature, with contributions from a group or resilient and innovative curators and artists, but art has also provided great consolation as revealed in the Fleming Collection’s online feature My Favourite Scottish Painting. Notable figures, published in this issue, such as writer, Ian Rankin, broadcaster, Kirsty Wark and artist, Alison Watt, have bravely stuck their heads above the parapet and made what all agree is almost an impossible choice. In every case some new insight has been revealed about the artist chosen, but equally about the chooser. The series is continuing for the foreseeable future on our fortnightly e-newsletters, which is just one of many reasons for people to follow the Fleming Collection online at flemingcollection.com There are reasons to be optimistic in these perplexing times. The Glasgow Boys and Girls show provides an overdue opportunity to once again see some wonderful paintings – and all things being equal, the show is all set to tour the UK over the next two years. Closer to home, there will be an opportunity to see some standout exhibitions at Scotland’s indomitable art dealers including a David Wilkie exhibition at the Fine Art Society in Edinburgh and Caroline Walker’s glowing lightdrenched paintings at the Ingleby gallery. Proof, once again that the Glasgow painters’ preoccupation with light, colour and atmosphere, is in rude health.
1 Sir David Wilkie RA HRSA (1785-1841), Alexander Aitken, c.1804-1806. Courtesy of The Fine Art Society. Photograph ©John McKenzie 2 Caroline Walker, Hoovering, First Thing, December, 2020. Courtesy of the Artist and Ingleby, Edinburgh Photograph © Peter Mallet
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When the sale of the private investment bank, Robert Fleming & Company, was announced in 2000, a buzz of concern circulated in the art world as to the fate of its renowned collection, which was considered, then as now, one of the finest collections of Scottish art outside public institutions. To secure the future of the Fleming Collection, which numbered over 600 works, Robin Fleming was central in setting up the Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation, endowed not only to acquire the existing collection but to fulfil a wider vision of promoting Scottish art and creativity through cultural diplomacy, education and touring exhibitions and loans which it continues to do today. The Fleming Collection dates back to 1968 when the family’s investment bank, founded by Dundonian Robert Fleming in 1873, began to acquire Scottish art to hang in its offices worldwide. To mark its 50th anniversary in 2018, Mr Robin, as he was referred to by many, recalled that: ‘I have been involved in one way or another to varying degrees throughout the period, having been made a director of my grandfather’s firm, Robert Fleming & Co, in 1964. Business came first during the beginning but eventually I had more time to appreciate and enhance the collection.’ At its outset, the collection was built up by one of the bank’s directors, David Donald, who had a keen eye for excellence. On Donald’s death in 1985, Mr Robin assumed responsibility for the collection and, assisted by its Keeper of Art, Bill Smith, and subsequently Selina Skipwith, continued to focus on acquiring museum quality works including portraits by Allan Ramsay, Henry Raeburn and David Wilkie.
3 1 Robin Fleming at an exhibition of the Fleming Collection’s paintings 2 Stephen Conroy, The Garden, 1986 © The Artist. Image courtesy the Fleming Collection
In practice, he had a relatively free rein when it came to buying, but he still had to get clearance from the board for major purchases. On one occasion after acquiring William McTaggart’s early masterpiece ‘The Village, Whitehouse’, he swore Bill Smith to secrecy until he had ‘sorted out how to pay for it.’ Contemporary artists were equally admired with a particular enthusiasm for the school known as the New Glasgow Boys, such as Stephen Conroy and Steven Campbell, who were making waves on the international art scene through their radical approach to figurative painting. When asked to pick a favourite from the collection for Scottish Art News, Mr Robin complained that it was ‘near impossible’, given the ‘huge admiration and respect for many of the artists represented’. He went on to select Stephen Conroy’s ‘The Garden’, explaining ‘I have chosen an artist as much as one of his pictures. While travelling south from the Highlands one day in the 1980s, my wife Vicky and I dropped in on a very young Stephen’s studio near the Erskine Bridge over the Clyde. We have always enjoyed his work and also following his career.’ Through Mr Robin’s enjoyment of Scottish art and foresight in establishing the Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation, he has ensured that the collection is shared far and wide. As James Holloway, trustee of the foundation and previous director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, says: ‘Thanks to Robin Fleming, Scottish art has an additional, powerful voice across the United Kingdom and beyond.’
3 William McTaggart, The Village, Whitehouse, 1875. Image courtesy the Fleming Collection
Scottish Art News | DIRECTOR’S Scottish Art NOTE News | 3
Recent graduates Emma-Louise Grady and Brandon Logan receive accolades from the Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation at the RSA New Contemporaries exhibition Emma-Louise Grady, who graduated in June 2019 from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design in Dundee, has been selected as the recipient of the 2020 Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation Award at this year’s RSA New Contemporaries exhibition. The £1500 prize, which aims to recognise the best painter or draughtsman/woman, was awarded to Grady for large, richly patterned work, praised for its ‘ambition and complex beauty’ by Fleming Collection director, James Knox. Knox also named Brandon Logan the Emerging Scottish Artist of the Year, having been impressed by Logan’s string tapestries on display at New Contemporaries. Edinburgh College of Art graduate Logan’s ‘Bear Hug’ has since been exhibited at Scotland House in London, alongside other works from the Fleming Collection, as part of the award. You can read more about Brandon’s practice in a new profile piece, written by Susanna Beaumont on page 28. The Fleming Collection has also recently acquired a significant collection of work by Ian Hamilton Finlay, featured on page 22.
A colourful still life by William Gillies and an atmospheric figure study by Constance Walton are the most recent additions to the Fleming Collection The acquisitions demonstrate the ongoing commitment to grow the collection, and to use the work in innovative ways to increase understanding and awareness of the richness and variety of Scottish art. ‘Sunflower’ by William Gillies is a still life painted in the 1950s, and fills a gap in the collection’s holding of Gillies’ work. James Knox, director of the Fleming Collection, says: ‘The acquisition of this wonderful 1950s still life means that we now have a group of works spanning all of Gillies’ remarkable career.’ William Gillies was born in Haddington and had just enrolled in Edinburgh College of Art when he was called up for service with the Royal Engineers in WWI, returning to college after the war. In 1922, along with nine fellow students including William Crozier and William McTaggart, he founded the 1922 Group, which exhibited at the New Gallery in Edinburgh for the next ten years. After graduating, assisted by a travelling scholarship, he studied under the cubist André Lhote in Paris, where he encountered the work of Cezanne, Braque and Picasso, and briefly worked in a cubist style. He also visited Italy. Gillies took up a part-time teaching position at ECA in 1926 and remained on the staff for 40 years, becoming head of drawing and painting in 1946 and principal of the college from 1960 until his retirement in 1966. 4 | ART
James Knox says: ‘As a young artist, Gillies was greatly admired by Peploe and Cadell. He went on to become one of the leaders of the Edinburgh School, who emerged in the 1920s as the successors to the Colourists. ‘Successive generations of the Edinburgh School, such as Elizabeth Blackadder and John Houston, were taught by Gillies, making him one of the most influential Scottish painters of the mid20th century.’ The Fleming Collection staged the first ever museum survey of the artists in the Edinburgh School, tracing the elements of the style from the Colourists through to the painters of the later 20th century, in Colour and Life – The Art and Influence of the Scottish Colourists at the Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendall, which opened in late 2019. Constance Walton is part of a remarkable artistic dynasty: the sister of painter EA Walton and designer and architect George Walton, who worked with Charles Rennie Mackintosh; and the aunt of the painter Cecile Walton.
Constance Walton trained at Glasgow School of Art and was a member of the group known as the Glasgow Girls, the female artists and designers who came to the fore in the late 19th century, thanks to the enlightened attitude of the head of school, Francis Newbery, who set out to enrol men and women equally. ‘Day Dreams’ is a large watercolour (53 x 32 cm) of a young girl sitting on steps staring dreamily into the distance. Though Walton became best known for flower studies, this painting shows the influence of artists such as Arthur Melville and Joseph Crawhall, and perhaps her brother’s painting ‘Day Dream’ produced some ten years earlier. However, she makes the subject entirely her own, expertly using the soft tones of the paint. ‘I was thrilled to spot this in my local auction house, Thomas Callan’s in Ayr, where I was able to acquire it for the Fleming Collection,’ says James Knox. ‘One of the leading Glasgow Girls, Constance Walton’s work comes up for sale relatively rarely, especially her figure studies, which she largely stopped painting after her marriage in 1896.’ Day Dreams will be shown in the Fleming Collection’s Glasgow Boys & Girls exhibition at the Granary Gallery, Berwickupon-Tweed, read more page 16.
The Fleming Collection Young Persons’ Art Competition Winners This summer, to inspire young creative minds after many months of home schooling, we hosted our first young persons’ art competition, inviting school children of all ages to take part. Our theme was the Fleming Collection as well as Scotland itself. We asked entrants to create a painting, drawing, sculpture, assemblage, photograph or even performance that draws from one of the hundreds of artworks in our collection or, alternatively, depicts a Scottish scene. We were so happy with the outcome and we are thrilled to be able to announce the winners, having had the help of judges James Knox, Director of the Fleming Collection; Katrina Sparrow, trustee of the Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation; and Maria de Peverelli, Partner and Executive Chairman of Stonehage Fleming Art Management. First prize goes to Alice de Pelet, age 15, for her painting depicting a typical Scottish springtime in the highlands. Alice wins a £50 book voucher to the independent, Edinburgh and St Andrews based, Topping & Company Bookseller.
‘Knox also named Brandon Logan the Emerging Scottish Artist of the Year, having been impressed by Logan’s tapestries on display at New Contemporaries’
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Awards Emilia Beatriz announced as recipient of the 2020/2021 Margaret Tait Award LUX Scotland has selected artist Emilia Beatriz as the 11th recipient of the £15,000 Margaret Tait Award, Scotland’s most prestigious moving image prize for artists. The award was presented to Emilia during the Glasgow Film Festival at the world premiere of Jamie Crewe’s 2019/20 Margaret Tait Award commission, Ashley (2020). Emilia is an artist, organiser and beekeeper in-study and will use the award to build on working methodologies developed during their 2019 exhibition at CCA in Glasgow, declarations on soil and honey, to make their first single-screen film.
Leonie Bell announced as new director of V&A Dundee Leonie Bell, one of Scotland’s most experienced cultural leaders, has been appointed as the new director of V&A Dundee. Bell replaces Philip Long OBE, founding director, who led the development of V&A Dundee, Scotland’s first design museum, from its early planning to successful opening in September 2018. Long recently took over the role of chief executive of National Trust for Scotland. Bell was most recently strategic lead for the Future Paisley Partnership at Renfrewshire Council, leading Paisley’s ambitious cultural regeneration plans following on from its UK City of Culture bid. Future Paisley is a wide-ranging programme that builds on the town’s design heritage with a £110 million investment to transform its future.
Penny Macbeth takes on director role at Glasgow School of Art Penny Macbeth has been appointed director of GSA, succeeding Professor Irene McAra-McWilliam. Macbeth was previously dean of Manchester School of Art and deputy faculty pro-vice chancellor for arts and humanities at the school, focusing on external engagement and partnerships.
Alberta Whittle, Jamie Crewe and Arika awarded Turner Bursaries Tate Britain has announced the ten artists who will receive one-off £10,000 bursaries in place of this year’s Turner Prize, with three awarded to Scotlandbased practitioners – Jamie Crewe, Alberta Whittle and political arts organisation Arika. Glasgow-based artist and 2019 Margaret Tait Award winner, Jamie Crewe was selected for their ‘sister’ exhibitions at the Grand Union in Birmingham and the Humber Street Gallery in Hull. These were inspired by Radclyffe Hall’s 1928 novel The Well of Loneliness and its lasting impressions on generations of LGBTQIA+ people. Alberta Whittle, also a Margaret Tait Award winner, was awarded the bursary following her 2019 solo show at Dundee Contemporary Arts, How Flexible Can We Make the Mouth, which focused on healing, writing and speech as means of self-liberation. Whittle’s practice is rooted in the experiences of the diaspora, incorporating performance, video, photography, collage and sculpture to tackle anti-blackness and the trauma, memory and ecological concerns which come in the aftermath of slavery and colonialism. ‘It was a huge surprise to receive the bursary. I’ve been very fortunate with the support of friends and family to consistently motivate and support me with
my work. Both the Margaret Tait Award and the subsequent exhibition at DCA certainly enhanced my visibility and led to this recognition,’ says Whittle. ‘I’m going to put the Turner Bursary towards some breathing space, equipment and hopefully a new project.’ Since 2001, Arika have organised projects supporting connections between art and social change. Arika was selected by the jury for their innovative project Episode 10: A Means Without End presented at Tramway, Glasgow. The project was a 5-day programme of performances, discussions, screenings and study sessions exploring ideas in maths and physics as analogies for the desires and struggles of social life and existence. Arika plan to redistribute the bursary to the radical grassroots community groups they have longstanding relationships with, relationships which they say ‘ground what we do, even though those collaborations are not always particularly visible’. The recipients are Ubuntu Women Shelter; migrant-led groups The Unity Centre, LGBT Unity & Unity Sisters; and sex worker-led organisations SCOT-PEP, SWARM (Sex Workers Advocacy and Resistance Movement) & Umbrella Lane, a sex worker support project. The other artists awarded bursaries are Liz Johnson Artur, Oreet Ashery, Shawanda Corbett, Sean Edwards, Sidsel Meineche Hansen, Ima-Abasi Okon and Imran Perretta.
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Collaborations Outset supports major new collaboration between Inverleith House, Edinburgh, and Serpentine Galleries, London Inverleith House is set to transform into Climate House as part of a three-year project supported by the award of the Outset Contemporary Art Fund’s Transformative Grant. The grant is awarded jointly to Inverleith House at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and the Serpentine Galleries in London, marking a major new partnership as both organisations look to build a place to explore the future of our planet through contemporary visual art. Climate House will welcome artists from Scotland and around the world to showcase work that facilitates conversations about life on earth and expand our understanding of biodiversity and our place in the world. In 2021, this will include exhibitions with artists such as Christine Borland, Keg de Souza and Cooking Sections.
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Art Builds The Fruitmarket Gallery to reopen in 2021 One of Edinburgh’s best-loved contemporary art galleries is due to reopen in early 2021 after a £3.75million extension and refurbishment project. The Fruitmarket Gallery, which has been closed since July 2019, will reopen with the first selected survey in the UK by Scottish artist Karla Black. As well as improvements to the existing spaces and a new dedicated education studio, the gallery will double its exhibition space, taking over the former nightclub building next door, which was part of the original fruit and vegetable market. The new space supports a shift in the gallery’s programme from focusing purely on visual art to becoming Scotland’s newest contemporary arts venue. Director Fiona Bradley says: ‘I see the development as a space for all the programmes the Fruitmarket has been developing for years which we’ve run out of space for: performance events, poetry events, live music. It enables us to work in different ways with different kinds of artists.’
Since it opened in 1967, the Fruitmarket has been a leading venue for contemporary visual art in Scotland, showing artists such as David Hockney, Louise Bourgeois and Marina Abramovic as well as presenting key shows by home-grown artists. However, galleries are increasingly doing more than simply exhibitions, reflecting the growing trend by artists to work in performance and collaborate across art forms. Bradley says: ‘I do think visual art is a broad church, and artists have always pushed the boundaries of what we consider art to be. But when you look at the success of Tate Lates, I think art is changing, broadening, becoming more diverse. ‘Visual art is what we know, and we will regularly put visual art in the new space, but I hope we can also use the space in new ways, and partners and collaborators will come forward with ideas and proposals.’ However, the opening show affirms a commitment to the Fruitmarket’s traditional territory – visual art – with work by Karla Black across the entire venue, including a new site-specific commission in the two-storey warehouse space. Bradley says: ‘We really wanted Karla to be the first to make new work for the warehouse. She is brilliant with space, and we wanted to show it as a powerhouse of artistic endeavour.
1 William Gillies, Sunflower © The Artist’s Estate. Image courtesy the Fleming Collection 2 Constance Walton, Day Dreams © The Artist’s Estate. Image courtesy the Fleming Collection 3 Emma-Louise Grady, Untitled © The Artist 4 Brandon Logan, Nnnn © The Artist 5 Alice de Pelet, The Highlands in Sutherland, 2020 6 Leonie Bell. Image courtesy of V&A Dundee 7 Penny Macbeth. Image courtesy of Glasgow School of Art
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Over the summer, we reached out to people working across the Scottish art scene to find out how the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown has impacted their programmes and practices, and their hopes and fears for how it might reshape the art scene in the future
TINA FISKE, DIRECTOR OF CAMPLE LINE
‘Also, I’m interested in contemporary art as a challenge to institutions. We exist to give opportunities and inspiration to artists, not to say “This is brand new floor, you can’t put Vaseline on it”. I think, by opening with Karla, who uses materials which do pose a challenge, we’re making a statement, saying the Fruitmarket exists to make things work for artists, not to tell them what they can’t do.’
8 Emilia Beatriz, A forecast, a haunting, a crossing, a visitation, (3-channel video and still), 2019. Courtesy of the artist 9 Alberta Whittle, still from ‘between a whisper and a cry’, 2019. Image courtesy of the artist. 10 Arika, boychild, Untitled Hand Dance, at Arika’s Episode 10: A Means Without End, Tramway, Glasgow, 2019. Photo © Barry Esson. 11 Alberta Whittle, How Flexible Can We Make the Mouth, installation view © Dundee Contemporary Arts, 2019. Photo © Ruth Clark 12 Jamie Crewe “The Ideal Bar” “Le Narcisse” - “Alec’s” (2020), still. Courtesy the artist and copyright Jamie Crewe
13 Emma Nicolson, Head of Creative Programmes Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 14 Inverleith House. Image courtesy of Royal Botantic Gardens Edinburgh 15 Reiach and Hall visualisation of the new warehouse space. Courtesy Reiach and Hall Architects 16 Reaich and Hall visualisation of the new Fruitmarket building on Market Street. Courtesy Reiach and Hall Architects 17 Karla Black, Installation view Palazzo Pisani 2011. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Gisela Capitain Cologne. Photo © Gautier Deblonde
Scottish Art Unlocked We were on the brink of opening Helen Mirra’s exhibition Acts for placing woollen and linen when the lockdown measures were introduced. We had a board meeting the previous week which had galvanised the team to prepare things as much as possible. Our film co-ordinator Emma Dove shot additional footage for the short exhibition film she was finalising, and the last occasion our team was in the building was to record a narration with Lucy, our engagement assistant, to be added to the film. Lucy was due to sit her final school exams this May and was anxious. Yet, her narration has a remarkably steady tone, a resilient quality that a good many people who have watched the film over the last 12 weeks have remarked upon. It was tough to postpone or cancel so much planned activity. In the very initial uncertainty before the UK Government announced its series of financial support measures, we felt anxious about adding to the impact on those with freelance livelihoods. Moreover, the timing for us was not auspicious; we were awaiting a number of funding outcomes in late March–mid April, and gradually we heard from each funder either with a note of delays in decisionmaking or, very understandably, to ask whether we wanted to withdraw our
applications and re-apply to repurposed funds. Where we already had funding pledged, those funders have extended deadlines, but currently our situation beyond the short term remains uncertain. Our team felt very strongly that, given our rural location, we should remain as visible and active as we could, especially as a resource for those most immediately around us. We were fairly well prepared for remote working – perhaps this is a consequence of being a small rural-based team and organisation. Although the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated our move towards online programming, we had already begun to take steps to develop our digital capacity and provision as a means to help us engage and offer opportunities to those who cannot attend our building or programme in person. Where the activity we were able to develop online over April and May served the immediate circumstances, it has also enabled us to consider what a ‘blended’ longer term approach would entail and how it could impact who we are able to reach and include, how and where they access our programme and how we support them to do so. Over the last 12 weeks, a sharing of leadership has occurred within our
team, which has been immensely positive and driven by where the skills are, and although we have necessarily been working remotely from one another, the nature of our co-working has been transformed. As measures gradually begin to ease, and with the reality of global recession, the challenges for organisations are manifold – how do they re-envision their programmes and reconfigure their spaces in light of a continued severity of risk to public health and the likelihood of greatly reduced funding and resources. The pressure that these will place upon the support that organisations can offer artists, filmmakers and creatives, as well as upon the means that they have to ensure equality of access, participation and inclusion, especially for the most vulnerable around us, will be significant. In what ways can greater collaboration help keep culture sustainable and inclusive, and how do we as an organisation adapt and reset our ways of working? Moreover, in the context of the global protests resulting from the death of George Floyd in the US, it is more urgent than ever that we examine and educate ourselves and that we re-articulate our fundamental duties in respect of equality, diversity, inclusion, dignity and safeguarding, and embed these in every aspect of what we do, how we do it, where we do it and with whom. CAMPLE LINE is an independent arts organisation based in rural Dumfriesshire campleline.org.uk
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Life as an artist is a precarious path. We’re used to ever-shifting horizons, often not knowing what’s around the corner. Despite the uncertainty, we hold on to ‘making art’ because that’s how we navigate the world. But when the pandemic hit, it suddenly felt as if there wasn’t anything to hold onto, as if trying to manoeuvre across a warped funfair ride, where the floors keep moving. Like many freelance artists and art workers, I lost much of my income from projects being postponed or cancelled. Becoming increasingly anxious, I watched the death toll rise and the UK Government behaving irresponsibly. For the first time ever, making art felt completely pointless. My mental health plummeted. ABORT! ABORT! I want to get off the ride! After a few weeks of pyjama living, the first wave of shock (grief?) settled, and things started to feel possible again. Pre-lockdown, I’d been preparing to film a sequence of choreographed movements exploring the Finnish folkloric concept of being caught in
metsänpeitto (forest cover) – a landscape where everything is unfamiliar and moves in reverse. With rehearsals and film production on hold, how could I keep this work alive? If not in my body, perhaps I could animate it on paper. Determined to try, I set up a temporary studio in the landing above my flat and, sitting at a desk in the communal stairwell, began to draw the sequence in a choreographic score. In Finnish folklore, metsänpeitto is used to describe when people go missing in the forest. I’d been thinking about it as a contemporary metaphor for the emotional trauma that comes with ecological awareness. Now, finding ourselves lost in the woods of a pandemic, the work has taken on strange new meaning. Slowly, on the page, a disembodied human form emerged limb by limb, in ink black lines, recalling the instructions said to help someone lost in ‘forest cover’ find their way. Perhaps it was working with these instructions, perhaps it was the meditative action of making marks on paper; either way, drawing helped me to feel calmer, which meant I could begin to think about practical things again. Having an archive of old work, I was able to sell music from past projects and artwork through the Artist Support
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Pledge initiative online. I also received support through Creative Scotland’s Bridging Bursary and HMRC’s selfemployment grant. I’d found ways to survive – to pay the bills and to stop feeling so anxious – and kept reminding myself that this was what I’ve always done, delicately balancing the act of nurturing my practice with earning enough money to live; that this was resilience. As we slowly ease our way out of lockdown, I’m starting to think more about the future and how I can continue to work as an artist in a post-COVID world. I know things are going to be tough. But I’m also aware of how this moment in time is an opportunity to collectively rethink how we do things. My hope is that arts organisations will embrace this shift and work closely with artists to reimagine possible futures, navigating what comes next, together. Hanna Tuulikki is an artist, composer and performer based in Scotland, who specialises in working with voice and gesture to reimagine resonant stories of contemporary relevance hannatuulikki.org
As an artist shielding throughout lockdown, my practice has been built upon adapting and rebuilding within a disabling world. The restrictions many able-bodied artists have now experienced echoes one of familiarity that myself and many others living with impairments have faced throughout their lives and careers. This summer, I had planned to deliver a photography workshop called Scope to a group of people living with long-term conditions. I have delivered this project before in community settings; through weekly classes I aim to teach people the power in their perspective while passing on my own positive experience of creating through photography. Living with impairments can sometimes revolve around being within the same environment for long periods of time which can create a negative association within spaces. In light of the pandemic, this echoes more strongly than ever. The digital camera is an accessible, immediate and powerful tool which enables the familiar to be turned into the new and perspectives reclaimed. Due to lockdown, I brought Scope online for the first time. This was a welcome transition into a more accessible and affordable way of educating. As artists and institutes began to do the same – adapting work to online channels due to the restrictions of lockdown – I started to notice the lack of acknowledgement and awareness towards those living with impairments and shielding. Far too often those living with illness have been excluded from history and society or their experiences documented through the eyes and minds of an able-bodied perspective. The work produced during Scope will be made into an online exhibition and
a printed collection will be dispersed throughout institutes and communities. It is vital that disabled perspectives are valued and part of our society and its history. For the first time, education and employment has become more accessible within the arts. It has often felt like an alienating and inconvenient act to ask for adaptations (working from home, virtual meetings, online exhibitions) to combat factors that placed me at a disadvantage for engagement and employment. We must recognise it as a failing that virtual accessibility was not implemented sooner and that access to the internet is a basic necessity not a luxury. As industries integrate their courses, communities and colleagues online, we create a more adaptable and inclusive industry. This progression allows some equal footing for those living with impairments; providing them with evidence and empathy to enforce a more sustainable life. Many have been excluded from education and employment due to the demand of daily travel and in-person attendance which isn’t always necessary and places those with hurdles (child care, transport, health etc) within a society which forces them to sacrifice stability rather than enforce it. I hope this is a time in which we can reconstruct a fractured system into one of inclusivity and adaptability. In order for change to be evoked, more doors must be opened and space made for those who have experienced prejudice and discrimination. The arts have the capability and a responsibility to be at the forefront of dismantling our old normal into one of a new expectancy.
‘I hope this is a time in which we can reconstruct a fractured system into one of inclusivity and adaptability’
Louise Mclachlan is an Edinburgh based artist working predominantly with digital photography. Finding it the most ideal tool to create Mclachlan draws inspiration from many mediums including painting, performance, sculpture and cinema louisemclachlan.com
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I am sitting in a trailer-tent in the garden, rain battering off the roof, plastic windows billowing, waiting for a break in the storm to run for a coffee refill. Instantly this puts me in the privileged box of lockdown artist ergonomics; I have access to outdoor space, my art practice accommodates a love of folding vehicles that can be re-used as office space in a time of global pandemic, and, although staring at a bed in this tiny cabin, I am not working in my bedroom. Thus the collation of lockdown statistics continues; nobody has been here before so nobody can imagine what it will be like and everyone is obsessively assessing both their situation and that of their family, street or peers. With some of the holy lockdown grail but not all, I am faring ok. It’s not been my most productive time, in fact not particularly creative at all; zero jigsaws and a very low art-podcast consumption rate at 12 | ART
a time when I would have just completed a substantial new commission for Glasgow International, and be working on another for Folkestone Triennial. In saying that, I have kept seven shielding dependents spread across the central belt loosely in touch with the outside world, stepped in where Asda failed to deliver, and can connect anyone over 80 to Zoom via a kitchen window. None of these are skills I wish to use again, and at a very personal level therein lies my greatest fear: that they expect it to continue. I fear that the essential care structures that ended so abruptly for people in my family three months ago – shopping deliveries, home helps, adult day care, Thursday afternoon karaoke, taxis, haircuts, nail cuts and grass cuts – will never come back and that that will be the tin lid on what was an art and academic career for which I have worked extremely hard.
And as we slowly move out of lockdown, I think that should be a fear widely held. Not that all of you will have to provide haircuts and karaoke to adults with learning difficulties, but that the expectations of what artists need – that they force time for amid many other demands – will never go back. That kids will expect home cooking and table tennis every day and that schools can stay part-time, that public services won’t need stepped up as everyone has managed magnificently without them, that kitchens or leaky trailers are perfectly good workspaces, that everyone can shop local and cycle everywhere and that nobody actually needs to earn proper fees because we can all exist on small stuff sold online. And I fear it particularly for women who work in the arts, who juggle many things and do not need more expectations placed on them. I also fear a future that is digital, online, distant and by invitation only, without wine in plastic cups, chance encounters, train journeys and dancing. The art world can be a hard place but also a brilliant one, and it has been the opportunity to travel, engage with, make work with, exhibit with and eat with artists and thinkers from a wide range of backgrounds that has been my lifeblood through thick and thin. And so I hope that the sharp sense of loss we have all felt for group activity and shared cultural experience will force us outside when all this is over, to look hard at art and think about it, participate in it and value those who make it, and that the structures that enable us to do that will return stronger than ever. Jacqueline Donachie is an awardwinning Glasgow-based artist whose work encompasses sculpture, installations, photographs, films, drawings and performance jacquelinedonachie.co.uk
I am an island artist. At times, this can make it difficult to be ‘seen’ in a contemporary art world, with its gallery openings and mingling over free drinks. I rely on the internet as a main disseminator for my practice; it is a space I use daily to show my work and feel connected. In September 2019, I journeyed toward Glasgow School of Art to begin a master’s degree, an undertaking I had been working toward since 2013 when I graduated from Gray’s School of Art. I frequently experience, and actively push against, the city-centric nature of the art world, and the idea that if isn’t happening in Glasgow, London or some other metropolis, then it isn’t worth happening at all. Being in Glasgow allowed me to be physically present to talk about and remind the artworld of the practice’s happening in places perceived as ‘remote’. I was asking galleries and curators to look further than their front doorstep when representing artists and better support practices happening outwith urban environments. I firmly told the folk who assumed I would remain in Glasgow after graduation that no, I would be returning to Shetland to practice what I preach and encourage others to do the same.
When GSA closed for COVID-19, the tangible elements I was exploring quickly ceased. During this time, I’ve watched as exhibitions shifted online, talks were streamed, and art organisations have, without hesitation, made their year of programming available for the entire internet-using population of the world. We are considering accessibility more than ever. My hope for the future is that the art world keeps this up. To those who run and work in art spaces: this is a call to action and a plea to ensure accessibility isn’t reliant on an individual being present in your space. I need the internet to access art, and during lockdown I have been ‘present’ from my Shetland studio more than ever. Since March, I have been working as a member of the Pause or Pay UK campaign, to give the student voice a platform and request art schools better support the student body as they make huge sacrifices to their education as a result of Covid-19. I am frustrated that I cannot have a physical degree show, I am infuriated that I have missed so much of a postgrad, which I am still paying full fees for. Online art school is not art school.
The wider art world, however, could and should be using the internet as a tool for dissemination at every opportunity. COVID-19 has made us all island artists. Yes, it has stopped us from being physically present in these spaces and shifted us into a virtual world but we have not let that stifle our commitment to art; instead we have become resourceful and used it to our advantage. As we ease back into the physical world, let’s not simply return to business as usual. We have an opportunity to continue practicing the benefits from this time and continue centring accessibility. Let’s make a commitment to act on what we have learned and not assume that the old ‘normal’ is better. Vivian Ross-Smith is an artist living and working in Shetland, whose practice uses painting, textiles and digital interventions to consider both actual and perceived island experiences. Ross-Smith holds a BA (Hons) in Painting from Gray’s School of Art (2013) and a Masters in Fine Art Practice from Glasgow School of Art (2020) vivianrosssmith.com
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PATRICIA FLEMING, CURATOR OF PATRICIA FLEMING PROJECTS
In around the third week of lockdown here in Scotland, I had a longing to see paintings in Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum. The smell of the building so attached to my childhood, and painting of course connected with the hand of the artist. This was probably revealing a need to be with others, through my work, through my community. As someone who understands the world visually, and as the ‘outside’ became more abstract, the ‘inside’, working from home and the art around me became clearer; exposure to ideas felt urgent. Postponed exhibitions discussed and online tasters arranged, video calls came into their own. Technology just worked, maintaining links to artists who dedicate their time to listening, who process the tangled world we live in. This offered hope in another way of thinking and being. Having established the gallery during the previous recession, I know the economic uncertainty to come will challenge this hope. Social distancing and appointment-only launches will affect our sociable sector. But we are adaptable and have a genuine interest in the potential of the digital sphere. Artists have been experimenting with digital technology since its inception. The popularity of social media and e-commerce offers not only potential sales, it brings visibility and access to galleries and artists. Anyone with an interest in art has the ability to curate their own visual library, collection or narrative. Connecting directly to the artist and their work, following their interests on social media, may open new avenues to be a part of something, connecting to others across the globe. I’m not fearful that this will replace social connectivity, inspiring events or people experiencing art 14 | ART
physically. The trail of endless flat images and visual clutter is already boring. Before lockdown we were coming to the end of a six-month online residency with the artist Anne Colvin. We worked with Colvin to present another way to experience an exhibition of her work, linking different components across our digital platforms. Poetry on Soundcloud, moving image on Vimeo and stills on Instagram. Reflections from writers and curators found their way to Twitter. This motion between time and process was then brought together by the artist in the physical gallery. Colvin generously gave her time to answer questions, make connections and feedback online, to create a neverending filmic journey. This felt like a richer way to experience the work. The static parameters of the gallery walls removed, time pressure of an exhibition didn’t apply, and it opened up our programme for all. Questions regarding access to new work, collecting and the environmental impact of international art fairs are in constant discussion within our team. We are looking at new ways to encourage engagement with the physical while, I hope, making a meaningful contribution to the online world. Artsy (the market leading platform for collectors) introduces us to international collectors. We don’t advise buying art purely from a screen, but JPEGs and PDFs are a common way to let collectors see new work. We are confident those seeking the experience of connecting with art physically will always find their way to us.
As the founder of Fuse, a free artists’ studio programme that helped retain and support over 500 artists in Glasgow from 1992–2000, I hope the politicians will see Universal Basic Income as a way out of our immediate economic crisis. This alongside a commitment by the Scottish Government to establish a model like the Creative Land Trust (a recent initiative by the London Mayor’s office, Arts Council England and others) to build infrastructure, is desperately needed to nurture and retain talent in Scotland. The visual arts sector needs specific support like the German Government’s recent announcement to invest directly in galleries and artists by increasing its art acquisition budget by 600 percent. An acknowledgement to protect the space for new art and ideas, and to increase resources to address the precarious nature of work in the visual arts, is vital to support our already fragile sector. It’s encouraging to see our spacious museums and public galleries are now the ‘go to’ places. The urgency, in case they close again, has refreshed our sense of discovery. Being denied access to collections has struck a chord with many. I’ve overheard regrets of taking galleries and museums for granted – it is easily done. Patricia Fleming Projects is a Glasgowbased contemporary art gallery showing the work of emerging and established artists patriciaflemingprojects.co.uk
BETH BATE, DIRECTOR OF DUNDEE CONTEMPORARY ARTS I am writing as we draw nearer to DCA’s reopening on 4 September and our plans come sharply into focus. Social distancing, PPE and face coverings, ticketing for our free exhibitions and learning spaces, new cleaning schedules, reduced capacities, a longer-term move to many staff working from home, risk assessments drawn up, amended, amended again . . . all of this against a backdrop of shifting guidelines, the risk of future lockdowns, understandable public anxiety. The one thing we know is that the model of how we support DCA, our staff and our artists, through fundraising and the entrepreneurial generation of income, has totally changed. The world we are reopening to is very uncertain. Organisations like DCA – which comprises art galleries, cinemas, a print studio, learning spaces, a shop, a café bar and offsite and online creative activity – form part of a dynamic cultural ecology that connects across creative industries, education, health and wellbeing, placemaking, tourism, employment and the economy. Most importantly, we provide civic spaces for audiences, local or visiting, to explore, connect, think and relax through cultural and creative experiences, often for free. These spaces, which we also take online and out into the community, are more important than ever as we have all had to reconsider our relationships with each other, with home and work, with our towns, cities and rural areas. We’re pleased to be able to announce our upcoming exhibitions at DCA with Stuart Whipps and Emma Talbot. As current guidelines mean pressing pause on a public programme within DCA, we have secured funding to present work online, providing paid
opportunities for artists with talks, tours, events, screenings, writing commissions, and schools and community workshops, all hosted digitally. At the heart of our work, and the sector’s, are artists. In 2018–19, visual arts RFOs (regularly funded organisations) supported over 26,000 artists, through exhibitions, commissions, residencies, community and engagement projects, performances and events. Beyond the RFO network, this number is even greater. Add to this the artists who create work using Scotland’s unique network of production facilities, and the creative practitioners who support their practice by working at art institutions (at DCA we count artists, writers, poets, makers and performers among our staff), and the interconnectedness of this precarious ecology is apparent. That ecology is now in crisis. A recent survey by the Scottish Contemporary Art Network showed that artists face an average anticipated loss of £25,000 by March 2021. For organisations, the outlook is just as concerning, with some facing a cliff edge as early as November and others fearing for their future beyond 18 months. We face a chronic, urgent issue if we lose the artistic talent that is the very reason for the existence of our sector and the institutions that nurture and showcase this talent.
These organisations are innovative, responsive charities, businesses and civic organisations, effectively led and prudently operated. Urgent stabilisation is needed for visual arts organisations. Immediate funding is required for artists to sustain their livelihoods. With appropriate investment, we can contribute to the desperately needed recovery of both our local and national communities and economies at a time when new ideas and outward-looking approaches are absolutely essential, while helping to protect the visual arts for the future. Dundee Contemporary Arts is an internationally renowned centre for the development and exhibition of contemporary art and culture dca.org.uk 1 From Narrow Provinces, CAMPLE LINE, autumn 2019, Image © Mike Bolam 2 Hanna Tuulikki temporary studio still 3 Louise Mclachlan 4 Jacquelin Donachie. Image © Alan Dimmick 5 Vivan Ross-Smith 6 Katie V Robertson, Endpoints, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Patricia Fleming, Glasgow. (From the exhibition Post by Kate V Roberston, 3 July 2020) 7 Beth Bates. Image © Alberto Bernasconi
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THE GLASGOW BOYS & GIRLS Lachlan Goudie
As The Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation’s new exhibition on the Glasgow Boys and Girls opens its doors in Berwick-upon-Tweed, artist Lachlan Goudie walks in the footsteps of his 19th-century predecessors and selects a few of his favourite works by the artists I am a Glasgow boy. I was born in that city and my father, the artist Alexander Goudie, studied and taught at the Glasgow School of Art. The legacy of those late 19th-century artists who came to be known as the ‘Boys’, made a deep impression on my dad. When I was a young apprentice painter, he taught me their techniques and alerted me to the qualities which distinguished their work; assiduous control of tone, the use of square-edged brushes, an affinity with those French painters whose approach combined realism and naturalism. Growing up in the west of Scotland, however, it always perplexed me that the Boys largely chose to ignore the dramatic landscape of the Highlands and Hebridean islands that lie on the city’s doorstep. Instead they migrated towards the quieter geography of Southern Scotland – Kirkcudbright, Moniaive and in particular the area around Cockburnspath in the Borders. It was here that the Glasgow Boys created some of their most celebrated paintings. Earlier this year, I spent ten wintry days near Cockburnspath in the small village of Abbey St Bathans, nestled amidst the ancient forests of Berwickshire. It was the first time I had ever painted in the region and the experience gave me an insight into the kinds of subjects that had so fascinated the Boys and how the landscape influenced their approach to the canvas. 16 | ART
Whatever the season, painting outdoors in Scotland is challenging – the weather conditions and the appearance of the landscape can change from minute to minute. In winter however, the biggest problem (even more than the snowsqualls I experienced) is that constant cloud cover and a lack of strong sunlight can make the landscape appear very flat. A subject without pronounced shadows and defined by an almost monochromatic range of colours risks producing a mighty dull painting. The Glasgow Boys, however, were ‘tonal’ painters. They were fascinated by the subtle transitions between light and shade produced by natural lighting conditions. During my week in the Borders, I found the combination of soft light and the gentle contours of the geography a tough problem to resolve. I learned that to convey tone successfully you have to scrutinise the smallest variations in colour and form that define your subject. What’s more, without pronounced colour contrasts to provide a sense of depth, you have to structure your compositions clearly in order to give each image coherency and graphic impact. Working in the same open air studio as my predecessors, I undoubtedly left Abbey St Bathans with a renewed admiration for the controlled precision of the work of those Glasgow Boys.
EA Walton, The Herd Boy It was Edward Arthur Walton and his great friend James Guthrie who first ‘discovered’ Cockburnspath in 1883. For these artists, the farming community and surrounding landscape provided a subject in which they could immerse themselves. Walton and his colleagues revered the work of the selfprofessed ‘peasant painter’, Jules Bastien-Lepage. His hyperrealistic images depicted French fieldworkers, observed in a rural setting and under cool lighting conditions. These paintings monumentalised their subjects. In this large watercolour, Walton is clearly emulating his artistic hero. The use of a square format, the high horizon and central positioning of the herd boy creates a composition with graphic punch. And although the sun has broken out from behind the Berwickshire clouds, the boy remains in shadow. This allows Walton to describe the figure in muted, earthy tones – a perfect counterpoint to his striking ultramarine jacket – and to frame him powerfully against the sun-filled sky.
James Guthrie, A Hind’s Daughter
Throughout the mid-19th century, painters like Horatio McCulloch had regularly celebrated the awesome scale of Scotland’s Highlands. The Boys reacted against this bombastic style and the treacly palette of colours employed by artists whom they labelled as ‘Glue-pots’. In this canvas, Guthrie substitutes vast panoramas for the close-up of a young girl collecting kail, or cabbage, from a muddy Berwickshire field. In place of visual drama, he uses a palette of colours that is calibrated to reproduce the effect of natural light. And although the composition appears incidental, it is in fact carefully structured to confer a sense of natural authority on its subject. While most of his colleagues only visited Cockburnspath during the summer months, Guthrie embedded himself there in the winter too – like his hero Bastien-Lepage, who retreated from Paris to live and paint all year in the provincial village of Damvillers. From November to February, as the cabbages were harvested, Guthrie was there to observe and document the life of the community around him. These experiences inspired ‘A Hind’s Daughter’, an extraordinary distillation of all the principles which underpinned the work of the Glasgow Boys. Scottish Art News | FEATURES | 17
Arthur Melville, The Highland Glen
John Lavery, The Bridge at Hesterworth
Arthur Melville was never a fully paid-up member of the Glasgow group. However his work was revered by many of the ‘Boys’. In the winter of 1882, Melville joined James Guthrie in Cockburnspath, having only recently returned from a two-year journey across Egypt and the Middle East. While Melville, like Guthrie, was concerned with observing subtle variations in tonal values, his travels had also opened his eyes to the chromatic power of sunlight and colour. Melville documented his journey in a series of vibrant watercolours and when he returned to Scotland, he continued using this medium and the experimental style he had developed abroad to interpret the landscape of his homeland. This watercolour was painted in 1893 and showcases many of the bold and semi-abstract effects that earned his watercolour technique the label ‘blottesque’. Watercolour is a medium that allows you to flood the page with pigment and lends itself to abstraction. Melville imposes just enough definition and colour on this image to evoke the fleeting sunlight and humid atmosphere of a sodden, autumnal glen.
The Glasgow Boys admired the group of French painters, including Jean-François Millet and Charles Daubigny, who had gathered in the French village of Barbizon and painted the landscape in a realist manner. When John Lavery went to Grez-sur-Loing in 1883, he joined a group of artists who were self-consciously emulating the painting colony established at Barbizon in the 1830s. Lavery, however, brought a contemporary eye to the challenges of painting images directly from nature and emulating the qualities of outdoor light – issues which preoccupied both the Barbizon artists and the Glasgow Boys. As a young man, Lavery was apprenticed to a photographer in Glasgow. In ‘The Bridge at Hesterworth’, Lavery’s unusual letter-box format (one which he used repeatedly throughout his career) allows the eye to pan across the landscape and has the effect of cropping the subject in a manner which was perhaps indebted to photographic techniques. Similarly, like a photographer choosing to underexpose an image in order to create a particular atmosphere, Lavery keys down all the colours in this image. He blends tonal values together and paints the areas under the bridge and along the riverbank with an impenetrable, inky darkness.
James Paterson, Winter Sunshine, Moniaive
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James Paterson was deeply invested in the landscape around the Dumfriesshire village of Moniaive. Like his colleagues in Cockburnspath, he avoided scenery that was conventionally picturesque or overly dramatic. Instead he chose low-key, almost incidental subjects. This allowed him to concentrate on conveying textures and a quality of light that feel particular to Scotland. Autumn and winter were the seasons he described on canvas most evocatively. When painting outside in February, however, the finger-numbing and shiver-inducing cold is a challenge which conspires to dull your concentration and drain your painting stamina. As artists like Guthrie and Paterson experienced (and as I did in Abbey St Bathans), inclement conditions often force you to summarise what you can see, pushing you to communicate the atmosphere and appearance of your environment by the most economical means. This painting uses a disarmingly simple composition and the blocking out of areas of colour to produce a talismanic evocation of Scotland in winter.
Bessie MacNicol, Portrait of EA Hornel
It was only in the latter half of the 19th century that female artists started enjoying the freedom to study and work on a par with their male counterparts. To some extent, the term ‘Glasgow Boys’ has overshadowed the talent of women artists at the time who associated with the group. First among them, in my opinion, was Bessie MacNicol. Bessie was a force of nature in her personality and her prodigious painting ability. She studied at the Glasgow School of art and was one of the first female artists in Scotland to attend classes at the Academie Colarossi in Paris, frequented by so many of her male contemporaries. MacNicol painted sensuous portraits that were full of light and life and she handled paint with bravura fluidity. This image of her great friend EA Hornel was completed in his studio in the Galloway town of Kirkcudbright where he lived and worked. It demonstrates the combination of tenderness, empathy and colourful vigour that were typical of her work.
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Lachlan Goudie is an artist. He grew up in Glasgow and is the son of the Scottish painter, Alexander Goudie. His paintings have won numerous awards and he is an elected member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters. Lachlan wrote and presented the landmark BBC television series The Story of Scottish Art and has presented numerous other documentaries for the BBC including Painting the Holy Land and Mackintosh: Glasgow’s Neglected Genius. The Glasgow Boys & Girls 5 September–15 November The Granary Gallery, Dewars Lane, Berwick-upon-Tweed, TD15 1ES T: (0)1289 330999 | berwickvisualarts.co.uk Open: Tuesday to Sunday 11am–4pm (Please note that the works from public collections that have been included in this feature will not be shown in The Glasgow Boys & Girls exhibition.)
The Story of Scottish Art, by Lachlan Goudie, is published by Thames & Hudson in September priced £29.95. Lachlan Goudie Once Upon A Time 28 October–25 November The Scottish Gallery 16 Dundas Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6HZ T: (0)131 558 1200 | scottish-gallery.co.uk
1 E A Walton, The Herd Boy, 1886. Courtesy National Galleries Scotland. Image by Antonia Reeve
5 John Lavery, The Bridge at Hesterworth. Image courtesy the Fleming Collection
2 James Guthrie, A Hind’s Daughter, 1883. Courtesy National Galleries Scotland. Bequest of Sir James Lewis Caw 1951
6 Bessie MacNicol, Portrait of Hornel, 1896. Courtesy National Trust for Scotland, Broughton House & Garden
3 Arthur Melville, The Highland Glen. Image courtesy the Fleming Collection
7 Lachlan Goudie, The Forest, Berwickshire, February 2020 © The Artist
4 James Paterson, Winter Sunshine, Moniaive. Image courtesy the Fleming Collection
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POSTCARDS FROM THE FRONT
stood radically at odds with the liberal consensus of the era. The war around tax had erupted because Strathclyde Region refused to accept that the ‘art gallery’ (as they saw it) on Little Sparta’s grounds was, as Finlay would have it, a temple, where certain spiritual truths were incarnated, and which was therefore due the lower tax rates afforded to religious buildings. Neoclassicism became for Finlay the aesthetic encapsulation of this worldview. ‘Neoclassicism Needs You’, one work announces, mimicking Lord Kitchener’s recruitment posters. Another undercuts a statement attributed to the anarchist modern art critic Herbert Read – ‘In the back of every dying civilization sticks a bloody Doric column’ – asserting, to the contrary, that ‘In the foreground of every revolution, invisible, it seems, to the academics, stands a perfect classical column’. If the polemic here is infused with a certain sense of whimsy, neoclassicism is elsewhere imbued with the sinister spirit of its most fervent recent proponents. A sketch in the style of the 18th-century English draughtsman John Flaxman shows us ‘Classical U-boat pens in wartime’, with a ‘Section of Albert Speer’s Atlantic Wall’ – the Nazis’ gargantuan coastal defence system – visible behind. Is Finlay endorsing the culture of the Third Reich as the natural extension into society and politics of the neoclassical order he loved? We are certainly invited to suspect this, which of course implies a subtly different authorial motive from straightforward endorsement, one further clouded by the quality of mordant satire that pervades the work.
The Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation’s acquisition of posters and postcards by Ian Hamilton Finlay offers a window into the oeuvre of an artist forever at war One of the card and paper-based works newly acquired by the Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation, produced by Scottish poet, artist, and gardener Ian Hamilton Finlay during the 1980s–90s, shows a wooden gate nestled between two folds of farmland. This is Checkpoint Sandy, ‘Little Sparta’s Eastern Frontier at the time of The First Battle of Little Sparta, February 4, 1983’. This ‘battle’ took place when Strathclyde Regional Council sent a sheriff’s officer (named Sandy) to seize works from Little Sparta, Finlay’s poemsculpture garden and home since 1966, in lieu of unpaid tax. The officer was intercepted by a series of intricate parrying manoeuvres, carried out by a group of Finlay’s supporters dubbed the Saint-Just Vigilantes (one flyer from the acquisition implores us to ‘Join the Saint-Just Vigilantes’) under the direction of the artist himself, positioned in a hayloft repurposed as command HQ. The whole affair was meticulously documented and photographed, and an illustrated report was published in a literary magazine. Besides throwing up a slew of polemical and satirical ephemera, the ‘battle’ was honoured by a commemorative medal and a bronze plaque now mounted on a wall marking the garden’s entrance. The story of the Checkpoint Sandy postcard offers a glimpse into the principles animating Finlay’s whole practice by the early 1980s and across the subsequent decade: the period to 22 | ART
which the majority of this work can be dated. It also reminds us that eulogies for this most trenchant of Scottish creatives should be attempted with caution. By the early 1980s, Finlay had moved through the late-modernist aesthetics of concrete poetry – the presentation of language as visual form – to a more expansive multimedia practice in which word and image were combined across a range of media, from poems etched in wood and glass to inscribed sculptures and statues set in mutually illuminating relationships with landscapes. More significantly, Finlay no longer viewed his poems, or artworks, as self-contained entities, but as monuments to an ideal of formal, moral, and rational order that was to be physically manifested in the garden. His two-dimensional works were documents of a process of world-creation, one that often brought him into conflict – both theatrical and painfully real – with the world beyond the garden gate. Finlay rarely saw this world, confined by agoraphobia to Little Sparta from the late 1960s onwards. The notion of an avant-garde artist setting his stall out against the organs of state bureaucracy is perhaps a gesture we’re relatively au fait with. What modern audiences might find harder to handle is the fact that these rebellions were not undertaken from some position of radical egalitarianism or anarchism but from a basis in spiritually invested social conservatism that
One position that Finlay endorses more clearly is the necessary relationship between defence of aesthetic order and a willingness to impose order, by force if necessary, at a social and political level. Another work shows a segment of classical column morphing over four appearances into a marching drum of the kind used to lead militias during the French Revolution. Below, a quote from Saint-Just, the most ardent and bloodthirsty of the revolution’s children – after whom Finlay’s pseudo-militia of civilian supporters was named – assures us that ‘what constitutes a republic is the total destruction of all that is opposed to it’. In another piece, the conning towers and gun-mounts of a WWII battleship are re-envisaged as orders of column from Doric to Composite. Contemporary admirers of Finlay’s works might find themselves struggling to assimilate such messages and allusions with their overarching sense of fascination and wonder at his creative achievement. This feeling of conflict is invited. These are not works to agree with, but works to be reckoned with, and savoured. Greg Thomas is a critic and editor based in Glasgow His book Border Blurs: Concrete Poetry in England and Scotland was published by Liverpool University Press in 2019
1 Ian Hamilton Finlay, Neoclassicism Needs You, 1983 2 Ian Hamilton Finlay, Revolution,1986 Images © the Estate of Ian Hamilton Finlay.
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MY FAVOURITE SCOTTISH WORK OF ART
Ian Rankin Still (2004) by Alison Watt ‘Still’ is an extraordinary painting by Alison Watt. Much of its power comes from its scale (being a combination of four large canvases) and its positioning within a side chapel in Old St Paul’s Church in Edinburgh. The painting is aptly titled, as there is a wonderful stillness and quietness to it. As you sit in the chapel, you become reflective almost immediately – though it probably helps that you have just stepped out of the noisome city centre and entered a calmer sphere. The folds of white cloth are so lifelike you soon start to feel them brushing your skin. And yet there is something sombre and ultimately humane and moving about the painting too – is it a shroud of some kind? Does it contain intimations of mortality? While not necessarily a spiritual person, I do find it a deeply spiritual piece. You may have a different reaction and an entirely different reading. It’s a painting that remains open to almost limitless interpretation. 24 | ART
Ian Rankin was born in Fife in 1950 and brought up in Cowdenbeath. He established his career as a world-famous novelist while ostensibly studying for a PhD at Edinburgh University. His most famous creation, the old-fashioned cop in a modern world, Inspector Rebus, first appeared in 1987 in Knots and Crosses. Since then the Rebus novels have been translated into 22 languages and are best sellers around the world. Rankin’s beloved Edinburgh is the backdrop to Rebus’ investigations where the dark streets are ‘a crime scene waiting to happen’, not least in the ancient closes where Old St Pauls Church and Alison Watt’s Still are to be found. One of his standalone novels, Doors Open, concerns a daring theft from the Scottish National Gallery’s storage depot in Granton. Rankin is also a vocalist in the band Best Picture, and has toured with musician Tim Burgess, who set one of his short stories to music.
Michael Portillo Self Portrait (c.1910) by Samuel John Peploe My grandfather, John Waldegrave Blyth, was a linen manufacturer from Kirkcaldy, who spent his money on contemporary art. There were works by Eugène Boudin and LS Lowry, but overwhelmingly his collection was Scottish. He bought paintings by Edward Atkinson Hornell and a large number of giant canvases by William McTaggart. Two of those hung on the staircase of Wilby House where he stayed, and as a child on visits to my grandparents, I had a terror of passing beneath them on my way to bed in case one fell and crushed me. The content was in any case bleak: children being drenched on a storm-stricken beach from which there might be no rescue. But there were many gentler images in his house represented by the four Scottish Colourists – SJ Peploe, JD Ferguson, George Leslie Hunter and Francis Cadell. After my grandfather’s death, a few of those hung in the houses of his daughters: my two maiden aunts and my mother. Following their deaths, for a while a few were on the walls of my London home, until the expense and complexity of duties and taxes drove us as a family to dispose of them. What a privilege it was to see them every day. There were more Peploes – in that small sample of JW Blyth’s original great collection – than works by the other Colourists. The still lifes featured his customary inventory: roses, a mirror, a silver coffee pot and a Chinese vase; but also unusually a gorgeous red lobster with accompanying lemon. The landscapes featured either the cold blue light of Scotland, such as Douglas Hall in Kirkcudbrightshire or Iona; or the fierce brightness of Royan and Cassis. JW Blyth collected hundreds of paintings, many more than could fit into Wilby House. Following the Great War, John Nairn, a Kirkcaldy manufacturer of linoleum, gifted the town an art gallery in memory of his son who had been killed in action. My grandfather was the first Honorary Curator, serving from 1925 to his death in 1962. Much of his collection was displayed in the gallery while he lived and was bought by it when he died. Each of the Colourists gave JW Blyth enormous pleasure. He would steal home from the factory to spend his lunch hour contemplating his most recent purchase. I have chosen a self-portrait of Peploe simply in order to deploy my grandfather’s assessment of him (published in the catalogue of Peploe’s memorial exhibition at the RSA in 1936): ‘Peploe was a great man, his pictures are the ardent outpourings of a great heart and a great mind – to live with them is a sheer delight.’
Michael Portillo was born in North London in 1953. His father had come to Britain at the end of the Spanish Civil War and his mother was brought up in Fife. Portillo is a British journalist, broadcaster, and former Conservative politician. He was first elected to the House of Commons in a by-election in 1984 rising through a series of ministerial posts to become Defence Secretary under John Major. Retiring from politics in 2005, he focused on his alternative career in media and journalism. Portillo’s passion for steam trains has led him to make an acclaimed series of BBC documentaries on Great Railway Journeys at home and abroad. He contributes regularly in print and on TV and radio, discussing politics, culture and the history of Britain.
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Kirsty Wark Midsummer (c.1910) by David Gauld I have chosen a painting that reflects my mood at this moment of uncertainty due to Covid-19 (I have a long list of other favourites for another occasion!). David Gauld’s ‘Midsummer’ from Paisley’s Art Institute takes me back to my childhood in Kilmarnock where a similar work hung in a shady drawing room in a friend’s home. It was simply of calves in dappled light under a tree. It still makes me think of the rural Ayrshire landscape. David Gauld was an important part of the Glasgow Boys, a real innovator; his country scenes came later, but have always given me an emotional connection to both my childhood and the freedom I had to explore – and that I hope we will soon enjoy again. Kirsty Wark is a BBC television journalist, born in Dumfries in 1955 but brought up in Ayrshire where her local museum was the Dick Institute in Kilmarnock. She is the longest serving presenter of BBC’s Newsnight, having joined the programme in 1993. Over the span of her career, she has also hosted a wide range of programmes, including the weekly arts and cultural review and comment show, The Review Show (formerly Newsnight Review), and has conducted long-form interviews with everyone from Margaret Thatcher to Damian Hirst. Wark has won several major awards for her work including BAFTA Awards for Outstanding Contribution to Broadcasting, Journalist of the Year and Best Television Presenter. Her second novel, The House by the Loch, was published in paperback in January 2020 by John Murray Press.
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Alison Watt The Artist’s Wife, Margaret Lindsay of Evelick (c.1758–9) by Allan Ramsay What is my favourite Scottish work of art? It’s impossible to narrow it down to just one. Like music, the paintings I love, the paintings I’ve spent a large part of my life looking at, move in and out of focus in my consciousness. But they never leave me. They feel part of me. Over the last two years, I’ve been exploring the archive of the great 18th-century portrait painter Allan Ramsay, held at the National Galleries of Scotland. This has led to the creation of a new body of work which will eventually be shown at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. There are 37 paintings by Ramsay, 272 drawings and two of his sketchbooks in our national collection. I’ve long admired his portraits, and I’ve looked at them intently over the years. We are lucky to have several on permanent display at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. I’ve been looking at them for longer than I can remember. During these more recent months of intense study of his work, it’s the strange beauty of the portrait of his second wife Margaret Lindsay, in particular, which has held me in its power. It is a painting to get close to, not a painting to be viewed from across a room. It always seems perpetually new when I return to it. Looking at this painting often leaves me with more questions than answers.
At first, it’s hard not to be dazzled by the sheer technical virtuosity of this portrait. The subtleties in tone, the painting of flesh and its relationship to the fabric which covers it. The rendering of different textures, the softness of the brush strokes; these elements are utterly captivating. This portrait has an ethereal quality. It radiates light. Margaret Lindsay appears to be as fragile as the rose she is holding and the delicacy of the painting is accentuated by her almost childlike gaze. Here, Margaret is seen to be caught in an everyday, domestic act. A moment has been captured as she turns to look at her husband, and so to look at us. Ramsay has deliberately designed the painting to suggest that the sitter was not posing for her portrait. But that look of spontaneity belies the perfect and delicate balance of colour and design in this picture. It is so carefully composed. So meticulously crafted. A painter’s painting. When we look at a great painting, we will never truly know its meaning. All we know for sure is how that painting makes us feel inside. When I look at this portrait, I see great tenderness. I see something of the nature of the relationship between Ramsay and his wife. The portrait stands as a testament to that. Like all great paintings, this picture transcends place and time. Artist and sitter continue to engage with each other across the centuries. And there is something beautiful in that. There seems to be a very private conversation going on between them, in which we, as viewers, become the third party. His loving gaze is returned in her eyes, and we become part of the complexity of that. Put simply, it takes my breath away. For all of Ramsay’s technical brilliance, his extraordinary ability as a painter, what fascinates me most about this portrait, what gives it such tremendous power, is its intimacy. We are witnessing something fundamental; the closeness of a man and a woman. And there are few things more special than that.
1 Alison Watt, Still, 2004 © The Artist 2 Samuel John Peploe, Self Portrait, c. 1910. Courtesy Fife Cultural Trust (Kirkcaldy Galleries) on behalf of Fife Council. 3 David Gauld, Midsummer, c. 1910. Courtesy Paisley Art Institute Collection, Paisley Museum and Art Galleries 3 Allan Ramsay, The Artist’s Wife: Margaret Lindsay of Evelick. Image courtesy the National Galleries of Scotland. Bequest of Lady Murray of Henderland 1861
Alison Watt OBE FRSE RSA, born in 1965 in Greenock, Renfrewshire, is the daughter of the artist James Watt. She studied in the painting department of Glasgow School of Art from 1983 to 1988. As a fourth-year student, she came to public prominence by winning the John Player Portrait Award, which led to a commission from the National Portrait Gallery to paint a portrait of the Queen Mother. Watt was part of an internationally successful generation of artists from the Glasgow School of Art, graduating alongside Christine Borland, Douglas Gordon and Roddy Buchanan. In 2000, Watt became the youngest artist to have a solo exhibition – Shift – at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which saw a move away from the figurative to depicting 12 monumental works portraying swathes of fabric. She was shortlisted for the Jerwood Painting Prize in 2003. Watt then went on to be an associate artist at the National Gallery in London from 2006–8, which culminated in her exhibition, Phantom. The same year she was awarded an OBE. Watt’s paintings are held in many public collections, including the Fleming Collection, the National Portrait Gallery, Aberdeen Art Gallery, the Scottish National Galleries, the Scottish Parliament Art Collection, the Freud Museum, the Arts Council Collection, the US Embassy, London, the Hall Art Collection, Dallas, and the Uffizi Gallery. In 2017, Watt was made a Fellow of The Royal Society of Edinburgh. She is represented by Parafin, London.
‘Like music, the paintings I love, the paintings I’ve spent a large part of my life looking at, move in and out of focus in my consciousness. But they never leave me. They feel part of me’
You can read more from the Favourite Scottish Artwork series, including contributions from James Naughtie, Neil McGregor and Joanna Lumley, on our website flemingcollection.com Scottish Art News | FEATURES | 27
Orkney artist Brandon Logan discusses the influence of his island home on his artwork Brandon Logan grew up in Stromness, Orkney’s second town. And it was here as a young boy he first walked into the Pier Arts Centre and encountered its outstanding collection of British Modernism. Fifteen years on, Logan is himself an artist with a studio in Stromness. As we talk on the phone, he recalls that works in the Pier’s collection by Barbara Hepworth and Naum Gabo are among his earliest visual memories. ‘Their work is so present in my life. Hepworth’s handling of nature, moulding of light, interiority and exteriority have been pretty informative for me,’ explains Logan. Our conversation travels on. Logan mentions George Mackay Brown, the celebrated Orcadian poet and author who died in 1996, and his book, An Orkney Tapestry. Weaving back and forth in time, Brown’s narrative provides an alternative to linear storytelling, believes Logan. Logan’s artwork is in many ways a brilliant hybrid of both weaving and painting, craft and art, the linear and the abstract. They are constructions that flirt dangerously but deliciously with precariousness. Logan works with lengths of string. He arranges the string in parallel lines, and then takes a paint brush and covers the string in paint. Once dry, he incrementally adds further layers of paint. Once the layering is complete and hardened, he gently chips away at the dried paint to leave an exquisite lattice-work structure, the paint acting both as ‘flesh’ to the string but also its structural support. Once flimsy string is now a load-bearer of paint, a rigid component of an abstract composition. Logan describes his work in seemingly unfriendly terms, as anti-social or stand-offish. ‘It can’t be worn or folded unlike fabric,’ he says, and we agree this fragility seems so appropriate for this current age. His abstract compositions appear to be teetering on the brink of collapse – the paint both acting as vital support but also potentially the final straw. It’s a process that he devised through repeated experimentation while a student at Edinburgh College of
Art where he studied both practical art and art history. He relished the opportunity to move between the two disciplines and to be able to spend large tracts of time in his ECA studio exploring ideas and possibilities, pushing materials and processes to their limits and beyond. On graduation last year, he was awarded ECA’s prestigious Astaire Art Prize. And he’s been busy ever since. Last autumn, he had a solo show at Zembla Gallery in the Scottish Borders, and earlier this year he exhibited in RSA New Contemporaries at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh and was awarded the RSA Carnegie Scholarship as well as the Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation’s ‘Emerging Scottish Artist of the Year’ award. Logan’s gentle but highly disciplined interrogation into the solid and the barely visible is something he puts down in part to living on Orkney. An archipelago of islands off the north-east coast of Scotland, its specific physicality was heightened for Logan when he participated in the Scotland + Venice Learning Programme in 2017. An initiative of Creative Scotland which offers students professional development, he worked on artist Rachel Maclean’s presentation. And it afforded Logan the opportunity to explore another archipelago of islands, this time Venice and its lagoon, on the Adriatic Sea. ‘It was a remarkable experience,’ says Logan, ‘water and watery forms in southern light, a kind of parallel to Orkney.’ Susanna Beaumont is a curator and mentor. She was the founder director of the Edinburgh contemporary art gallery, doggerfisher (2000–2010). In 2018, she founded Design Exhibition Scotland (DES) and in April she launched a new online journal, DESign ONline designexhibitionscotland.co.uk
All images courtesy the artist
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CAROLINE WALKER Susan Mansfield
Acclaimed for her striking paintings of women at work, Fife-born artist Caroline Walker found inspiration for her latest exhibition very close to home Arriving at her parents’ home in Dunfermline this summer, artist Caroline Walker experienced an unusual kind of deja vu: the sense of walking into one of her own paintings. Having just put the finishing touches to a new series of works inspired by the house and her mother, Janet, she headed north from her studio in London to visit her family in Fife. ‘The day before I came to Scotland, I was finishing the last painting, of my mum hanging out washing behind the house, and two days later I was hanging out an almost identical load of washing in the same place,’ she explains. ‘I was looking at the washing basket and the pegs and the monkey puzzle tree thinking, “did I paint that right?’” Walker’s new exhibition, called Janet, opens at the Ingleby Gallery in Edinburgh in October. Since she graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2009, her work has been shown all over the world and is in various public and private collections, but this is her first solo show in Scotland. While her earlier paintings used locations and models to create fictional narratives, in recent years she has ‘started to shift away from inventing things to looking at real life’. Her particular interest is in women’s work and women’s lives. She has painted refugee women in London flats and hostels, housekeeping workers in hotels, women at work in nail bars or glimpsed through lighted windows at night: a tailor bent over her work, an office worker at her screen, a waitress sweeping up after her shift. But Janet has brought her closer to home than she ever expected. 30 | ART
‘When I was working on paintings of women working as housekeeping staff in hotels, I was talking to my mum a lot because she never seems to stop cleaning. My granny was a cleaner, and her mum was a cleaner as well. My mum has never cleaned anyone else’s house, but she is always cleaning her own. ‘I was making paintings of women at work, and my mum was at work too. Although women’s lives have changed a lot, they are still doing this hidden, domestic work. I had a moment where I thought: I’ve been looking everywhere else, but there’s something interesting right here.’ That brought her back, armed with a camera, to the house where she grew up in Dunfermline, in which her parents have lived for 40 years. She photographed her mother over the course of a year, engaged in various tasks around the home and garden, and used the photographs as a basis for drawings, then paintings. We see Janet hoovering, dusting the tops of pictures, watering the rhododendrons, cleaning the bathroom sink: ordinary things, quietly observed and beautifully painted. Walker says: ‘I think the political and social aspects are always there as an undercurrent in my work, but I never want it to feel like I’m hitting people over the head with it. In the hotel housekeeping series, it is more obvious: who are these women, how well are they paid? Women still do a lot of unpaid labour in homes, but for my mum, this is the life she wanted. She decided not to work after she married. She got her dream house and has very much enjoyed spending her time looking after it.’
Walker is well aware of the artists who have portrayed women’s domestic work in the past: the genre painters of the Dutch golden age, Vermeer’s quiet maidservants, folding cloth or pouring water in the light of a high window, the 19th-century French realists and impressionist Mary Cassatt, who painted a series of works showing women working in the home and caring for children. Like them, she is bringing painterly concerns of light, colour and atmosphere to bear on subjects once thought too ordinary for a painting, valuing the work being done, hinting at the stories hidden in daily activities. ‘Some of these paintings are on a scale that would have been reserved, historically, for grand subject matter,’ she says. ‘But this happens all around us every day, there are hundreds of thousands of women doing this stuff, and it has to be done. Why shouldn’t it be looked at?’ Sometimes, a painting captures Janet through an open door, or lighted window, wrapped up in her task in her own private world, oblivious to the presence of the artist. At other times, she faces the viewer, as if engaged in a conversation. Walker laughs. ‘A lot of the photos were no use at all because we were chatting away, but that’s something I’ve enjoyed looking back at them, because I can remember what we were talking about.’ And what about Janet’s view of all this painterly attention? ‘She’s a bit incredulous, a bit embarrassed about it, though I think she has got more used to the idea. I think she likes the paintings of the house and the garden, it has been her life’s work, she sees that in it rather than herself.’ Susan Mansfield is an arts journalist based in Scotland Caroline Walker: Janet 3 October–18 December Ingleby Gallery, 33 Barony Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6NX T: (0)131 556 4441 | inglebygallery.com Open: Wednesday to Saturday 11am–5pm
3 1 Caroline Walker, Changing Pillowcases, Mid Morning, March, 2020 2 Caroline Walker, Making Fishcakes, Late Afternoon, December, 2019 3 Caroline Walker, Study for Heading In, Midday, May, 2019 All photos © Peter Mallet. Courtesy of the Artist and Ingleby, Edinburgh
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GAVIN HAMILTON Duncan Macmillan
Duncan Macmillan reveals that Scottish neo-classical artist, Gavin Hamilton, was one of the first painters in Europe to return to the ‘first principles’ of early Italian Art, urging fellow artists such as Canova, Runciman and Barry to do the same Completed in 1761, Gavin Hamilton’s ‘Andromache Bewailing the Death of Hector’ was the first of six paintings by the artist based on Homer’s Iliad. Each was dependent on a commission. Consequently production was slow, but he always intended that a set of engravings would eventually form a single six-part work. In the end only five were engraved. As a result, they have never been seen as the carefully constructed dramatic unity in the manner of Hogarth’s Progresses that Hamilton planned. Like Hogarth’s Progresses, too, his series had a clear moral intention. He adapted Homer to focus on how Achilles’ savage rage destroyed the gentle love of Hector and Andromache. The moral was that for society to progress beyond barbarism, sympathy had to prevail over the brutal heroic code (Jacques-Louis David’s ‘Oath of the Horatii’ follows Hamilton as closely in this as it follows his ‘Death of Lucretia’ in composition). This reflected the Scottish philosophy of moral sense in which Adam Smith, who had been Hamilton’s fellow student at Glasgow University, argued sympathy was what made society possible. However, Hamilton’s pictures also reflected the ideas of the Aberdeen scholar Thomas Blackwell set out in An Enquiry into the Life and Writings of Homer published in 1735. Blackwell saw Homer as the bard of a preliterate age when human sensibility was still pure and uncluttered. It was a theory neatly symmetrical with moral sense as Smith argued that sympathy depends on imagination and that in turn depends on sensibility. 32 | ART
Adam Ferguson identified the profound shift in taste that the logic of this proposition entailed when he wrote in An Essay on the History of Civil Society (1767): ‘The artless song of the savage, the heroic legend of the bard, have sometimes a magnificent beauty which no change of language can improve and no refinement of the critic reform.’ Robert Wood, a friend whose portrait Hamilton painted, travelled the Aegean to compare landscape and poetry and so prove Blackwell was right: Homer did indeed record the world he knew. Hamilton faced a challenge however: where to find a style to illustrate an age, according to Blackwell, ‘so unaffected and simple . . . that the folds and windings of the human breast lay open to the eye.’ The Abbé Peter Grant described ‘Andromache Bewailing the Death of Hector’ as ‘the best piece of modern painting I have ever seen’. Hamilton’s picture clearly looked novel in spite of its classical vocabulary and we must suppose that its unique style really was intended to match this radical vision of the primitive age of Homer. If so, it was indeed modern and the first of many essays in neo-primitivism in the subsequent history of modern art. It was also exactly contemporary with that more famous essay in this novel mode, the pseudo-archaic language that James MacPherson invented for Ossian. Fingal, the first of the six books of Ossian, was also published in 1761. It is hard to believe that this conjunction of dates was pure coincidence. MacPherson attended Marischal College, Aberdeen, where Thomas Blackwell
was principal. Hamilton was at a greater distance, but at Glasgow University, Francis Hutcheson, father of the philosophy of moral sense, had also introduced the study of Greek. Hamilton remained a lifelong student of Homer. As a friend of Robert Wood, new ideas about the bard of preliterate antiquity would not have passed him by. Blackwell was clear that to emulate Homer, we had to start afresh: ‘Our first business when we set down to poetise in high strains is to unlearn our daily way of life,’ he wrote. Hamilton took his advice. There is very little of the 18th century in his six compositions; with neither baroque diagonals, nor rococo flourishes, space is stable and shallow; the figures relate clearly to the picture plane. Poussin may well have had a part in this, but figure scale, the most striking feature of Hamilton’s compositions, is completely at odds with Poussin’s controlled classicism. Indeed, this and the enormous size of his paintings (approximately three metres by four) could almost have been intended to distance him from Poussin. Here, however, Hamilton does follow the Earl of Shaftesbury who, in his imagined painting of The Judgement of Hercules, recommends the figures should be ‘as big, or bigger than the common Life; the subject being of the Heroick kind, and requiring rather such figures as should appear above ordinary human stature.’ Hamilton’s initial stimulus for a new kind of history painting may have been Hogarth’s ‘Paul before Felix’ which had
been installed at Lincoln’s Inn in London just before he returned from Rome in 1750. Like Hogarth, too, he certainly looked closely at the Raphael tapestry cartoons. His pictures are near, both in size and proportion, to the three smallest of them. Excepting a notable Greek Doric temple, the town in the background of ‘Hector’s Farewell to Andromache’ is also clearly a variation on the city in Raphael’s ‘Paul Preaching at Athens’. Nevertheless, Hamilton’s pictures are not really Raphaelesque and, indeed, he himself directs us to look elsewhere for his inspiration. Years later, according to Canova’s biographer, Melchior Missirini, Hamilton advised the young Canova to look at the work of Nicola Pisano, Ghiberti and Jacopo della Quercia. In his relief of the ‘Death of Priam’, Canova showed that he did indeed look at Nicola Pisano and the influence of the Quattrocento (the 15th century in Italian culture) is also clear throughout his work — consider the relationship of his ‘Three Graces’ to Botticelli’s ‘Primavera’, for instance. Hamilton, however, went on to tell Canova that, in art, Nicola Pisano had brought about ‘un maraviglioso miglioramento’ — ‘a wonderful improvement.’ He had evidently already also passed on this remarkable insight to other young artists. Alexander Runciman and James Barry were friends and disciples of Hamilton in Rome and both clearly quote from Nicola Pisano’s Pisa pulpit – Runciman in ‘The Death of Oscar’ for Penicuik House and Barry in ‘King Lear’. Scottish Art News | FEATURES | 33
‘Hamilton’s figures are simplified and massive, more as Giotto’s are than anything from the High Renaissance. Like Giotto’s too, their volume is suggested by simple draperies. Nothing flutters. The figures are separate and dominate their setting’
If Hamilton advised Runciman, Barry and Canova to look at Nicola Pisano, why should he not have followed his own advice? And it seems he did. There are figures in his Homer pictures which suggest he had looked closely at his work. A heavily bearded man to the right of the crucifixion on the Pisa pulpit is echoed in a similarly bearded man to the right of ‘Andromache Bewailing the Death of Hector’. In ‘Priam Pleading before Achilles’, too, the kneeling, almost prostrate figure of Priam is very close to a kneeling king in the ‘Adoration of the Magi’ on Pisano’s pulpit in Siena. Hamilton’s monumental canvases, though, are quite unlike Nicola Pisano’s crowded compositions. They are, however, in several rather striking ways similar to Giotto’s frescoes in the Scrovegni – or Arena – Chapel in Padua. He must have seen the chapel. In 1750, returning to Britain, he travelled to Venice. On the homeward journey, he was bound to pass through Padua. If he had the insight to recognise the importance of Nicola Pisano, he would hardly have passed by such an important monument of the early Renaissance. Giotto’s frescoes are immensely impressive and, adapting Blackwell on the age of Homer, you could say they are ‘so unaffected and simple . . . that the folds and windings of the human breast lie open to the eye’. Correspondingly, they are utterly unlike anything fashionable in the 18th century. Notably too, they are organised in lucid ranges of six equal scenes. Seeing their austere beauty might have been a eureka moment for Hamilton and it was perhaps Giotto more than Hogarth who, as
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a friend reported a year later in London, led him to neglect the portraits that were supposed to be his living ‘to dream, instead, of fine pictures.’ He returned to Rome to carry out his dream in 1756. Hamilton’s figures are simplified and massive, more as Giotto’s are than anything from the High Renaissance. Like Giotto’s too, their volume is suggested by simple draperies. Nothing flutters. The figures are separate and dominate their setting. Where that is landscape, it is schematic as in Giotto. In contrast to the restless movements of the baroque, the figures are static. Rhetorical gestures indicate their place in the narrative clearly and simply just as they do in Giotto’s frescoes. Though it is reversed, a comparison of ‘Andromache Bewailing the Death of Hector’ with Giotto’s ‘Lamentation’ in the Arena Chapel might bear witness to this connection. In the fresco there is a seated figure at Christ’s head as there is by Hector’s head in Hamilton’s picture. In a curious detail, too, a figure leaning over Christ’s body isolates his feet in Giotto’s work. Andromache isolates Hector’s in just the same way in Hamilton’s painting. This also happens in Poussin’s second ‘Extreme Unction’, and it has often been remarked how Hamilton’s picture resembles Poussin’s, though again reversed, but Poussin mitigates this odd effect with shadow. As she kisses Hector, Andromache’s action also combines the figure leaning over Christ with her back to us with the head of the woman embracing him. Both compositions are also closed by standing figures.
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Giotto is so seminal to all that followed that it would be impossible fully to isolate his influence on Hamilton. Hamilton did, however, have the authority of both Vasari and GP Bellori to return to first principles. Vasari’s idea of the Renaissance has shaped all art history, but later, in Le vite de’ pittori, scultori et architetti moderni, published in 1672, Bellori restated the idea in a modern context. In his life of Annibale Carracci, he describes how with the birth of Annibale, art that was ‘fallen and nearly extinct’ (‘caduta e quasi estinta’) rose again. Hamilton’s rejection of the baroque, then universal in history painting, was as complete as Annibale’s rejection of mannerism. Hamilton certainly admired Giudo Reni, Domenichino and Poussin, all part of this second renaissance, but if he was planning his own new renaissance, he had the authority of Vasari also to look much further back to the earliest pioneers of the first. That is what he seems to have done and indeed, in his history of the Accademia di San Luca, Melchior Missirini, in words that echo Bellori’s, attributes to Hamilton just such a new renaissance. ‘About the middle of the last century,’ he writes, ‘through Gavino (Hamilton) . . . and his sublime invention (‘la sublmità dell’invenzione’) . . . painting was restored’ (‘la pittura si ristorasse’). In 1761, Hamilton’s painting began the seismic changes from which modern art eventually evolved, for what his young disciples learnt from him was to go back to first principles. Barry, Runciman and Canova followed his advice to look at Nicola Pisano at the dawn of the Renaissance. Thereafter they, together with others from Hamilton’s circle – Tobias Sergel, Henry Fuseli, John Brown, Jacques-Louis David and later, amongst others following their example, John Flaxman, William Blake in Britain, JD Ingres and Paul Duqueylar in France, (the latter associated with a group called Les Primitifs) – all sought to create a new, primitive art. Publication of the catalogue of Sir William Hamilton’s collection of Greek vases offered a new model of primitive simplicity — they were believed to survive from the age of Homer. Nevertheless, it seems the artists closest to Gavin Hamilton first followed his advice to look at the artists known as the Italian Primitives. Notably too, William Roscoe, the first significant collector of Italian Primitives in Britain, was a friend and patron of Henry Fuseli. The idea of this pre-Raphaelite inspiration endured through Blake and the Nazarenes to the PreRaphaelites themselves. More importantly though, a return to first principles remained the driving idea of modern art down to the 20th century. Duncan Macmillan is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Edinburgh, an art critic and art historian
‘In 1760, Hamilton’s painting began the seismic changes from which modern art eventually evolved, for what his young disciples learnt from him was to go back to first principles’
1 Gavin Hamilton, Hector’s Farewell to Andromache, 1774 - 1785. Image courtesy the Hunterian Museum & Art Gallery, University of Glasgow 2 Raphael Cartoon, Paul Preaching at Athens. Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019. Image courtesy of V&A 3 Gavin Hamilton, Andromache Bewailing the Death of Hector, about 1759. Photo © Antonia Reeve. Image courtesy of National Galleries of Scotland
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4 Giotto Giotto - Lamentation (The Mourning of Christ) 5 Gavin Hamilton, Achilles Lamenting the Death of Patroclus, 1760-63. Photo © Antonia Reeve. Image courtesy of National Galleries of Scotland
Gavin Hamilton painted six large pictures from the Iliad. They were planned as a set, but took him more than 20 years to complete. In order of narrative they were: ‘The Anger of Achilles at the Loss of Briseis’ (1765), ‘Achilles Lamenting the Death of Patroclus’ (1763), ‘Hector’s Farewell to Andromache’ (after 1784), ‘Achilles’ Revenge on the Body of Hector’ (1765), ‘Priam Pleading before Achilles’ (commissioned 1771) and ‘Andromache Bewailing the Death of Hector’ (1761). ‘Hector’s Farewell to Andromache’ is in the Hunterian and ‘Achilles Lamenting the Death of Patroclus’ in the National Gallery of Scotland. ‘The Anger of Achilles at the Loss of Briseis’ is at Broadlands in Hampshire, home of Viscount Palmerston who commissioned it. It is smaller than the others are (or were). Hamilton charged £150 for it, but £350 for the full-size pictures. Art historian Brendan Cassidy established that this picture, which was supposed to have disappeared, had in
fact survived (Cassidy’s The Life and Letters of Gavin Hamilton, Artist and Art Dealer in Eighteenth-Century Rome, London 2011, is indispensable.) The other three paintings are lost or are known to have been destroyed. Hamilton also painted small versions to show to prospective clients, however. ‘Priam Pleading before Achilles’ and ‘Andromache Bewailing the Death of Hector’, respectively in Tate Britain and the National Gallery of Scotland, appear to be from this set. Other small versions of his compositions are also extant but are of uncertain status. Hamilton planned to have all his paintings engraved by Domenico Cunego. It would have been poor salesmanship to publish the engraving before the picture was commissioned. Five engravings were made, but the project petered out and the print of the last picture to be painted, ‘Hector’s Farewell to Andromache’, was apparently never made.
Scottish Art News | FEATURES | 37
DAVID ROBERTS on Bruce McLean
David Roberts is a Scottish collector of contemporary art and founder of DRAF (David Roberts Art Foundation). Roberts began acquiring artwork in the early 1990s, and his collection now consists of more than 2000 works by over 800 artists. Here, he tells Scottish Art News about one of the collection’s standout pieces
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Bruce McLean’s ‘Pose Piece for Three Plinths Work’ started life in 1971 as a performance that hardly anybody saw and was made almost by accident. At the time, McLean (b.1944) had a solo exhibition at the London gallery Situation, where he changed the content of the show almost daily. When the exhibition first opened, he used 40-odd plinths, borrowed from the Tate. These were returned, except for three left behind, and as McLean explained, he ‘just got onto the plinths and thought to make a work for the plinths. Someone has taken photographs of me doing this.’ While these photographs were originally made as documentation of an event, they became a work in their own right when McLean decided to put all 15 of them on the wall as part of the same evolving exhibition at Situation. ‘Pose Piece for Three Plinths Work’ is a standout piece in my collection. I am proud that since its inception in 2007, the David Roberts Art Foundation (DRAF) has actively presented and supported performance work in its myriad of forms. In 2013 we invited McLean to replay his performance ‘1000 works’, which formed the basis for his one day ‘retrospective’ at Tate Gallery in 1972, titled King for a Day. It was the first time I had the pleasure to meet Bruce. The performance was quite wonderful and very humorous. With his sly sensibility and subtle satire, McLean has spent five decades successfully hijacking the very formal qualities he is critiquing, and this work can still be placed on a pedestal as a prime example.
McLean considers himself a sculptor, regardless of whether the work he produces is displayed as an object, a performance or a photograph. Within this more open ‘conceptual’ understanding of what sculpture can be, the plinth stands out like a monument to sculpture’s classical past. Acknowledging symbols but undermining their normal use is a trademark of Bruce McLean’s style, where contradictions are teased out with humour and flare. In presenting a photograph-assculpture, McLean introduces another absurd conflict of definition; he has rendered a three-dimensional medium utterly flat. It is interesting that he specifically states that the sculpture was made for the plinths, rather than for an audience. To me this reverses the usual rules of performance, most often defined as something made to be experienced live, and the rules of sculpture, where an object is given value and deemed finished once it is placed on its supporting pedestal. It just so happened that this sculpture is not that good at staying still, as McLean himself makes it a living, breathing material. So, here is yet another contradiction; this sculpture is alive, it is
live sculpture. Partly thanks to McLean, sculptural language has been written into the history of performance. ‘Pose Piece for Three Plinths Work’ speaks to my interest in the history of performance, plus the fact that at DRAF our live events stand in dialogue with an object-based collection. This year DRAF was going to launch a new series of collaborations in Scotland as part of a wider initiative to work with partners across the UK. We have always been keen to take DRAF’s work beyond London and, given my own links to Scotland, along with the innovative programming and energetic artistic discourse happening there, it felt like a natural step to start talking to Scottish organisations. Those plans are on pause during the current global health crisis but we are still working behind the scenes on collaborations to develop a rich programme of collection-based exhibitions, live performances, residencies and more which I hope will give audiences a lot to get excited about. You can learn more about DRAF and explore the collection at davidrobertsartfoundation.com
Bruce McLean, Pose Piece for Three Plinths Work, 1971. Fifteen photographs mounted on card, each photograph: 10 x 15.5cm
Scottish Art News | REGULARS | 39
Following the hugely popular In Glasgow, the Gallery of now in our collection.’ GoMA have also 3 acquisition of the Mackinnon Collection in Modern Art (GoMA) has significantly acquired ‘Empire of Love’ (2020) by 2018, the National Galleries of Scotland strengthened its holdings by contemporary Camara Taylor, which originated as a have further developed their collection artists, with recent acquisitions that commission for the GoMA exhibition of photographs, acquiring six c-type build on strands of work from the gallery Domestic Bliss and three works from prints from Chris Leslie’s acclaimed programme exploring historically Rabiya Choudhry, which featured in the ‘Disappearing Glasgow’ series. Taken marginalised voices. ‘A key project artist’s critically acclaimed solo exhibition between 2009 and 2013, they document the informing our current collecting priorities COCO!NUTS! at Transmission in 2018. changing skyline of Glasgow, as high-rise is the Art Fund New Collecting Award with 4 tower blocks are demolished to make way curatorial duo Mother Tongue,’ explains Glasgow’s city collection has also for new housing developments. The works curator Katie Bruce. This affiliation with secured a truly iconic portrait in the culture will be displayed in the upcoming Scottish Mother Tongue and the award has directly of Gaelic Scotland; ‘A Highland Chieftain: National Portrait Gallery exhibition, resulted in the acquisition of ‘Between Portrait of Lord Mungo Murray’ (c.1683) Temples to Tenements: Photographs of a whisper and cry’ (2019) by Alberta by John Michael Wright (1617–1694). Architecture, where they will be shown Whittle and the gift of three photographs The striking painting is the earliest major alongside Thomas Annan, Andreas Gursky by the artist Lisandro Suriel, following his portrait to depict a sitter full-length in and Hill and Adamson. Tilting Access fellowship in October 2019. Highland dress. Mungo Murray, aged 15, Although not supported through wears an exquisite doublet and féileadh In Scottish Art News issue 30, this New Collecting Award, other recent mór, or belted plaid in tartan that pre-dates 2 we featured Susanna Beaumont’s exciting acquisitions are related to the gallery’s the invention of kilts and clan tartans. new venture, Design Exhibition Scotland, commitment to reflect the diversity of The painting is displayed in the Scottish which champions contemporary design voices in the collection. ‘We were privileged Identity in Art gallery at Kelvingrove Art in Scotland. An early commission for the to work with Queen Jesus Productions Gallery and Museum, juxtaposed with project, the drinking fountain ‘WELL’ by on the 10th anniversary mini-season (in examples of Scottish weaponry, textiles and Tania Kovats, has now been acquired November 2019) of The Gospel According decorative art objects. A special feature by the UK Government Art Collection. to Jesus, Queen of Heaven,’ says Bruce. on the painting written by Dr Jo Meacock, The circular drinking fountain made ‘The conversations responding to the curator of British Art at Glasgow Museums, of tin-glazed earthenware tiles, each performances by Jo Clifford and Renata is available on our website. hand-painted by Kovats in cobalt blue, Carvalho (the Brazilian version of the will be installed in the reception of the play) informed the artist brief, focusing Fife Cultural Trust has recently 5 Government’s prestigious new offices in the on trans lives. The subsequent acquisition acquired a major work for their collection, Old Admiralty Building on The Mall. The of the works by Tiu Makkonen and Nat securing a striking classical scene, ‘The Fruitmarket Gallery has also commissioned Walpole are an important addition through Song of Silenus’ by Sir Joseph Noel Kovats to design a new drinking fountain the conceptual artwork – ‘queer times Paton, one of Fife’s greatest painters. as part of plans for redevelopment school prints’ – originally commissioned ‘Although we have a significant collection (read more, page 8). from the artist Jason E Bowman and of Paton’s work, our collection only contained two of his oil paintings until this recent purchase,’ explains curator Nicola Wilson. ‘This painting also filled a collection gap for us, as we didn’t have one of [Paton’s] classical mythological scenes represented within our collection.’ ‘The Song of Silenus’ will be displayed at Dunfermline Carnegie Library & Galleries next year, in a major temporary exhibition of Paton’s work to mark the bicentenary of his birth. 1
Similarly, Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museum has strengthened its holding of work by a ‘son’ of the city, acquiring ‘The Second Chef’ by Aberdonian Alberto Morrocco (1917–1998). Discussing the acquisition, curator Madeline Ward told Scottish Art News: ‘As a municipal institution, it is always important we strive to represent sons and daughters of the city in our collection . . . we have several other works by Morrocco in the collection, but this portrait stood out as something very different in terms of both style and content, giving us the opportunity to record and share with audiences how Morrocco worked in different ways over the course of his career.’ Ward cites Morrocco’s visit to the Musee de L’Orangerie in Paris in 1950–51 to see a collection of paintings of chefs, cooks, and waiters by Chaim Soutine as the inspiration for ‘The Second Chef’.
3 1 Chris Leslie, Sighthill, Glasgow, 2016. Courtesy of National Galleries of Scotland © Chris Leslie 2 Tania Kovats, ‘WELL’. Image courtesy of Design Exhibition Scotland
Museums of the University of St Andrews has purchased ‘Songlines’, an installation of 24 painted sculptures by Doug Cocker. The work impressed audiences when it was first shown at the RSA Annual Exhibition in 2019, winning the Highland Society of London Award. It now joins two smaller works by Cocker in the St Andrews’ collection; a monoprint from the Lewis Suite series (2011) and a wood relief sculpture from his Geography series. ‘Songlines’ will be displayed in the newly built Laidlaw Music Centre at the University of St Andrews, where it will be available to both public and university audiences.
5 Sir Joseph Noel Paton, The Song of Silenus © Fife Cultural Trust 6 Alberto Morrocco, The Second Chef © Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museum
7 3 Doug Cocker, Alberta Whittle, Between a Songlines © Museums of the Whisper, Perfomance set up University of St Andrews 2019. Courtesy of Glasgow Life
4 John Michael Wright, A Highland Chieftain: Portrait of Lord Mungo Murray c.1683 © Glasgow Museums
Scottish Art News highlights the latest acquisitions to enter Scottish collections 40 | ART
Scottish Art News | REGULARS | 41
Lines from Scotland REVIEWS
Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries Until 25 October The pen-pal style intimations of the title of this touring exhibition curated by Amanda Game is a very gentle doubleedged sword for the broad exploration of drawing it covers. The old-school stencil font of each label for the 23 cross-generation artists puts stylistic and symbolic faith in its craft, particularly in relation to the natural world. Things start simply enough, with Elizabeth Blackadder’s quick-fire capture of ‘Edinburgh in View of North Bridge’ (1972) and three drawings by Carol Rhodes, ‘Factory Roof and Countryside’ (2001–02), ‘Reservoir’ (1999) and ‘Wharf (1999)’, all so much more than studies for paintings. Blackadder returns later, with reciprocal portraits by and of Blackadder, and her husband, the artist John Houston, that capture the relaxation of marital bliss at its best. The exhibition’s brief expands by way of musician Inge Thomson and artist Deirdre Nelson, who weave together traditional and contemporary concerns 42 | ART
with song, knitted hats and musical notations reflecting the handcrafted knitting patterns of her mother and grandmother. There is music too from Hanna Tuulikki and High Heels and Horse Hair, aka violin and cello duo Sonia Cromarty and Alice Rickards. Separate works named ‘TRANSPLANTED: Heartsease’ (2014), respond to baroque composer James Oswald’s Airs for the Seasons, a set of 96 mini sonatas for violin and cello, each depicting a different plant or flower. Where Cromarty and Rickards have recorded a new composition, Tuulikki has drawn a visual score, in which two plant-shaped swirls of notation float in space. Hearts and flowers, indeed Elsewhere, there is elementallooking jewellery by Dorothy Hogg, and pithy animation by David Shrigley commissioned by Pringle knitwear. Lizzie Sanders’ meticulous text-book watercolours of leaves and shoots contrasts with Rory McEwen’s 1970s black and white etchings
of something similar. This fits with Frances Walker’s ‘Storm Beach Fank’ (2000–01), two solitary studies of rock formations on isolated islands. Three pieces by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham similarly see the land pulse with swirls of energy from unknown forces. In Lucy Skaer’s ‘Available Fonts’ (2017), three church-like wall-hangings patterned with compressed and shrunken versions of much larger images are collated with others to make a monumental display. Thomas A Clark and Laurie Clark’s series of small cards are accompanied by haiku-like meditations that recall shades of Ian Hamilton Finlay. Hamilton Finlay’s postcard, zigzag book and silkscreen print, ‘PROEM’ (1977–98) are as beguiling as Andy Goldsworthy’s own scorched earth look at the relationship between human beings and nature. Best of all is the industrial-domestic detritus of Norma Starszakowna’s wall-mounted collages that looks bashed into shape and surviving its way into the future.
Neil Cooper is a writer and critic based in Edinburgh Lines from Scotland Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries, 1 Abbot St, Dunfermline KY12 7NL T: (0)1383 602365 | fcac.co.uk/event/ lines-from-scotland-in-dunfermline Open: Monday to Wednesday & Friday 10am–5pm, Thursday 10am–7pm, Saturday & Sunday 10am–4pm
1 Frances Walker, Storm Beach Fank, 2001. Lent by Frances Walker: Artist’s Collection. Photo © Mike Davidson 2 Hanna Tuulikki, Heartsease visual score from the TRANSPLANTED project with High Heels and Horse Hair; 2014. Photo courtesy of the artist
3 Elizabeth Blackadder, Portrait of John Houston, c.1956. Lent by the Houston-Blackadder Collection, photo © Annabel Stansfeld 4 Norma Starszakowna, Graffiti Shutters, Lochee, 2019. Lent by the artist. Photo © Andy Taylor 5 Tom Clark, of other things. lent by the artist, photo © Bruce Pert
Scottish Art News | REVIEWS | 43
Sylvia Wishart: Orkney Drawings 1968–1977
Frances Scott: Undertow
1 Sylvia Wishart: Orkney Drawings 1968–1977 cover. Image, courtesy of Pier Arts Centre 2&3 Frances Scott, Undertow. Images courtesy of the artist
The poet Edwin Muir, writing about his childhood in Orkney, which was interrupted by relocation to the central belt at age 14, recalled: ‘I was born before the industrial revolution, and am now about two hundred years old. But I have skipped a hundred and fifty of them . . . In 1751 I set out from Orkney for Glasgow. When I arrived I found that it was not 1751, but 1901.’ Whatever we make of Muir’s yearning for a pre-modern arcadia, Orcadian writers and artists have often expressed a sense of conflict between the rhythms of island existence and the urban milieux which drew them southwards. From George Mackay Brown’s novels to the sad Edinburgh street scenes of Margaret Tait’s 1964 film Where I Am Is Here, Orkney often seems an idyll under threat when inhabited, an irretrievable memory when left behind. Sylvia Wishart and Frances Scott were born on Mainland, Orkney, in 1936 and 1991 respectively, and their visual responses to the archipelago reveal the same combination of intense scrutiny and loving familiarity, perhaps sharpened by a sense of the landscapes’ openness (not 44 | ART
to say vulnerability) to impinging wider realities. Wishart trained in Aberdeen in the 1950s before returning home to settle in Kirkwall, where in 1969 she was invited by local businessman William Tait (Margaret’s brother) to illustrate a commercial calendar for J & W Tait’s customers, celebrating the islands’ landscapes and landmarks. More calendars followed across the 1970s. The results, mostly in pen ink, and wash, have now been reprinted by the Pier Arts Centre, with skilfully layered annotations provided by Bryce Wilson. Curator Andrew Parkinson notes in his introduction that ‘each drawing documents a moment of beholding that Wishart experienced . . . interpreting through her individual eye, mind and hand a deeply held image of place.’ Given their commercial function, it’s remarkable how these drawings relay that sense of imaginative possession, the lines, dots, and cross-hatchings often seeming to gather themselves around a central point – generally an architectural or natural landmark – before trailing off into blank space at the edge of the page, like markers
of a rising and receding reverie. If early images of Rackwick Valley and the like are the most effective in conveying that sense of temporary interlocking with place, later drawings reveal a draughtswoman’s precision: the farmhouse roofs and gables of the mid-1970s are wonderfully, architectonically exact. In a small number of late coloured crayon works, we witness the emergence of the scratchier, more dream-like style familiar from Wishart’s landscape paintings. Frances Scott is part of the Móti collective, a group of artists located literally or imaginatively in Orkney, producing visual and process-based responses to the islands which place them loosely in the tradition of British Land Art Undertow is the product of an ongoing project to walk the entire coastline of the islands over several years, recorded through GPS tracking, photography, handannotated maps, and logged details such as walk distance and duration, and notable experiences. The heritage of this work is long-form, time-bound conceptual art but Scott’s book places her photographic practice front and centre, with notes and
digital sketches based on GPS tracks scattered throughout. There is a wonderful crispness to the images, and a sense of openness to the layering of older and contemporary landscapes, structures and littoral detritus that is highly refreshing. Idylls aside, an awareness of islands as places of flux – of arrival from, and departure to, the world beyond – will surely be essential to the future survival of archipelagic art. Reactionary attachments to the island as cocoon or time-capsule usually end in creative atrophy. Artists like Scott will be vital to keeping the Orcadian tradition alive and breathing. Greg Thomas is a critic and editor based in Glasgow
‘Each drawing documents a moment of beholding that Wishart experienced . . . interpreting through her individual eye, mind and hand a deeply held image of place’
Sylvia Wishart: Orkney Drawings 1968-1977 Published by the Pier Arts Centre, £25, pierartscentre.com Frances Scott: Undertow Published by Another Place Press, £17, anotherplacepress.bigcartel.com Scottish Art News | REVIEWS | 45
Alistair Peebles: The Gledfield Effect Greg Thomas
1/2/3 Images courtesy of Alistair Peebles and Brae Editions
In the spring of 1965, Ian Hamilton Finlay and his collaborator and partner Sue Finlay left Edinburgh for the village of Ardgay, on the shores of the Dornoch Firth in the Highlands. Finlay would not return to the Scottish capital for three decades. His time in Edinburgh, where he had moved in the late 1950s, had been punctuated by bouts of nervous illness, psychiatric treatment and restless movement between addresses. The relocation to Ardgay, therefore – or rather to a large, two-storey farmhouse just inland of the village, on the grounds of Gledfield Estate – was undoubtedly the start of a healing process. It was also arguably the point of origin for the evolution of Finlay’s practice from literature into visual art. By 1965, he was already the most celebrated British exponent of the international style known as concrete poetry, whereby words and language-forms were arranged visually on the page. But settling on a large rural estate, with the grounds and wall-space – not to mention the peaceful ambience – required to realise his visual-linguistic constructions in three dimensions, was clearly revelatory. 46 | ART
The Finlays’ time in Ardgay was cut short by quarrels with their landlord, and by the following summer they had moved out, living briefly in rural Fife before settling in September 1966 at Stonypath Farmhouse in the Pentland Hills, now widely known as Little Sparta. But the year at Gledfield Farmhouse nonetheless proved creatively rich. Indeed, it was here that Finlay’s vision of a poet’s garden first began to find concrete and organic expression: ponds were dug, much like those that now enclose the vistas at Little Sparta, and his first large-scale sculptural and land-based works were constructed. Finlay also created wallmounted versions of at least two concrete poems, To the Painter, Juan Gris and Acrobats, using cork letters grouted to the farmhouse’s harled outer walls. Both poems had been published on the page, but the latter was specifically devised as a mural poem, while To the Painter, Juan Gris had been reworked in sandblasted glass the previous year, an early example of Finlay’s realisation of single poems across multiple contexts and media.
Alistair Peebles’ Orkney-based imprint Brae Editions has now created a beautiful memorial to the transportive poetic environment that Finlay began to create at Gledfield. The Gledfield Effect appears as part of the second instalment of Posted/Unposted, a multi-part book-art series curated by Codex Polaris, designed to showcase the work of small presses in Scandinavia, and latterly Britain, using creative letterpress techniques. Peebles’ contribution makes use of both the deep critical and biographical knowledge he has accrued over a decade or more’s research on Finlay – lithely relayed in the illustrated essay, ‘One Has to Work at a Place . . .’, that accompanies the publication – and his affinity as a publisher for the minimalist craft aesthetics of Finlay’s own Wild Hawthorn Press. The premise is simple but beautiful: a translucent envelope, reverse embossed with the title phrase, contains a set of four colour photographs of the house and surrounding landscape, printed on card, with front-sheets of seethrough glassine superimposing poems or quotes of Finlay’s from the Gledfield
era onto the images. The concept is most arrestingly realised in the case of Finlay’s two wall-poems, which appear perfectly positioned on the front and side-walls of the farmhouse, only to be peeled away by a turn of the page: a fitting homage to Finlay’s creative utilisation of the physical dynamics of reading through his 1960s booklet-poems, and a poignant evocation of a creative endeavour abandoned, or at least deferred. What is most startling about the photographs, however, is that the rectangular patches of smooth plaster applied as backings for the poems remain clearly visible on Gledfield’s walls, evoking the house’s brief conversion into a temple of poetry (until Peebles’ discovery of these last year, received critical wisdom was that no physical evidence of Finlay’s residence at the house survived there). This book crystallises the atmosphere of benign ghostly possession that still pervades the environs of Gledfield, and serves as a final creative reworking of two of Finlay’s iconic early works.
Greg Thomas is a critic and editor based in Glasgow Alistair Peebles: The Gledfield Effect Published by Brae Editions, 2020, braeeditions.com
‘The year at Gledfield Farmhouse nonetheless proved creatively rich. Indeed, it was here that Finlay’s vision of a poet’s garden first began to find concrete and organic expression: ponds were dug, much like those that now enclose the vistas at Little Sparta, and his first large-scale sculptural and land-based works were constructed’ Scottish Art News | REVIEWS | 47
SCOTTISH ART NEWS DIARY 48 | ART
Edinburgh Alan Davie: Beginning of a far-off World Dovecot Studios January–February 2021 dates tbc W: dovecotstudios.com Major centenary celebration of the life and work of Scottish Artist Alan Davie (1920–2014). Curated by recent University of Edinburgh graduate Siobhan McLaughlin, the exhibition will display works from each decade of Davie’s artistic life and provide a unique opportunity to view previously unexhibited works. Birthday Flowers for Dame Elizabeth Blackadder The Scottish Gallery Until 26 September W: scottish-gallery.co.uk An exhibition of floral, garden and botanical work in watercolour and print by Elizabeth Blackadder, during the month of her 89th birthday. Caroline Walker: Janet Ingleby Gallery 3 October–18 December W: inglebygallery.com Caroline Walker is known for her paintings of women at work, but for the exhibition at Ingleby Gallery she brings this subject even closer to home. Her most recent works on canvas depict her mother undertaking daily domestic tasks.
Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern Two) 24 October 2020– 5 September 2021 W: nationalgalleries.org Major exhibition of the art of trailblazer Harryhausen, who elevated stop-motion to an artform from the 1950s–1980s, and whose movies inspired a generation of the world’s greatest living filmmakers.
Around Scotland A Love Letter to Dundee: Joseph McKenzie Photographs 1964–1987 McManus Art Gallery and Museum, Dundee Until 24 October 2021 W: mcmanus.co.uk An exhibition of black and white photographs by the ‘father of modern Scottish photography’ Joseph McKenzie, which were taken over an almost 20-year period and document the changing landscape of Dundee and its people. Lines from Scotland Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries Until 25 October Celebrating the art of Scottish drawing and connections to the country, featuring Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Elizabeth Blackadder, Andy Goldsworthy, Hanna Tuulikki and more. Read review page 42.
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ICONS II: John Bellany Perth Museum and Art Gallery Until 31 October The latest exhibition in the gallery’s ICONS series celebrates John Bellany, bringing together works from the artist’s long career including ‘The Kiss’, ‘The Bellany Family’ and ‘Fishing Boat Poseidon in Harbour’. At the centre is one of the best-known works of Bellany’s career, ‘The Boat Builders’, a painting rarely seen in public. Mary Quant Dundee V&A Until 17 January 2021 W: vam.ac.uk/dundee This is the first international retrospective of the iconic British designer who disrupted the fashion establishment, captured the spirit of London in the 1960s, and started a fashion revolution that a whole generation wanted to take part in – and still continues today.
Scotland Elsewhere The Glasgow Boys & Girls The Granary Gallery, Berwick-upon-Tweed 5 September–15 November W: berwickvisualarts.co.uk The exhibition, organised by the Fleming Collection, brings together nearly 30 paintings and watercolours, including works from every significant member of the group, and focuses on the period between 1880 and 1895, when the Glasgow Boys and Girls were at the height of their creativity.
CONTEMPORARY ART SINCE 1842
LACHLAN GOUDIE Once Upon A Time 28 October - 25 November 2020 catalogue available | virtual viewing room
The Wild Wood, Berwickshire, 2020, oil on board, 90 x 100 cm