131st Annual Exhibition Unit 43A & 54, The Piazza, Central Way, Paisley 7 September – 20 October 2019
PAI: A yearly occurrence of something exceptional. When entering the non-traditional quite unassuming previous supermarket space, you are swiftly immersed into a varying world of art. The once former home of Paisley School of Design (now the Piazza shopping Centre), where PAI was founded. Welcoming back the institution to its original foundations feels like the perfect alternative to the current refurbishing of the Museum and Gallery. The many people who pass through the shopping centre probably don’t expect much more from there weekly shopping ventures but as you take a peek into the exhibition venue you can’t help but be curious. This is an amazing way to grab people’s attention who usually don’t go to exhibitions, to see the incredible array of artist works on display in the centre of paisley. The continual choice to have open entrants is a great opportunity which allows younger or new artists to exhibit alongside already established, well-renowned artists and PAI members.
The section of the Gallery with 3 walls of portraiture is truly breathtaking; the distinct, varying processes and interpretations of a portrait, side by side, which both complements and contradicts the other. It is a really professionally curated show. In a room full of 476 pieces of art it’s difficult not to be overwhelmed. Amongst the many, what stands out to me is the dreamy and dramatic city/landscapes. This is when I become fully immersed and forget my surroundings.
On the lines of dreamy art, the work of Bryan Evans, definitely does not fall short of this. This particular piece is near Kinning Park underground station in the Southside of Glasgow. There is a real sense of familiarity to a person like myself, who grew up in Scotland, with the ‘rain-soaked’ streets and tenements of Glasgow at night. It reminds me of walking home after a hard day of work, its chucking it down, but you see the glow of warmth and home in the distance. Although some may dread the sight of rain, there is also something rather endearing about it. Evans captures this perfectly with the stunning combination of colours and textures created by the rain – this is emphasised with his use of watercolour. So, if you happen to find yourself in Paisley, in the rain, this is a perfect place to take shelter and absorb some of Scotland’s best portraiture, sculpture, still life, landscape, visual art and also VR!
A new configuration of Collective Endeavors performed at the iconic Glasgow Art Club on 20th September to coincide with Glasgow Open Doors. Their line up consisted of new dancer Molly Danter and new violinist Elana Inei working alongside one of the founders Jer Reid. Reid and Solene Weinachter set up Collective Endevours eight years ago. Nerea Gurrugtxaga and Molly Danter took us on a wordless journey where all sorts of themes and human emotions were enacted to a sold-out captivated audience.
What a great venue for this throbbing, experimental and haunting experience. Nerea and Molly entered from different sides of the audience dancing solo, interacting together and making moves that held grace in their poise and impossible body flexibility. Both these performers look young but their experience in dance is far more mature than their years.
Behind their youthful faces lies a plethora of knowledge, experience and control showing wisdom beyond their years. Gurrugtxaga from Basque country in Northern Spain was an artist in residence in Kinning Park Complex three years ago. Her isolation ( movement of one part of the body independently from the rest) is incredible to witness. Molly Danter (ShoreditchYouth Dance Company and London Contemporary Dance School) was phenomenal in her physicality and ability to envision the most complex forms with her body and make it look painless and ethereal.
Full body extension dancing when linked with the barefoot guitarist Reid was a surprise. We saw the two join together in an intense embrace and the juxtaposition of the movement and melody became one. They entwined in a cross-disciplinary marriage that was fleeting yet mesmerizing. The dancers reconnected with each other as we entered the next chapter of the performance. The disjointedness was elegant and surreal. Also meditative like tai chi grounding us in the human experience, making us slow down and savour the moment; giving in to the performance. A playful atmosphere changes dramatically as the violinist creates a thumping crescendo which in turn heightens the pace of the bass notes of Reid’s guitar. The dancers run, chase and jump on each other and through the crowd. Elea Inei abstractly plays alongside Reid’s experimental guitar. The pulsing rhythms of the extraordinary music pulls the viewer into a sense of comfortability only to be thrown into chaos mirroring life’s rich tapestry. If you would like to see Collective Endeavours next performance check out their website: Cemusicdance.co.uk.
Falkirk’s inaugural Arts festival looks like its been going for years. Relaxed, friendly, and informative, artists and craftsy folk take over the streets of Falkirk with aplomb and bombast. Visiting the Falkirk Sewing studio in Callendar Square shopping Centre (Venue 15) with an agenda, I wanted to use the services of furniture restorer Honey Georgina Lyon. She is one of many artisans who rent a space within a space in the shopping centre, brainchild of Uatandua Kahere, a young entrepreneur with a ready smile and can do attitude.
After leaving my chair with Lyons I got chatting with Jaya’s Clay (Jaya Navindgi) who has been making murals with her unique clay recipe from India for over twenty years. Navindgi runs classes in pottery mural/3D picture making and she was happy to stop her work and show examples of her students work in progress.Roya, an art restorer has found her inspiration for her abstract Kandinsky like paintings from Kahere’s patchwork and unique take on kiltmaking with foreign flags. This is the first upcycled Union Jack that I truly appreciated. Vintage Eva has been experimenting with encaustic art and her postcard sized pieces are cute and a throwback to the nineties when a fair percent of the artistic community were brandishing irons and wax.
Over in Venue 5 Howgate Shopping Centre you can enthuse over Galyna Lee who is a self taught artist with a love of elephants. Having lived in Scotland for the last twelve years she uses mixed media and photography to portray and explore her love of animals and landscape. Rhona Morrisons range of work is a stand out at the Falkirk Arts Festival. The Cumbernauld based artist returned to creating work when she retired in 2018 after working in the NHS for over 30 years as a consultant forensic psychologist. Her work is worlds away from her former career path. Dr Morrison’s practice utilizes a wide range of mediums, ranging from felting, acrylic and pen and ink but for me the pieces that stand out at the monochromatic watercolours of various scottish locations. These clean and beautifully executed images are a must see. A selection of her work can be found in Venue 11 ( Corner Cafe, 9 Kirk Wynd).
Summing up I would say that this Arts festival has started off well organised , clearly signposted and if this is the start of a symbiotic relationship with Falkirk and the rest of Scotland then it is in good stead to keep its friendly atmosphere as it organically grows into a bigger monster hopefully as successful as the Kelpies.
North of Princes Street, in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town, hangs the work Keith Epps an Edinburgh based painter in his first Solo Exhibition. While this collection of work is a far step from his early figurative drawings, he still manages to include them, lurking within the undergrowth providing a dark and unsettling surprise to the onlooker. Epps was lead to Landscapes through his fascination with clouds.
One word would describe this painting perfectly. Lush. This is also a beautiful representation of Epp’s creative process. This is not one reference image – rather a collection of images amalgamated together to produce one cohesive and jaw-dropping piece. 3 references were used in total, the first; the luscious green valley stretching out is the Devil’s Kneading Trough in Kent, the Isle of Arran can be seen in the distance at the very edge of the Horizon line and the dark section is a section of the Moorfoot Hills. Together they create an all-encompassing image that sings of birdsong, fresh air and of summer. Within the gorgeous valley lies a hidden interloper, whose presence is alluded in the title. I feel the original inclusion of a figure (in this case Miss Muffet of nursery rhyme fame) would have taken away from the nature of the piece, but having the spider hidden within the corner gives the onlooker a far more natural and menacing narrative.
In “Low Sun- Lomond Hills” we see a greying cloud gathering above the peaks of East and West Lomond, an everyday sight for the locals of Fife and the east coast. The cloud is what slowly grabs your eye, giving a sense of foreboding before working its way down towards the unusual peaks of the Lomond Hills. You initially think the painting is void of human presence until you notice the 3 dark figures in the right corner, hiding within beauty, a recurring element within Epps’ work. There’s a softness and a movement like quality to this piece, upon research the reference was taken from a train from Perth to Edinburgh and explains that flatness and lack of texture that makes it feel like a memory. I get a feeling of nostalgia with this piece as these are the hill I would play on as a child having grown up in the village at the foot of these hills, and with the absence of the street lights, the greying clouds were often an indicator to head home for cover.
Talk with the Artist
Nipping into the Open Eye Gallery, I stumbled across this exhibition. Realizing that the artist was there in the gallery, we shared a joyous conversation on cloud-spotting and beautiful countryside.
The artist, Keith, talked of ruined tanks and clouds for contrasts. He was thinking about the bad and the good, a sort of Yin and Yang. The newsreels of Yugoslavia in the 90s resonated the light and darkness of the situation, just like the classical idea of “Et in arcadia ego”.
Keith spoke of his time after graduating from Edinburgh College of Art as he drifted into working as furniture restorer till 2005. He resumed painting part-time in 2007. This exhibition is a culmination of his work from that period till now. His meticulous draughtsmanship is not to be missed.
Billcliffe Gallery, Glasgow Until the 24th September, 2019
I recently visited the Billcliffe Gallery to view a solo painting show by a young artist and recent Gray’s School of Art graduate, David Rae. The show was a collection of oil on canvas paintings depicting photorealist scenes of various landscapes. Housing derelict buildings, football goal posts and golf courses. At first glance the images may appear cold and alienating through their lack of human figures occupying these environments. However, on further inspection, the nuanced themes of nostalgia and a distinct care for preserving memory became more apparent. Walking around the gallery I found myself caught studying the small details. Reading the canvases as though they were stories of a time gone by. Glimpses into a mind that has been left abandoned and untouched. Only to be rediscovered, with a renewed sense of care that can only be had at a distance. The viewer is also reminded of the all-consuming power of nature. Claiming dominance above any human intervention on the landscape. And a return to the artificial, as the inevitable gears of change kick into action. The show left me feeling hopeful and satisfied with a new appreciation for the power of contemporary landscape painting.
In ‘Goals remake’ we see two goal posts at either side of the canvas with a broken rope still tied to one and draping across the green football pitch. Described in warm, lemon-lime hues. In the periphery we see another set of goalposts, this time still intact, offering a small rectangular point of focus at the centre of the canvas. We are drawn into a sense of calm contemplation. Like a melancholy thought pulling you into a daydream. The vast sky above is applied with a flat tone of neutral grey. It is taking up two-thirds of the image and allowing the viewer to ease into Rae’s mind as the boundary between our world and his is being dismantled. Personally, this work felt like the right place to start viewing the paintings from, heading clockwise around the gallery. The artist’s handling of oil paint comes across varied, balanced and thoughtful. With small dry marks complementing the dominant flatness.
The 19th hole 2, seemed to act as the home base when considering the body of work as a metaphor of a journey into the mind. The viewer is offered a chance to stand back and think about the bigger picture. Quite literally, as I had to take several steps back to view the image in its entirety. For a moment I am reminded of the work of Andrew Wieth, with an almost spiritual aura created through such close attention to detail. Here, a balanced composition is paired with varying rhythms of dark and light areas of colour. This approach pulls us in and back out of the image as we scan its surface, giving it a pulse. The contrasting textures demonstrated in Rae’s painting vocabulary, causing the viewer to feel focused and switched on. A path lines the bottom third of the foreground, again reaffirming ideas of a journey or voyage. We see themes of the old and new, illustrated in the beams at either end of the central building. On the left, the supports appear to be almost crumbling in front of us. On the right, the poles seem strong and able to support the structure. Rae skilfully marries hard-edge painting in the wall cladding with the feathery technique used to create shards of glass, clinging onto the black, void-like windows. The landscape in the background seems distinctly Scottish, with rolling mountain ranges of sunshine yellows and forest greens. Conjuring images of the brain, in the lobe like structures of the hills on the left. On the right we are again released to drift into the distant peaks described in softer hues, creating perspective.
The painting ‘Shooting Target’ presents us with a yellow dream. The beautiful sky takes up half the composition, complementing the dark ground in the bottom half of the canvas. This painting offers the viewer a look into a landscape that is at the same familiar and yet unknown. Like a memory that can not be reached. Our view is blocked by a large black gate. Framed by a neat row of trees at either side – their branches, a network of neurological pathways. Densely packed separating out to a sparse new growth at each end of the gate. As our eyes attempt to read the centre point, like we were previously encouraged to in ‘Goals (remake)’, the gate disrupts our enquiry. As though we are forbidden to see the complete story. Instead, we are left to scan the image for glimpses of the copper hills in the distance. This work has a mystical quality with it’s handling of the foliage and colour choice, reminding me of an old fairytale illustration. And as such, manages to create a sense of darker undertones but without being too overtly ominous.
Passing a number of other works, depicting various dilapidated buildings, including public toilets, pubs and golf courses set into sprawling backdrops, I made my way to one of the smaller pieces in the show. ‘Creating Planet Golf’, displays the inevitable signs of change coming in over the horizon of a new day. We see the Mars-like surface of ground being leveled by a digger. As though a letting go is taking place, to allow the new it’s room to grow. Topped off by a dazzling orange sky, the painting felt like a natural progression in the narrative of the show. As the previous works toyed with the idea of impending change. My thoughts went to a post apocalyptic scene from one of the 90’s classics anime such as ‘Akira’. The intense colour creating warm highlights throughout, enables the piece to remain ambiguous in it’s mood. Allowing the viewer to set the tone for the painting by using their imagination. This seems to be a recurring strength in Rae’s work, as he manages to give us so much and still keep us searching for more. The show boasts a large selection of high-quality paintings, totaling around 20. Which, for a recent graduate’s first solo show, is very impressive. I would highly recommend a visit to the Billcliffe Gallery and a trip into the mind of this ambitious and promising young artist.
Antonio Pisanello was born in Verona, 1395 & would go on to work in Venice, Ferrara & Rome & other places (yut not Florence) as an instrumental shaping force of the early Renaissance. He is famous for his intricate medal-work & his incredibly detailed animal studies – he has painted birds as only the Japanese would have. As the fleshier Renaissance painter, as he picked up the pick-axe of Altichiero, he dug a bit deeper, observed objects more closely, individulised people more subtly, render distances with better effect, & so on. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, kinda thing.
Unfortunately, of his vast output only two frescoes, two sacred subjects & three portraits have survived. Most of these paintings bear witness to Pisanello’s interest in the courtier’s life. the fresco at Saint Anastasia in his hometown of Verona is a classic case in point, a knightly pageant to which he added a shed-load of gold, much of which has now flaked off. His portraits are heavyweight possessions – the Leonello of the Morellu Collection at Bergama, the ‘Este Princess’ in the Louvre & the ‘Lady’ in the Clarence Mackay.
There is a naive wonder to Pisanello’s work, rather like a modern child prodigy with a paintbrush. Despite drawing as well as Van Eyck, & painting almost as well, why much of Pisanello’s work was lost is a quasi-mystery. The Florence School & his lack of a connection to it may be to blame. History is written by the victor after all. But we do have enough of his ouevre left to us – like the scattered sculptures of the Younger Polykleitos – to recognize the genius of Pisanello.
Four years ago, the above painting, the Madonna of the Quail (Italian: Madonna della Quaglia), dated to 1420, was housed in the Castelvecchio Museum of Verona. The painting depicts the Madonna with Child crowned by two flying angels, sitting inside a rose garden in typical late Gothic style. The painter put a great attention in the representation of vegetables and birds, including the quail in the foreground, which gives its name to the painting. The heavenly appearance of the scene is enhanced by the gilt background. The rendering of the Madonna and her clothes resemble those of the works by Gentile da Fabriano, whose workshop Pisanello was a member of at the time. The setting is also similar to the contemporary Madonna of the Rose Garden by Michelino da Besozzo or Stefano da Verona, also in the museum of Castelvecchio.
Then it got stolen! Then it got found again! A group 17 Old Master paintings from Verona’s Castelvecchio Museum stolen in November 2015 were recovered in Ukraine. The paintings, by such artists as Peter Paul Rubens, Andrea Mantegna, Giovanni Francesco Caroto, Hans de Jode, Jacopo Bellini & of course Pisanello, are estimated to be worth €16 million ($18.3 million). The robbery had been carried out by three masked men, who entered the museum as it was closing but before the alarm system had been activated. The security guard is suspected of assisting the robbers, providing his car as a getaway vehicle. In March 2016, authorities made 12 arrests in connection to the heist. Most of the suspects were from Moldova, and the paintings were recovered just one mile from the shared border, hidden in plastic bags.
Did Shakespeare eve visit Spain the vast hiatus that were the ‘Lost Years’ of his youth (1584-88). Sir Henry Thomas writes of the ‘Tawny Spain’ phrase as found in Love’s Labour’s Lost as, ‘so apt a description of the landscape, at least in some parts of Spain & at certain seasons of the year, that it suggest personal observation. If such it really was, the trip to Spain might be a youthful escapade, for Loves Labour’s Lost is one of the earliest plays.’ Like any good tourist, Shakespeare would have availed himself of the opportunities to wander foreign caches of culture. While visiting the Court of King Phillip II in Madrid, he would observe two paintings by the great Italian renaissance painter, Titian. Their names were The Rape of Lucrece and Venus & Adonis, & the substance of each one would be utilised by Shakespeare for two long poems printed in the early 1590. On its publication in 1593, on the title page of Venus & Adonis, Shakespeare calls this poem ‘the first heir of my invention.’
A key factor in placing Shakespeare directly in front of & staring at Titian’s painting as a young man can be observed in the poet’s rejection of Ovid’s version of events, & his following of Titian instead. Like Shakespeare’s depiction, the painting has Adonis backing away from the advances of Venus, shirking Ovid’s portrayal of the young god happily embracing his bonnie suitor. ‘Fie, lifeless picture, cold and senseless stone, Well-painted idol,‘ says Venus, who around the neck of Adonis, ‘her yoking arms she throws: She sinketh down, still hanging by his neck.‘ This is just as is pictorially described by Titian, as is Shakespeare having Adonis ‘urging release… from the twining arms.’ Shakespeare also appears to be mirroring the painting when he writes, ‘O, what a war of looks was then between them!’
More evidence that Shakespeare saw the painting & wanted to recreate the story it told in words comes within the poem itself. Erwin Panofsky, in his, ‘Problems in Titian, Mostly Iconographical,‘ writes, ‘Shakespeare’s words, down to such details as the nocturnal setting and “love upon her backe deeply distrest,” sound like a poetic paraphrase of Titian’s composition,’ & gives stanza 136 as a good example;
With this he breaketh from the sweet embrace Of those faire armes which bound him to her brest, And homeward through the dark lawnd runs apace; Leaves love upon her backe, deeply distrest. Looke, how a bright star shooteth from the skye, So glides he in the night from Venus’s eye.