What does Scottish landscape mean to you? The sweeping, solitary beaches of the Hebrides? The high peaks of the Cairngorms? The abundant summer beauty of a garden? Or the brooding sky over a loch at sunset?
In The Gallery On The Corner’s new exhibition, Mist, Mud and Midges, four artists have interpreted landscapes as diverse as Rannoch Moor and the Braidburn Valley Park; each offers a unique vision of our gloriously varied country.
‘I’m striving to capture the constant shift of colour and light between land, sea and sky’
Newton Ross is a mountaineer whose research leads him into the loneliest corners of the Highlands and Islands. His paintings of misty lochs and often rain-soaked hills are so evocative that I could almost feel the midges and the damp, soft drizzle that sometimes seem inescapable on the west coast. Newton captures the essence of the light in muted tones of brown and green; in Glen Muick, the sun breaks through the clouds – but still in an uncertain, hazy, way – no sudden bolts of yellow here, just lighter greys, off-whites, and a strong sense of that point at which you need to take off your sweat-soaked waterproofs.
In Lost On Mull, the rain has stopped and the skies are clearer, but the muted tones remain; the light is subdued and gentle. Showers over Duart Bay is, for me, especially effective in conveying the spirit of this remote coastline.
In Lee Ritchie’s Pond Flowers colour is everywhere – but again it is gentle. The whites, yellows, greens and oranges of the plants at the water’s edge swirl together, but are brought into focus by four or five ox-eyed daisies, their heads boldly reaching up above the rest; at their base, a splash of orange – a butterfly perhaps? There is a feeling of spring, of new life and warmth. By the time we get to Lee’s Garden Border, everything is shooting up in a much more dramatic fashion; tiny black flowers on thin black stems, white petals on pale green stems – here there is a sense of full summer, of heat and light; the background of rusty orange and brown suggests abundance, floribunda, so much life that we see it only as an impressionistic blur in the warmth of the day.
Lee derives his paintings from landscape photography, blending the distinctions between textile, paint and print to reflect the perpetual cycle of growth and decay; more recently his work has focused on close detail, abstract and hyper-real elements. His Constellation (1) and (2) show huge dark blue skies that pale as they descend towards the hills. Stars look down on the silhouettes of sheep, tiny under the vastness of the heavens.
‘I’m fascinated by the constantly changing coastline, the power of the sea or the stillness of the shore’.
Erik Petrie’s work has an air of the abstract about it; stunning paintings of Highland beaches and lochs, skies in washes of chalky blues and whites giving a wonderful impression of light. In Rannoch Moor (my exhibition favourite) the hills are a low line of orange; in the foreground the lochside is black, and black reflections edge the bright blue water.
Kinlochbervie beautifully captures the sense of space in a remote west coast bay; the wide untrammeled sands and the little waves breaking at the shoreline, the sea changing from turquoise to blue, and in the foreground dark rocks, exposed by the low tide.
Landscape Imagined, Jean Gillespie’s magnificent pair of large scale oil paintings, move further into the abstract. Jean aims to capture the essence of the landscape through light and colour, and these works, with their marbled pinks and greys, convey the power and beauty of unseen mountains, glaciers and ravines. Jean’s versatility as an artist is shown in Shetland Marina; blues, purples and pinks combine in a lovely depiction of boats at harbour in the night-time.
Blue Edge and Silver Edgeland, both silkscreens, are fascinating; in each, one panel seems to show hands reaching out to the other (a wash of plain or mottled colour) – or could they be swimmers in a pool? A Way Through echoes this, though here there are three sections, a block of turquoise between two marbled surfaces. Submerged represents another change of theme, as many blues swirl across the canvas, down to the dark deeps below.
This is a wonderful exhibition by four highly talented and professional artists, giving a true sense of the energy and diversity of the Scottish landscape; do take time to see it before it closes on 30th July 2015.
The Gallery on the Corner is a commercial art gallery and studio providing a platform to exhibit and sell artwork produced by artists who have a physical or mental health condition: it was the first social firm developed by Autism Ventures Scotland.