“Aspects of Edinburgh” by Davy Macdonald @ Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh: portraits, landscapes and Pollock-esque abstract designs
It was ten years ago when Davy Macdonald first launched the first of annual solo exhibitions in Edinburgh and London. His work has always featured his fascination with the Gothic architecture in the Scotland’s capital and the haunting sense of history around the Old Town.
This poster image is wittily entitled “Scotch on the Rocks” – blending a tumbler of whisky and the Castle Rock.
Observing the city, past and present, here are iconic figurative scenes of a young girl clad in a fashionable tartan coat, mobile in hand. Almost oblivious to her surroundings, she is immersed in sending a quick text or taking a sneaky selfie with the Scott Monument as a backdrop. The juxtaposition of modern street life and social media against the towering presence of literary heritage creates a humorous filmic snapshot.
Asking the artist how on earth can he paint the intricate colour and checks of the girl’s coat, he quickly replies – “a pot of Tartan paint!”
Red cloaked figures within a landscape capture a quick glimpse of students, dressed in their distinctive gowns at the University of St. Andrews, on their Sunday procession to the harbour. Graceful and contemplative, reminiscent of saffron-robed Monks seen in the distance, taking the air around temples in Cambodia or Myammar.
Macdonald’s unique forte is his Heritage series, narrative paintings to illustrate and tell the story of the culture, work and lifestyle of long lost communities across Scotland.
Women take centre stage in picturesque scenes such as in “Spinning the Yarn” a fine portrait of two women, crafting the wool, their eyes squinting in the sunlight. This is from the series Harris Tweed.
Here too are the fisherwomen at Newhaven harbour, such as “At the End of the Day” illustrating a young girl whose bandaged fingers and sore feet are the result of hard manual labour, salting the herring.
Most impressive is his artistic experimentation in abstract paintings, brash, bold patterns of colour and shape. Reflecting an interest in the scientific study of the universe, “Formation of the Galaxies” is a burst of tiny fragments, an explosion of stars and swirling mass of atoms.
This has a real touch of Jackson Pollock about it and as well as a work of art, the decorative design would create a most attractive wallpaper.
“The painting has a life of its own, let it come through” Jackson Pollock.
Most ingeniously, a small section of another abstract has been enlarged to create a canvas print, “In the Glen.” The intricate microscopic view of geometric colours is again a perfect design for fabric, perhaps a scarf or cushion cover.
This is an inspiring showcase of Davy Macdonald’s eclectic range across style, subject and genre. Ten years on, he has diversified with great creativity, mastering traditional portraits and narrative landscapes as well as these stunning, surreal designs. Farrow & Ball, take note of this talented artist!.
Do visit this exhibition soon – there were early visitors to the gallery before it had even opened, keen to buy a painting only just hung on the wall.
Aspects of Edinburgh
22 – 31 August, 2019: 10am – 6pm daily
Dundas Street Gallery,
6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ