Archive | December 2019

Harriet Selka, “Fresh Zest” – an exhibition of Abstract Expressionist paintings @ Pop Up Edinburgh

Fresh Zest at Pop Up Edinburgh Gallery, 12 – 18 December,. 2019

After graduating in Fine Art Painting at Edinburgh College of Art, in 2015, Harriet Selka has developed a multi-disciplinary range of skills from seascapes and portraiture to photography and ceramics.

In the past few years she has had great success receiving the Latimer Award for her painting, “Dive In” at the Royal Scottish Academy.

Dive In, Harriet Selka (Latimer Award at the RSA)

Her innovative and unique styles of black and white photographs were selected two years running for the Scottish Portrait Awards, 2017 and 2018.

Chris and Calum’s Wedding, Harriet Selka (Photograph at Scottish Portrait Awards)

That sense of artistic innovation and creative challenge has inspired Harriet to focus on a completely new concept moving from realism to abstract images.

It all started with a set of children’s colourful gel crayons purchased at the Tate Modern gift shop which changed her technique of drawing.  Perhaps like a child learning to paint a picture, it gave her a new freedom of expression.

Fresh Zest is her first solo exhibition presenting a selection of autobiographical paintings which has evolved over the past year or so.

“ There is a quest for joy and fun within my fresh zest series – exploring my inner self. This self-work has re-energised me and .. my art has taken on new buoyancy and freshness.”  Harriet Selka

Gatekeeper, Harriet Selka

While each of the oil paintings has been given a descriptive name, these are personal images based on imagination, memory, emotion, people and places in Harriet’s life.  It is for the viewer to observe the colour, circles, blocks and and curving shapes to take what they “see” in the picture.

“Fresh Honey” (in my view) reflects a distorted Still Life, a plate of summer fruit and floral blossom.

Fresh Honey, Harriet Selka

With her strong background in coolly composed seascapes with shimmering light on water, works such as “White Horses”  and “Keep Floating” could certainly represent the watery flow of waves, cloud and shoreline.

White Horses, Harriet Selka

“Each painting begins with a simple sketch, usually an abstract life drawing of myself .. while exploring the relationship between other forms and motifs. Spatial tensions are created through layering, colour connections and shape.” ​ Harriet Selka

With a fine Picasso-esque mode of portraiture or Henry Moore shapely sculpture,  it does seem evident that there are two faceless figures in “My Salvation Lies in Your Love”  curved in a close embrace, set against a landscape of sea and orange sky.

At the Pop Up Gallery, there’s also a marvellous showcase of beautifully designed plates, platters, mugs and vases and embroidered linen.  Perfect decorative gifts for your family, friends and for your home.

Beautiful platters, Harriet Selka

Pop Up Gallery Edinburgh, 17 Dundas Street, Edinburgh

Exhibition opening times:

12th December:   3pm – 6pm 

13th – 17th December:  10am – 6pm

18th December:  10am – 3pm

Chef Tom Kitchin, Harriet Selka – one of her most impressive Portraits


‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh – a sparkling, fun Festive show for all the family

“Once upon a time there were three Bears, who lived together in a house of their own, in a wood. One of them was a Little Wee Bear, and one was a Middle-sized Bear, and the other was a Great Big Bear. They had each a bowl for their porridge ..”  A literary fairy tale, Robert Southey, 1837

Yes, folks it’s the annual Panto season and the legendary comedy cast is back together at the King’s Theatre – Allan Stewart, Grant Stott and Andy Gray. You might be thinking that they take on the roles of the Three Bears – but oh no, they don’t.  As always, they play the traditional characters of the Dame, Villain and hapless Stooge.

This is not just a cute wee Christmas show appealing to the kids but “ a re-imagining of the classic bedtime story in a circus-set adventure packed full of the thrills, spills, dazzling stunts and jaw-dropping special effects.”

And so with a modern, Edinburgh-based twist, the story begins, “Once Upon a Time on the shores of the Forth, before Poundland opened on Princes Street, there was the Greatest Show on Earth ..” 

Andy McReekie and Dame May McReekie

Enter the glamorous and glitzy Dame May McReekie and her husband, Andy McReekie, who is the Ringmaster of their family Circus which they want to turn into the Greatest Show on Earth with a new star act.

Having missed the Pantomime last year due to illness, there was a rousing reception for Andy Gray as he emerges from behind the Chorus Line’s flutter of pink Ostrich feathers, in a smart red tailcoat and top-hat. There was no other first line he could possibly utter than “Ah’ve no been very weeel” with his cheeky smirk, greeted by rapturous applause.

As always, there’s an evil enemy – this year in the guise of the sinister Baron Von Vinklebottom, the McReekie’s rival and cruel circus owner who proudly admits to whipping his animals, locked up in cages.  Dressed in a tight fitting, zebra print suit and plumed hat,  Grant Stott struts like a peacock which with his outrageous, cod German accent receives a volley of boos from the audience.

Andy McReekie, Baron Von Vinklebottom (in disguise as a policeman) and Dame May McReekie

So where is the element of Fairy Tale the wee boys and girls are expecting?

The McReekie’s daughter is the sweet, blonde Goldilocks who with Joey the Clown audition circus acts and find three charming Singing Bears to save the family Circus.  But of course, the dastardly Baron is keen to grab the bears to star in his own wicked show.

Dame May, Cinderella, Andy McReekie and Joey the Clown – time for porridge

As the rather crazy, comic narrative unfolds, The Greatest Show presents a display of dazzling entertainment, a medley of song and dance from Goldilocks, the Ensemble and Edinburgh Dance Academy.

Goldilocks – singing and dancing in the Circus

But a surprise is in store with exciting speciality acts –  Joey the Clown walking the tightrope, (the multi- talented, actor, singer, acrobat Jordan Young), and the great Juggling Alfio from a fourth generation family of Spanish Circus performers.  The Beserk Riders also race their motorbikes at full speed around, up and over a huge domed cage,  much to the shrieks of adults and kids alike.

The Victorian children’s nursery tale has certainly been re-imagined with a huge spoonful of both porridge and artistic licence, located to a Big Top of lions and tigers and bears, oh my!.

The only quibble is that the ending is rather abrupt with just a quick audience singalong before the sparkling Finale Curtain Call.  A touch of romantic fairy dust is perhaps required to tie up the loose ends of the sweet friendship between Goldilocks, the Three Bears and Joey the Clown.

With boisterous banter, silly jokes and a dollop of adlibbing, the stalwart trio of Stewart, Stott and Gray, has matured over the past twenty years with fabulous flair and laugh-out-loud hilarity.  Like the M&S adverts,  this is not just a pantomime, but a King’s Theatre pantomime, a tasty, delicious, fun-filled treat for all the family of all ages.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears

King’s Theatre, Leven Street, Edinburgh

 30 November 2019 to 19 January, 2020.

 Box office, 0131 529 6000.   

For lunch or supper, before or after the show, a warm recommendation to visit Frizzante, the well established, family run Italian Ristorante – great value pre-theatre menus, children’s menus, pizza, pasta, classic dishes, Prosecco, wines and beers, not forgetting Limoncello to end your meal.

Just a five minute walk around the corner from the King’s at 95 Lothian Road.

Book your table:  Tel.  0131 229 7788

The Winter Exhibition at the &Gallery, Edinburgh – a dazzling, decorative showcase of fine arts and crafts

This is a truly inspirational selection of paintings, drawings, glass and ceramics by twenty six artists who have previously showcased their work here.  The two adjoining rooms in this Georgian Townhouse, with its corniced, high ceiling, provide an elegant, spacious gallery.

This feature covers just a brief browse around this marvellous exhibition to highlight a few artists.

Anna Somerville graduated from ECA in 2000 winning the RSA Elizabeth Blackadder & John Houston Travel Award which took her on a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico.  Her captivating land and seascapes were described as akin to ‘Turner at his most fluid and some of the more abstract American Expressionists’. Colin Gleadall, The Power of Paint.

Winter Sunset, Anna Somerville

Vibrant shades of purple, orange and turquoise create an almost textured tapestry effect in Neon Dusk.  A less of an abstract approach in Winter Sunset, with the clarity of coral sky, wispy white  clouds above, perhaps, snowy hills and an indigo blue sea: a real dramatic sense of being there, outside in the open air.

Based at his Sea Loft studio in Kinghorn on the seashore of the Firth of the Forth, Michael Craik is a master of intricately crafted minimalist paintings on aluminium and wooden panels. His methodical, repetitive technique is a gradual application of acrylic paint, layer by layer to create a shining, shimmering sheen with soft, translucent glow, as seen in this pink tinted Veil 2018 (3).

Veil, 2018 3, Michael Craik

Other work by Michael Craik is also on show at the City Art Centre in ‘Beneath the Surface’, featuring nine contemporary artists based in Scotland. (16 November, 2019 to 1 March, 2020).

Specialising across the disciplines of ceramics, sculpture and painting, Rebecca Appleby is an experimental artist following a theme to explore the contrast between modern structures and nature in our urban landscape.

Coplaner 3, Rebecca Appelby

There is extraordinary energy and movement in Coplanar 3 with its criss-crossing, architectural blocks and grids with sweeping swirls of grey, black and orange. Also on display are her white tactile round mound sculptures, Morphology Fragments.

Simply beautiful ceramics too by Lorraine Robson, from her Precious series, “slipcast diamond polished white fired earthenware – as she says, I enjoy the meditative nature of allowing the form to evolve with handwork and imagination, using the most primitive and natural materials available: the earth itself.”

Precious series, – white fired earthenware Lorraine Robson

Her collection of delicate white bowls and vase shaped vessels, stand at a lopsided angle to decorative effect.

Jo Hummel’s intricate collage paintings are composed of asymmetric shapes, distorted diagonal lines, triangles, rectangles and wedges, as in Neverland and Night Owl. Tone and texture is based on a pared-down, distressed use of acrylic and flat matt with a bold colour and contour.

Night Owl, Jo Hummel

Jeffrey Cortland-Jones studied Fine Art in Cincinnati and now lives on a small farm in Southwestern Ohio. His medium is enamel on acrylic panel to create subtle shades of muted colour in simple geometric squares. Seawaves captures a soft blend of glossy grey and glistening green watery waves with Rothko-esque style.

Seawaves, Jeffrey Corland-Jones

Living and working on the Isle of Skye, Fiona Byrne-Sutton hand-crafts freestanding ceramic and crystocal plinth assemblages named The Angel’s Share. This is the term used for the small dram or two of whisky lost in evaporation in the cask barrel. The underlying narrative behind each piece is a clay sculptured interpretation of Italian Renaissance paintings and frescoes, such as Golden Gate (after Giotto). 

Angel’s Share, Fiona Byrne-Sutton

Inspired by Franco Zeffirelli’s 1968 film, ‘Romeo and Juliet’ (played by 15 year old Olivia Hussey),  Elaine Speirs created group of figurative paintings entitled “Beautiful Regrets,’ on the theme of womanhood. With free-flowing brushstrokes, Last Kiss expresses an intimate scene of youthful innocence, the emotional vulnerability of first love.

Last Kiss, Elaine Speirs

You might also wish to see Elaine Speirs’ painting ‘Young Girl’ which is part of this year’s BP Portrait Award exhibition,  the most prestigious portrait competition in the world, now in its fortieth year.  The BP Portrait Award 2019 is on show at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh from 7 December, 2019 to 22 March, 2020.

Take a visit to the &Gallery soon to view this dazzling, decorative display of art and crafts across every genre.

Winter Exhibition at the &Gallery,

30 November to 21 December, 2019

3 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6QG

The &Gallery, Winter Exhbition by a diverse collection of 26 Artists

A treasure house of Festive Art – beautiful gifts for friends, family and your home at the Open Eye, Edinburgh

Welcome to the Open Eye Gallery with Christmas Tree and lots of cute wee Robins (Brent Miller)

The Open Eye Gallery has launched its Festive Exhibitions and you can be assured of a warm welcome as you step through the arch doorway, with a sparkling Christmas Tree in the hallway.

Every December for 25 years, On a Small Scale a very popular and much anticipated showcase of charming, miniature, affordable “postcards.”  Here are over 400 original, unframed works in various media, each measuring 15 x 21 cm, by established Open Eye artists as well as new, young talent.

On a Small Scale, 400+ original Art ‘postcards’

There is a diverse range of artistic genre and media: wood engravings, oil, acrylic watercolour, with landscapes, animals, birds, fish, portraits . 3D and abstract artworks.

Renowned for perfectly sketched wine corks, fruit and vegetables, here is Thomas Wilson’s meticulous drawing of three spicy chillies.

Three Hot Bonnets, Tom Wilson

David Forster has a photographic touch in intricate landscapes with every leaf and blade of grass depicted with fine precision.

David Forster – enchanting ‘postcard’ landscapes

Hetty Haxworth presents a series of abstract landscapes composed with block colour, geometric line and shape.

Cool, composed abstracts – Hetty Haxworth

A delightful portrait of a young girl, ‘Cleo’ by Alice McMurrough, portrays sweet, wide eyed innocence with sad, tearful eyes.

Cleo, Alice McMurrough

…and nature lover Leo du Feu, has captured an evocative winter scene of hares playing in the snow.

Seven Snow Hares, Leo du Feu

With prices from £100, whether for a unique Christmas present or to add to your own collection, this is an exhibition every art lover should not miss.

In contrast, On a Grand Scale celebrates four of our finest contemporary Scottish artists. Here are richly luminous land and seascapes by Barbara Rae, simply but powerfully expressed with patchwork pattern and subtle palette to capture a moody, majestic sense of place.

Exit, Barbara Rae

As one of the New Glasgow Boys, Steven Campbell specialised in figurative narrative, in which his characters appear to be lost and fearful in a fairytale, fantasy world. “The Branch Secretaries” is a humorous play-on-words in a campfire woodland scene.

The Branch Secretaries, Steven Campbell

Taking centre stage, in my view, are several stunning masterpieces by John Bellany, who created his own aesthetic combining everyday scenes of fisherfolk with themes of Calvinism and Celtic mythology.

“His work has that strange combination of visceral realism and the quality of dreams .. never sentimental but always emotive. Damian Hirst

Queen of the Night, John Bellany

There is such surreal symbolism in his inimitable, iconic portraits of women viewed as muse, temptress and feminine beauty.  ‘Queen of the Night’ portrays a red-haired lady, her head tilted with a quirky, quizzical expression. Against a backdrop of the Bass Rock and turquoise splash of sea, ‘Failty’ (meaning loyalty, devotion), a young girl poses proudly beside a slender seabird, sharing the same serious, sombre look in their piercing blue eyes.

Fealty, John Bellany

A vividly colourful still life, ‘Amaryllis’ placed at a window gives a glimpse of fishing boats in the harbour under the golden glow of sunset.

Amaryllis, John Bellany

Bellany’s unique dreamworld evokes mesmerising, haunting images from his personal journey through love and life with passionate, poetic vision.

“He painted what was in his mind’s eye, hopes and lusts .. the threatening sea, harbours, flowers, sunset mountains, a rainbow. His whole art is a life-song” Julian Spalding

The Power of Print includes prime artwork from Elizabeth Frink, Ben Nicolson and Lucian Freud et al.  Two linocuts catch the eye – ‘The Race,’ by Colin Wyatt is like a vintage poster for winter ski holidays, and also a fashionable 1950s scene,  ‘Coffee Bar’ by Sybil Andrews with cool Cubist style.

The Race, Colin Wyatt

Amongst a selection of new acquisitions are panoramic views of  ‘Sunrise, Islay’ and ‘Evening Glow, high above the River Dee’ by Chris Bushe with his distinctive use of thickly applied paint for vibrant tone and texture.

Sunrise, Islay, Chris Bushe

Also on display is Archipelago, 25 perfectly painted Matchboxes filled with found objects by Jayne Stokes.

Archipelago, found objects in matchboxes, Jayne Stokes

And Christmas decorations would not be complete without a cheeky, cheery, chirpy wee robin as seen in a series by Brent Miller to reflect our winter wonderland.

Sparkling jewellery, ceramics and pottery too, such as lovely bird plates and platters by Ann Ross.

Festive Exhibitions

29 November to 23 December 2019

 Open Eye Gallery, 34 Abercromby Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6QE

Mon-Fri, 10am-6pm. Sat, 10am-4pm

On a Small Scale – Postcard-size paintings, prints, drawings and wood engravings.




“Shackleton and his Stowaway” by Andy Dickinson: a chilling, intimate drama coming soon to the Park Theatre, London

The chilling words of an advertisement, allegedly published in The Times by Ernest Shackleton to recruit men for his Endurance expedition to the Antarctic, 1914-1917.  Only 26 were chosen from the 5,000 who applied, based on their seamanship, scientific and practical skills as well as, apparently, musical ability.

An 18 year old Welsh boy, Perce Blackborow had been a Steward in the Merchant Navy when his ship went down off the Uruguayan coast which he survived, and made his way to Buenos Aires. When the Endurance arrived, he and his friend, an American sailor, William Bakewell, went along to ask to join the crew. Shackleton interviewed them both and Bakewell was accepted but Blackborow was deemed too young and lacked experience. However, determined to take part in this “dangerous expedition”, he smuggled on board and hid in a locker.

On October 26, 1914 the Endurance set sail from Buenos Aires on its pioneering voyage of exploration – the crossing of Antarctica, the White Continent from sea to sea.

It was three days out of port when the stowaway was found.  Shackleton was furious at the situation but realised he had no choice but give him a job as steward.  As the stowaway was an extra mouth to feed with limited rations, the stipulation was that, “If anyone has to be eaten, then you will be the first!”.

This is the factual background which inspired the two-hander play, ‘Shackleton and his Stowaway’ by Andy Dickinson, which premiered to popular and critical acclaim with 5 star reviews, at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2018, winning a Laurel award for a Sell Out show.

Stolen Elephant Theatre in association with Park Theatre is now staging an extended production at the Park Theatre, near Finsbury Park, London, from 8th January to 1st February, 2020.

Richard Ede, whose credits include playing the lead in The 39 Steps, is cast as Ernest Shackleton, and Elliott Ross, who has appeared in Queen Anne and Love for Love with the RSC, takes on the role of the Stowaway.

As a theatre critic, this dramatic tale of adventure was an absolute highlight of my Festival Fringe 2018. As I wrote,  “This is beautifully written new play by Andy Dickinson, richly poetic (with hints of Dylan Thomas, W.H Auden and Alfred Lord Tennyson) in its lyrical language, balancing light humour with thrilling narrative. This is the art of real storytelling, mesmerising to watch and listen.”   5 stars.

The synopsis of the play:

 “Initially, the stowaway is in complete awe of Shackleton. But this fades by the time the Endurance is trapped in the polar ice pack – even more so when the ship actually breaks up and sinks. This leaves them adrift on the ice, hundreds of miles from civilisation.” 

With haunting music and atmospheric sound effects – ship’s bells, creaking timbers, the roar of wind and sea – you can picture the scene on board and feel the icy cold as they stand shivering in their wool sweaters and balaclavas.

Ernest Shackleton

As we follow their itinerary from Buenos Aires to South Georgia, we observe the changing relationship between Shackleton, nicknamed the Boss, and the Stowaway, who is always referred to as Idiot.

Perce Blackborow  & Mrs Chippy, the ship’s cat

Through the wise and witty conversations between a naïve young boy and one of the most heroic travellers of all time, we hear about their extraordinary, hazardous journey to explore the South Pole where “sea is dark as death.”

The ice is rafting up to a height of 10 or 15 feet in places, the opposing floes are moving against one another at the rate of about 200 yards per hour. The noise resembles the roar of heavy, distant surf.  Ernest Shackleton

The Endurance marooned in the ice floes of Antarctica

Ernest Shackleton’s almost-disastrous expedition was the remarkable final chapter in the Heroic Age of Exploration.  He proved that just because you do not succeed in a venture, it doesn’t make you a failure.

In his own words, “It is in our nature to explore, to reach out into the unknown. The only true failure would be not to explore at all.”

Shackleton and the crew of The Endurance – the Heroic Age of Exploration.

This is a blisteringly strong, chillingly atmospheric, intimate play. A true story told through the thoughts, dreams and fears of two very different men with emotional poignancy and dramatic imagination.

Miss it at your peril!

Stolen Elephant Theatre in association with Park Theatre

“Shackleton and his Stowaway”  by Andy Dickinson

Park Theatre. Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, London N4 3JP

 Tel. 0207 870 6876

The script of the play is published by Methuen

“Shackleton and his Stowaway”, by Andy Dickinson (Methuen)