Botanical paintings by Julie Croft & photographs by Alexander Van Der Byl, Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh.
Solace – as defined in the dictionary, a noun to mean “comfort or consolation in a time of distress or sadness.”
During this difficult, disruptive year to normal life, work and travel, many people have been inspired by nature – whether city park, country ramble or a wind-blown stroll along a beach. This strange, surreal time at home has given the opportunity to listen to bird song and observe blossoming flowers in Spring and now the changing trees in Autumn.
Julie Croft studied illustration at Leicester Polytechnic, and then developed her artistic technique and medium as a mural artist during the 1980’s and 1990’s. Today, her paintings are on a much smaller scale, working at her home in Edinburgh.
The theme of Nature and the Landscape has inspired Julie over the past few months, during the worst times of lockdown, the brighter days through the summer and now heading through the Autumn into Winter. Here is a most wonderful series of her botanical illustrations and miniature landscapes.
So take a look back to the emerging flourish of plants during April and May with charming watercolours such as Spring Greens. These slender twigs with their tiny leaves and burst of buds is beautifully sketched and painted in soft colours with such delicate detail.
Moving on swiftly into June and July, blossom blooms with a whiff of Summer Scent from three flowers, which look like, a pink poppy, white daisies and lilac grape hyacinth. They do transport you into the garden on a warm summer day.
On a walk in October, it’s all about berries, conkers and all the leaves turning golden brown. This is another charming trio, with a small, dry, curled up leaf, in Autumn Berries.
And a wonderful collection of golden, sand and burgundy leaves fallen from the trees in the soft shades of the Fall.
Winter Trees is a lovely pencil and watercolour sketch which perfectly sums up the chilly days at the dark end of a year in Nature.
The wet dawn inks are doing their blue dissolve.
On their blotter of fog the trees
Seem a botanical drawing —
Memories growing, ring on ring,
A series of weddings.
Winter Trees, Sylvia Plath
Julie Croft also paints atmospheric land and seascapes – watercolours on Daler Rowney paper which create a richly textured backdrop. These intimate, small scale scenes are so pleasing to the eye.
At the other side of the gallery is a collection of photographs by Alexander Van Der Byl who is in his final year as a Photography Student at Edinburgh College of Art.
A successful career is already on the cards as this year he was awarded the Astaire Art Prize 2020. It is presented for outstanding undergraduate work by a third or fourth-year student at the ECA, founded by Mark Astaire, a University of Edinburgh Politics graduate and investment banking professional. This year four winners were chosen from a shortlist of twenty artists, each receiving £250.
“I could see all the students produced such wonderful and varied collections of work. It was difficult, but I had so much fun trying to select just four works!” Mark Astaire
“ … work that is sophisticated, intelligent and dynamic.” Gordon Brennan, School of Art Painting Lecturer
Van Der Byl’s award winning photograph is entitled The Anticipation of Change, which was taken in a former carpet shop in Leith; shabby, peeling flock wallpaper, tartan lino, blue carpet, gas meter, the table laid with a teapot and glasses, beneath a Vettriano print of the “The Billy Boys” on the wall. A cold, empty room perhaps, but there is a sense of pride and belonging in what is someone’s business.
This photograph is part of a series called “Return to Sender, No Such Address” of ten Hahnemühle German Etching Photograhic prints, “documenting the process of leaving a domestic space, (and) explores a presence which is transient and short lasting.”
Home from Work focuses on another empty room, with an enticing warm light shining through the open door, perhaps the kitchen and a meal being prepared for the person arriving back home at the end of the day. With shimmering shadows and a half hidden portrait, this is such a haunting image.
Again, a fascinating glimpse of a domestic scene, with a television, an empty bookshelf, plant, vase, lamp in Rocking Horse Winner – the blurred effect of a child’s toy horse cleverly depicting a flash of movement.
Here are also a few black and white portraits, which capture the thoughtful facial expression of the subject, in a quiet, quick, snap shot moment.
From Julie’s painterly nature walk through gardens, woodland and the seashore, enter Alexander’s contemplative world of deserted rooms and streets. With their distinctively different artistic vision, they share a theme of nostalgic memory, time past and present, the experience of isolation and silence, with a comforting, joyful sense of peace. Solace indeed.
SOLACE – Dundas Street Gallery, 6 Dundas St, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ
17th – 24th October, 2020. 11am – 6pm daily.
Exhibition closes Saturday 24th, 2pm