Scotland’s seafaring life captured in evocative, expressionist artwork by John Bellany @ The Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh
During May 2020 the Open Eye Gallery is showing an enchanting retrospective to reflect John Bellany’s celebration of Scotland in his art through his enduring passion to explore life and work on the edge of the sea.
This environment was engrained into his blood having been born into a family of fishermen and boat builders in Port Seton, East Lothian.
It was through his childhood observation of this close-knit, deeply religious community where he found his artistic voice.
Eyemouth was where he began to draw boats as a young boy and as he later recalled.. ”the hustle and bustle of activity, that was the core of my life. I still think it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world. ”
He returned here again and again – such as to sketch this scene of a huddle of fishing boats, as a student at Edinburgh College of Art.
Overlooking Eyemouth harbour is the 18th century Gunsgreen House built by a local Tea smuggler John Nisbet. His grandmother was born here and Bellany was guest of honour in 2010 when Gunsgreen opened as a museum, where a few of his local maritime paintings are given pride of place.
Boats, fish and seabirds dominate his art, boldly illustrated in a dramatic expressionist, surreal style.
While at first glance By the Sea is a simple, colourful composition of yachts on the river, a large seagull beside a a flush cheeked woman in a headscarf, study the symbolic detail: a crucifix around her neck, a church and a boat yard on the shore. This encapsulates the hard working outdoor lives of those who worked in these fishing ports.
As a boy John helped with gutting fish and smoking finnan haddock, images of which which lingered in his mind. Here in Sea Offering the fishhead, skinned fishbones beside a skeletal figure holding a sandglass timer – an alternative grim reaper.
By mythologising the fishermen’s world in his art, the subject of mortality is a recurring theme to reflect the Calvinist fear of death and the uncertain safe return after going out to sea.
Women are also a vivacious vital element in his paintings described as fisherlass, virgin, bride, seawife, maiden or diva – a constant muse.
In Listening to the Sea this glamorous lady is dressed in black evening gloves, cigarette between her lips, listens to the waves in her conch shell. Her gaze is sensual and seductive – is she listening to the call of her lover.?
A close study of Sea Maiden reveals that her head is wrapped with an oily blue-scaled fish with its gleaming eye and tail, to complement her long red pig-tailed hair. Sensual, soulful eyes are such an iconic characteristic of all Bellany’s serene portraits of beguiling women.
And here’s a joyous, rich red Amaryllis to brighten our days at home – through the window, a charming tranquil scene of a fishing port.
As an art student he visited a local bar patronised by Hugh MacDiarmid who advised him that in order to be true to others he must first be true to yourself. Impressed that MacDiarmid wrote in Scots,” Bellany knew how to be distinctive: ‘I’m going to paint in Scots.’
This is an evocative retrospective to showcase John Bellany’s mesmerising, mythical vision of Scottish seafaring life, culture and heritage. The son of a fisherman, a child of the sea, his art is true to that inheritance which inspires and enriches the imagination.
As an avid admirer of his captivating portraits and seascapes, I am fortunate to view a couple of Bellany’s wonderful, wild women of the sea, everyday at home.
Open Eye Gallery
John Bellany – May 2020
A Wild, Winter Voyage around the Hebrides is captured in wind-blown, salt-sprayed seascapes by Ross Ryan: “Batten down the Hatches” at the Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh.
Shannon, Fastnet, Rockall, Malin, Bailey, Fairisle. …: the solemn, somnolent reading of the Shipping Forecast broadcast each night on BBC Radio 4, may sound like a poetic lullaby if safely at home, but an essential warning of impending gales for seafaring folk.
The map of the Shipping Forecast is the starting point of Ross Ryan’s The Logbook (Vol 2) which charts his recent intrepid expedition on board MV Sgarbh, a vintage, 40-foot, wooden fishing boat.
As both an artist and yachtmaster, in 2017 Ryan set off from Crinan on a solo painting trip, the result of which was an exhibition, “The Logbook, A Solo Winter Voyage” at the Scottish Gallery in May 2018.
Inspired by this challenging experience, Ryan set off again on MV Sgarbh to explore Mull, Barra, Tiree, Islay and Jura over the recent winter season on his travelling Studio to compile an exhilarating range of work entitled “Batten down the Hatches.”
“This new collection of paintings is from two years of chasing gales, sailing to offshore lighthouses and discovering the people and their islands. As the world has also temporarily battened down the hatches, I hope this exhibition is a reminder of the beautiful seascapes of the West Coast that await for us”. Ross Ryan, 2020
For over 150 years, Robert Stevenson, his sons and grandsons, built the lighthouses around Scotland’s coastline from Bell Rock to Vaternish. Designed by Thomas Stevenson, Dubh Artach Lighthouse (completed 1872), stands on a basalt rock 18 miles west of Colonsay and 15 miles South West of Iona.
From The Logbook (Vol 2 ), Ross Ryan
“With the swell rolling us excessively, anchoring was out the question, as was making a landing. Soon it became apparent the only way to keep her steady was to steam slowly into the swell. The painting got a drenching as we passed through the Corryvrekan whirlpool. What was lost in paint was gained in an authenticating layer of salt. “
This misty, murky image – oil and pastel on board – perfectly illustrates the remote location of this majestic monument rising from the rough, rolling Atlantic. The shimmering clouds and frothing waves is most atmospheric and certainly authentic: you can almost feel the chilling, salt-sea spray engrained in the oil paint.
Dubh Artach translates as black rock, or indeed, black death due to the numerous ships wrecked on the fearsome Torran Reef. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote about a memorable boat trip to see his father’s great construction which saved so many souls.
“A certain black rock stood environed by the Atlantic rollers, the outpost of the Torran reefs. Here was a tower, star lighted for the conduct of seamen. No other life was there but that of seabirds and of the sea itself …that .. growled … roared and spouted on the rock. “Memories of an Islet” RLS (1887)
A poetic description of the same scene recently observed by Ross Ryan for this semi- abstract sketch, First Flash, Dubh Artach: a dot of a star clearly shines on the horizon with a peachy glow of a dying sun below a threatening sky. With crafted layers and shades of pastel on paper, this is a stunning composition.
Scotland’s tallest lighthouse is Skerryvore, (Alan Stevenson,1844) on a treacherous reef of rocks, 11 miles from Tiree.
The bold, brash brushstrokes sweep a swirl of billowing cloud over the choppy sea, a place blessed with a mild sunny climate but strong gales, perfect for windsurfing.
This has an exquisite Turner-esque quality focusing on the same maritime motif – the wave. Here is the visible power of churning, crashing waves in luminous detail.
While the pioneering Impressionist artists painted “en plein air” to embrace the landscape up close and personal, Ross Ryan immerses himself even more in the heart of the action. The idyllic wee island of Vatersay is the most southerly in the Outer Hebrides, renowned for its sublime beaches and unspoilt natural habitat. Braving the weather, the simple black splashes of rain clouds are so realistic.
From The Logbook (Vol 2) Ross Ryan
“During the winter I painted from the shore, recording the sea in all her anger. Here is a force that could move a beach overnight and flick rocks like unwanted peas.”
On the North East coastline, Joan Eardley was also mesmerised by the vast sea and sky, setting up her easel on the beach at Catterline to express the energy and beauty of a ferocious storm.
On this voyage, Ryan followed in the wake of the Scottish Colourists to the island of Iona. Cadell first visited Iona in 1912 and then together with Peploe, this became their annual summer pilgrimage.
With a warm colour palette, these scenes portray the pure white sand, lapping waves and soft light of this timeless spiritual place.
There is the distinctive classic artistic style of the Colourists here in The Sound of Iona, with sculptured shapes and tonal light in a precise pattern.
Islay, “Queen of the Hebrides,” is renowned for its distinctive smoky-peat whisky and Lagavulin Distillery is located on the edge of a bay in the south of the island. An imaginative flurry of haphazard scratch marks denote the cloud-spattered sky on this grey day.
Time for a dram. Lagavulin 16 year old malt is described as ‘Lapsang Souchong tea, pipe tobacco, fishboxes, kippers and hint of kelp but always sweet’.
Sending a “Message in a Bottle” is an ancient tradition. Ryan’s own project has taken him on a magical mystery tour to Tiree and Coll to paint the spot where his bottles washed ashore and meet the treasure hunters.
With delicate detail and fine perspective, the calm tranquility of Red Rock Beach.
By enduring the harshest of environments, Ross Ryan’s collection of artwork, photographs and Logbook creates such a vividly illustrated narrative of his seafaring adventures.
“Batten down the Hatches” is a most timely subject – 2020 is the “Year of Coasts & Waters” by Visit Scotland. Take a virtual island-hopping voyage around the Hebrides at the Scottish Gallery and be inspired.
The Scottish Gallery
‘Batten down the Hatches’ – 29 April to 30 May, 2020
View the exhibition on line:
For further information on images, film footage, Ross Ryan’s travel blog and Logbook Catalogue, please contact the gallery by email:
While the gallery is closed, a selected painting from this exhibition is placed on an easel, changed by request, to view through the window.
The May exhibition also includes “My Border Landscapes” by Sir William Gillies and a tribute to the jewellery maker, Wendy Ramshaw.
“Water of Life”: a modernist, majestic, painterly view of Scotchland by Euan McGregor at the Doubtfire Gallery, Edinburgh
Doubtfire Gallery, Edinburgh, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, will soon have a new addresss in Stockbridge. Until the gallery can open to the public, their Spring exhibition, Water of Life by Euan McGregor, PAI, has now been unveiled and available to view on line.
Euan McGregor graduated with a BA (Hons) degree in Printmaking at Glasgow School of Art in 1998. Awarded the Royal Glasgow Institute Travelling Scholarship he spent six months exploring and painting in Catalonia. Specialising now in landscape painting and mixed media work, he lives in West Kilbride on the Ayrshire coast.
Scotch Whisky distilleries often featuring an image of a moorland grouse or Highland stag on their bottles to reflect our natural wilderness, the origin of uisge beatha, Water of Life.
“The proper drinking of Scotch whisky is more than indulgence: it is a toast to civilization, a tribute to the continuity of culture to use the resources of nature to refresh mind and body.” – David Daiches, author of “Scotch Whisky: its past and present”
Inspired by the malt whisky industry, Euan McGregor has toured Scotland, from Islay to Orkney, Moray to Wick, to visit a diverse range of Distilleries to capture their landscape setting from coastline to countryside.
“I love the fact that these industrial-sized buildings often inhabit the wildest of places, so there’s a contradiction of sorts, but they work well together, especially as the product is so synonymous with its geography.” Euan McGregor
The whisky map has six regions which are absolutely key to the characteristic aroma, taste and style of Scotch – Highland, Speyside, Campbeltown, Lowland, Islands, Islay.
Islay whisky is especially distinctive due to the earthy peat used to dry the malt which creates a smooth smoky flavour. Bowmore is a quaint, quiet town on Loch Indaal, Islay, with its renowned Distillery founded in 1779 beside the harbour.
Euan McGregor is fascinated by the historic signage which guided the puffer cargo boats safely to port – “They are like proud beacons giving clarity to ships and tourists alike”.
This is a striking composition, (acrylic on board), with the giant letters highlighted in black on the white washed walls. The tall chimney stretching up to the blue sky is like a lighthouse to warn skippers and sailors of the rocky seashore.
McGregor has skilfully ‘sketched’ the architectural structure of the huddled group of buildings beside the beach and lapping waves. While apparently simple, there’s such a tangible atmosphere, you can almost catch a whiff of the salt sea air.
A couple of years ago, I boarded a 12 passenger boat for a voyage to the Southern Hebrides for an island hopping adventure. Islay, the ‘Queen of the Hebrides’ has eight whisky distilleries with the annual Feis Ile, Festival of Music and Malt, attracting over 3,000 international whisky loving visitors.
Bowmore was certainly a stunning sight as the Glen Etive sailed across Loch Indall.
Oloroso sherry casks provide a fruity sweetness during the maturing process: Bowmore 12 year old is described as a blend of vanilla, bergamot, perfumed smoke, sea spray and lemon zest, while the Black Rock Malt has the rich flavour of toasted fudge, cinnamon and marmalade.
Next stop is Caol Ila distillery (1846) at Port Askaig with views across the Caol Ila (Sound of Islay) to the island of Jura.
Again a strong illustration emphasising the quiet location on the seashore: sharply geometric in design – white warehouse, a blue block of sea shimmering in the sunlight and the square flatness of the cliff behind.
A tasting note for Caol Ila: “ … heather and coffee notes as well as hint of brine on the nose like smoked fish or cockles in butter”.
On the south coast of the island is Lagavulin which officially dates from 1816, although records show illicit distillation here since 1742. Moving away from a realistic representation, Lagavulin Detached is a cool, crafted fragmented illustration, extracting the oblong, oval and triangles of chimney, stillhouse, hill, sea, sky, like pieces of a jigsaw.
Akin to printmaking, this has an abstract, layered effect of space, shape and texture, interlocked with a delicate palette.
“The buildings themselves are industrial cathedrals with specific shapes integral to the whisky-making process.” Euan McGregor
And if you fancy a dram of Lagavulin 16 year old, expect a blend of figs, sherry, peat smoke, Lapsang Souchong with a long spicy finish.
On the island of Orkney, Scapa distillery (1884) stands beside a natural harbour, Scapa Flow (Old Norse for ‘bay of the long isthmus’). Scapa Clouds is a finely balanced composition, with such subtle shades of blues, green, grey, brown, placing the Distillery within the environment and weather under a threatening sky.
A modern image of a majestic monument linking the past to present day with restful stillness. Scapa Skiren malt whisky offers a blend of “honey, fresh cream, apple, anise, crushed nuts, juicy pear and lemon peel.”
Travel on to Caithness to visit the Old Pulteney distillery, Wick in the north east corner of Scotland. Like Edward Hopper’s American landscapes, the focus here is on solitary buildings, closed doors and an empty road devoid of people and daily working life.
With such precision of angles and purity of colour, this tranquil scene has a filmic quality with sharp shafts of light and shadow.
The Speyside region stretches along the River Spey in Moray, Badenoch and Strathspey. Glenlivet was founded in 1824, operating almost continuously since then to become the highest selling single malt whisky in the United States and the second largest selling brand globally.
This semi-abstract illustration has a stark winter mood with its ice-cold, blueish-white sheen. The minimalist architectural design is like a surreal sculpture amidst the surrounding dramatic environment. Glenlivet 12 year old offers a smooth texture and sweet flavour of vanilla custard, honey, banana, pineapple, apples and a little cinnamon.
Visit a few more distilleries too around this captivating exhibition, as well as land and seascapes from Gardenstown to St. Abbs with masterly perspective.
Reminiscent of those vintage pre-war British Rail posters to entice people to take a trip to cities and seaside, McGregor has a modernist painterly, aesthetic style: poignant, romantic, scenic views are graphically distilled to create a timeless sense of place.
This is about heritage and the haunting legacy of the craftsmanship by the masters of malt over the centuries. Pour a glass of your favourite dram to sip slowly as you savour an evocative journey around Scotchland from rural glen to the edge of the sea.
“Water of Life” by Euan McGregor – 4th April to 6th June 2020
View on line: http://www.doubtfiregallery.com
tel. 07902 307147
New Address – opening soon
Doubtfire Gallery and Frame Creative Design studio
28 North West Circus Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6TP
Viewpoints: Languid, luminous, lush landscapes of Scotland, Wales and Cornwall at the&Gallery, Edinburgh
As the British Isles unite together during this global crisis, the& Gallery, Edinburgh has brought together three artists from Scotland, Wales and England, who complement each other with vivid expressions of their personal sense of place.
Along with Brittany, Isle of Man and Ireland, these home nations share the ancient traditions of Celtic culture, heritage and language. As abstract landscape painters, Anna Somerville, Elfyn Lewis and David Mankin celebrate the natural outdoor world around them with inspirational vision.
Anna Somerville graduated from the Edinburgh College of Art in 2000, winning the Elizabeth Blackadder & John Houston Travel Award, which set her off on a very successful career. At her studio at Summerhall, Edinburgh, she works in mixed media – spray paint, ink, graphite, oil pastel – on paper, linen or canvas, and you can see, at a glance, the layering technique of colour with mesmerising effect.
Anna is constantly drawn to the seashore, such as Aqua Coast Scape, focussing on the distant horizon, the expanse of water beneath a cloudy sky, a slither of a sand dune and rocks. The streaking lines and layers blend various hues of colour together to create a marvellous mishmash of turquoise, emerald, orange, coral, pink, plum and damson.
With a bold use of colour and brash brushstrokes, there are occasional drips of paint adding texture and atmosphere, depicting perhaps, an approaching rainstorm. She describes her approach as instinctual, drawing from emotions rather than exploring any particular theme or narrative.
Around the gallery, there are also gloriously bright visions from dawn to dusk capturing the swiftly changing light as the sun slowly rises or quietly fades away.
Anna Somerville takes you on a journey to view tranquil scenes of mountains, meadows and lakes where you feel that you are there, in the open air, feeling the breeze with a scent of salty sea.
Elfyn Lewis grew up in Porthmadog, North Wales and now works in Cardiff, winning numerous awards including being named prestigious Welsh Artist of the Year 2010.
He likes to experiment and challenge his approach and technique. “Surfaces are layered with paint that overflows, dripping… until the upper layer explodes and transforms from a volcanic creation into a vivid landscape.”
Working with acrylic on board or canvas, these are certainly bold expressions of colour and light to portray a sense of place with fractured, fragmented structure: Amdiffyn, with its broad brush stroke streaks, is akin to viewing fabric fibres through a microscope.
This is such inventive crafted artwork, deconstructing the vision of a place down to its elements of materials and fluidity, such as Llangar with its swirling movement and shimmering light.
There is a dazzling use of colour here, smoothed and pared down to present a surreal image. Arwain, for instance, is reminiscent of a glowing sunset above a dark indigo sea, yet viewed through a partially obscured frosty window.
More realistic views too such as a diptych, Syrthio Mewn Cariad, which appears to be a craggy mountain as seen in the whiteout of winter and also in the green days of summer.
David Mankin lives in the far west corner of Cornwall where daily walks along the coast inspires his almost pure abstract land and seascapes. The natural world presents an ever-changing palette, tone and texture when expressing the sea-tide, clouds, sand, rocks, grass.
Sea-Distant Afternoon is such an evocative dreamlike image – you can imagine a warm summer day at the beach, the glare of the sun, sandcastles, the lapping of waves on the shore.
Several other cool and composed seascapes with soft subtle shades of azur, buttermilk and ochre. David is like a geologist in his manner of presenting the lines, space and shape of the coastal terrain. He describes his work as “ an energetic process of destruction and excavation, which mirrors the acts of nature on the landscape. I explore surface, colour, texture to form images which express my experiences in the Cornish landscape.”
Like a patchwork quilt, Timeless Land reflects farm field, woodland and cloudy sky in geometric blocks, with a series of what could be tractor marks, animal tracks and foot prints, the remnants of life and nature. The purity of cool colour and precise shapes creates a serene scene where sea meets the land in Invisible Shores.
This is just a quick whizz around the current Viewpoints exhibition at The & Gallery – so do take a longer browse around all these coolly composed, luminous, languid landscapes. This artwork will brighten your day …and would bring a splash of colour and quiet reflection to your home.
Home is where the Art is.
Viewpoints is on show at The& Gallery until 15 April, 2020
See the exhibition on line at the Virtual Gallery
http://www.andgallery.co.uk – artwork images
Vividly colourful, visual memories of the wider world by three artists at the Open Eye Gallery – with lovely wee pictures & jazzy jewellery too.
“Remember that art is good for the soul in these troubled times”
This is the message from the warm and welcoming Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh this week. It may have temporarily closed its doors but their current March exhibition is easily viewed on line.
More than just interior decor or bringing a splash of colour, the art we choose to hang on our walls, to view again and again every day, evokes a personal emotion and inspires our imagination. Art breathes life into a home. Art tells a story.
“….thousands of memories, of smells, of places, of little things that happened to us and which came back, unexpectedly, to remind us who we are.…. O Botswana, my country, my place.” From “The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.” Alexander McCall Smith
Diane Rendle was born and raised in East Africa and then lived in Botswana, where she was immersed in the culture, language and heritage of the people. Like McCall Smith’s comical novels about Madame Precious Ramotswe, “Voices carried on the Wind” presents an enlightening view of the community – especially bold, beautiful women – in this lush natural environment.
Diane’s stunningly crafted, visual memories of people and place are complemented by charming poetic proverbs by Helen Freeman to tell a story about the life and experences of the characters. In the jungle, birds and animals rule the roost as wild cats glide gracefully through the bush.
“You Never Know What You Will Encounter” – Helen Freeman
When the leopard whispers to the woman, he says, “There’s a hurricane coming, wrap up, hunker down, hide yourself.”
She says, “But I’m strong enough” … and unwinds her Kanga.
The titles of Rendle’s richly-patterned images are translated into colloquial words of wisdom, both humorous and heart-warming.
“Burden Bearer – Don’t Carry the World on your Head” – Helen Freeman
“People like me hide beneath layers, and sacks and tins and bowls and packs they need not carry …..and some they definitely shouldn’t.
“The Sun Never Goes Down Without Some Happenings” – Helen Freeman
”Sedge grass purrs, crickets trill and whistle, the track meanders through shrubs and knolls,
Under sundown’s saffron shade, and he’s nearly home. Twilight percolates”.
This enchanting artistic collaboration between Diane and Helen is akin to Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book,” the illustrated stories of India he wrote for his young daughter. Likewise, these magical pictures and poetry should be published as an allegorical collection of tales set in East Africa.
Travel Tales from Italy and Scotland, Africa and India, “Themes Old and New” from Charles MacQueen who creates luminous, mixed media paintings as a brief snapshot of a moment in time and place. Like a photographer’s zoom lens, these are intimate, close-up images focussing on texture, colour and light.
Having visited the hill top Medieval town of Spoleto, Umbria myself many times, it is wonderful to ‘re-visit’ the Duomo in the central Piazza.
Here are several images to reflect the ancient stone arches and stained glass windows which preserve the dark, cool, mystical silence inside: so atmopheric in these shimmering, vivid colours of crimson, coral, gold and turquoise.
Instead of realistic representations, MacQueen is playful in creating abstract compositions such as a collage of fishing nets and lobster pots spotted on Scottish piers.
As he explains “Usually as with recent trips to Tunisia and Morocco it takes between six months to a year to digest the experiences.” All the senses are stimulated – the colour and scent of saffron and ginger in a Moroccan souk.
Sheila McInnes is also a keen observer of the natural world, the tranquil beauty of rolling hills, lochs, rivers, woodland and birds which “Greet the Sky.”
With light hearted wit, these are scenes from everyday life, as she says, ‘a mixture of the naïve, the personal, and the sophisticated.’
Reminiscent of a child’s story book, here are soaring seagulls, wide eyed owls and adorable dogs to make you smile.
Women are always happy with new jewellery to wear! Bronwen Gwillim crafts bright and colourful ear-rings, necklaces and bangles from waste plastic, flint stones and found objects during walks along the beach in Wales.
“I make wearable, sculptural jewellery from recycled materials. Mimicking the effects of the sea, I work their surfaces till they feel natural in the hand, like a treasured pebble.”
Pairs of ear-rings come in mismatched size, inspired by natural shapes of pebbles. This jewelllery is tactile to touch, delightful to the eye …and so reasonable for such unique, creatively crafted accessories.
Affordable art too with a choice of “On a Small Scale” miniature masterpieces by many of the gallery’s established artists and young talent – wee landscapes, abstracts, prints and portraits.
A fine selection of small Still Life artwork – ideal to brighten up the home from the kitchen to the lounge.
Browse through the Open Eye Gallery on line to be inspired and enriched by this collection of contemporary art, crafts and jewellery from the March exhibition.
Watch this space to find out about next month’s new showcase of art and artists to brighten our spirits and homes as we spring forward into April.
The Open Eye Gallery, 34 Abercomby Place, Edinburgh EH3 6QE
View the March exhibition on line – http://www.openeyegallery.co.uk
Email – email@example.com
Michelle Mackie – Spring Collection 2020 @ Robertson Fine Art, Edinburgh – a stunning, sensual. dreamlike vision of womanhood
The title of this exhibition may imply that this is a fashion show with a cool, composed catwalk of this year’s stylish frocks and accessories as we Spring forward out of the winter.
As a fine art photographer, Michelle Mackie (also known as Dolly through her social media followers), presents a series of glamorous glossy fashion shots on location – but these painterly portraits reveal an underlying narrative, as she explains, “recreating forgotten joys, the magic of fairytales, memories, dreams in an art form that evokes powerful emotions”.
This is an astute observation of the social and cultural role of women, from feminine beauty to the fantasy and fear of sexual expression. A sense of freedom is depicted through the flight of birds and fluttering butterflies.
“Tis just like a summer bird-cage in a garden:
The birds that are without despair to get in,
And the birds that are within despair and are,
In a consumption of fear they shall never get out”
The traditional notion of housewives is of being kept inside, a domestic goddess like a bird in a cage. (Fascinating fact – girls as “birds” is not just modern slang – from 1300, the term “burde” referred to a young maiden).
In “Entrapment II” the partially nude model draped in a shimmering mauve chiffon sarong, wears the birdcage as a hat. It’s an ironic and ambiguous message – is she really trapped and can only fantasise about escape, to fly away like a butterfly.?
Other women are also seen in a controlled situation: “Pulled in All Directions” is dramatically explicit, the girl’s arms spread out like a crucifix and pegged on a washing line.
With filmic quality, it’s a disturbing image in terms of being unwillingly tied down, but it’s also a provocative pose akin to handcuffs, – think: bondage scenes from “50 Shades of Grey.”
“I wonder if one day that,
You’ll say that, you care
If you say you love me madly,
I’ll gladly, be there
Like a puppet on a string ..”
In her bare feet, Sandie Shaw danced across the stage to win Eurovision 1967 with this bouncy song. It comes to mind when viewing “Puppet II” (shown above in the poster) and “Puppet” (below), where a girl is joyfully hopping in the long grass, her hair blowing in the wind – like an angel searching for her wings.
This is a dazzling and dynamic exhibition of work by Michelle, a self taught photographer and digital artist. Focusing her eye through the lens of her camera, she has the unique vision of a film director and the razor-sharp imagination of a storyteller.
These “portraits” involve a time consuming, innovative, creative process. Finding the locations, selecting models, sourcing props and costumes, it’s like movie making, directing theatre or a ballet – the scene setting, lighting, characters, atmosphere and dramatic mood to imagine a surreal, fantasy world. Every element is photographed separately and digitally added, layer by layer, followed by meticulous enhancement of colour and texture, just like an artist with a paintbrush and oils.
“Shedding Masks” would make a most effective illustration for the Sunday Times “Style” magazine or Vogue.
The juxtaposition of the glamorous crimson ballgown against the bleak, winter landscape is a brilliant composition. But this is not just a fashion shot – who is this vulnerable girl, shivering in the cold, holding a mask to her face – several masks – which hide her true, emotional self.
There is a recurring theme Michelle calls Dark Beauty to show how women share experiences of betrayal or a sense of lurking danger, wandering alone in isolated places. “Red Light” is an amazing portrayal – a delicously decadent, light-hearted take on Little Red Riding Hood, fleeing from the prowling wolves in the forest.
“I’m forever daydreaming, and I get to create some of what goes on in my busy little head for all to see” Michelle Mackie
The narrative behind the art here could have been presented as a bold, brash rant on gender inequality, patriarchy, misogyny, #MeToo, et al.
Instead this is a literary, witty, intelligent and deeply personal, feminist-feminine view of women’s lives today and thin line between sexual objectification and the freedom of sexual empowerment.
Just like beauty, our concept of truth and meaning is in the eye of the beholder so do visit Roberston Fine Art soon (or check out the website) to view these and many more stunning, sensual and utterly unique artwork in the Spring Collection by Michelle Mackie.
Robertson Fine Art
100 Hanover St, Edinburgh EH2 1DR
Tel. 0131 285 0695
ART FAIR: an eclectic showcase of paintings, photographs and sculpture at the Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh
Since the mid 1970s, Malcolm and Lindsay Robertson, two of Scotland’s leading internationally renowned artists, specialising in Sculpture and Photography, have been collecting the work of their contemporaries.
Well presented around the spacious Dundas Street Gallery is their selection of paintings by many Scottish artists including John Lowrie Morrison, Pam Carter, Peter Howson, George Birrell, Ian McWhinnie, the Spanish Surrealist, Salvador Dali with photographs by John Sexton and Ansel Adams.
The vibrantly colourful landscapes by Jolomo (John Lowrie Morrison, OBE), are recognised, and purchased by art lovers worldwide, with visitors often taking one of his iconic scenes of a white washed croft or loch view back home. Among those buyers are Sting, Madonna, Simon Le Bon, Sophia Loren and Rick Stein.
Here there are expressionist paintings capturing remote places around the Highlands such as charming village of Tayvallich, Argyll (where he lives), Ben More, the pyramid shaped mountain near Crianlarich, and Grogport, a tiny Hamlet on the Kintyre coast overlooking the Isle of Arran.
Captivated by the natural beauty of the Scottish islands, Pam Carter takes you on a magical journey to her favourite places in Skye and Barra. In the gallery is a stunning painting, Eoligarry Bay, with its Carbibbean-styled white sand beach. Also a fine view of Stein, a crofting township on Loch Bay, Waternish, Skye, a place to spot fabulous sunsets.
Between 1946 and 1958, the United States conducted 23 nuclear tests at the Micronesian atoll, Bikini. These experimental explosions on the atoll of Bikini inspired Dali to paint the Three Sphinxes of Bikini (1947). The original painting is in a Japanese museum but here you can purchase a signed print of this powerful image: a head, representing humanity, a tree for nature and mushroom cloud a symbol for destruction.
As well as these and other artists, the exhibition showcases the extraordinary work by the two brothers, Lindsay and Malcolm Robertson.
Lindsay Robertson has been a professional photographer since 1971, and his portfolio of black and white landscapes has been used in calendars and international advertising campaigns. Having visited the George Eastman Museum of photography in New York, he as given the unique opportunity to bring the Ansel Adams collection to The City Arts Centre, Edinburgh in 2008. The showcase of Adams’ legendary landscapes was complemented with images by Lindsay, ‘Caledonia to California’ covering John Muir’s journey from Scotland to America.
A most innovative project is his stunning series of animal portraits, entitled Endangered. Just as a fashion photographer will snap a model in various poses in a Studio, here is a quirky line up of majestic animals – Giraffe, White Rhino, Elephant, Horse. Far removed from their natural wild habitat here they are seen in close up, in the shadowy light of a Studio, expressing their beauty, strength and vulnerability.
“ The starkness and scale of the background places the animals within an environment which seems surreal… thus inspiring us to study and appreciate the detail, textures and character.” Lindsay Roberston
On a childhood family holiday to Yosemite National Park, Ansel Adams began his lifelong fascination with America’s wilderness. He is, says Robertson, arguably the most revered lanscape photographer in the world.
At the Dundas Street Gallery is his B&W print, Castle Rock, Summit Road, above Saratoga.
Malcolm Robertson studied sculpture at Glasgow School of Art and then took on a most important architectural role as Town Artist in Glenrothes, designing and producing site-specific sculpture and murals creating an artistic urban environment.
Malcolm is now based in both Scotland and Florida, receiving private and public commissions for large scale works. His Public art can be seen around the world, from Stornoway to India, such as ‘Oor Wullie’ in Dundee, and ‘Vortex’ World Rowing Championships, Sarasota.
As part of this exhibition, there are maquette models and smaller sculptures, such as Flowing Wave, a sweeping curve in shining stainless steel and Eternal Connection, a most impressive design like a figure of eight “knot” carved in bronze.
The Robertson Collection of Fine Art is certainly eclectic and inspiring. Take a visit to the exhibition soon.
January 30th – February 6th 2020
Opening hours 10am – 8pm (Happy hour from 5pm -6pm)
Dundas Street Gallery
6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ
More information about Malcolm and Lindsay Robertson:
BE Together at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay ’19: a welcome handshake across the seas to bring in the New Year
Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Festival is on the essential bucket list as compiled by Patricia Shultz in her book, “1,000 Places to See Before You Die.” Also selected by Discovery Channel as one of the Top 25 World Travel Experiences.
The origin for the word “Hogmanay” is from the early 17th century, perhaps from “hoguinané,” Norman French meaning “last day of the year” or “New Year’s gift”.
Up until 27 years ago, Hogmany celebrations on 31st December in Edinburgh was a small, local celebration for city residents and perhaps a few visitors, which took place around the Tron Kirk on the Royal Mile.
In 1993, the first organised Hogmanay Party on Princes Street ended with dazzling fireworks at midnight set off from the Castle. The popularity grew and on 31st December, 1996, a crowd of 400,000 revellers broke the Guinness Book of Records for the largest Street Party in the world.
To ensure safety the following year, Princes Street was closed off for a restricted number of 100,000 ticket holders as part of a four day Festival to celebrate New Year. Since then, Edinburgh has shown the world how to party as the Home of Hogmanay.
The Winter Festival season begins in mid-November when the city sparkles with Christmas spirit around the Markets, Fairground rides, theatre, music and entertainment for all ages.
The Hogmanay Festival has changed over the years, and I do miss the wonderful The Night Afore Fiesta, 30th December, a fabulous, free, family friendly event, (George Street or Royal Mile): giant giraffe puppets, a parade of elephants, Macbeth on stilts, musicians, crazy Spanish hair-dressers. This magical style of entertainment is now incorporated into the Street Party on the 31st.
The Festival kicked off on the evening of 30th December for the annual Torchlight procession when 12,000 torch-bearers, accompanied by the skirl of the Pipes and beat of the drums, set off to march from various starting points around the Old Town to Holyrood Park.
The pattern of Torches spread out in Holyrood Park displayed an image of two people shaking hands. Magical.!
For Clubbers, there was also late night music and dancing at Symphonic Ibiza, with live orchestra and DJ sounds, to get into party mood.
A diverse range of music, whatever your taste, was on offer on Hogmany, 31st December: a classic concert by candelight at St. Giles Cathedral, as well as the rousing Jazz from Ronnie’s Scott’s Big Band featuring a performance by singer Lianne Carrol.
Families with young children were not forgotten either, with a special Bairns Afore show in the late afternoon with music, comedy and fireworks in Princes Street Gardens.
The highlight of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay as always was the Johnnie Walker Street Party when a sell out crowd of 75,000 ticket holders gathered in the pedestrianised area around the city centre.
With a nod to Rio, it’s Carnival Time with a glittering, glamorous parade of giant puppets, dancers, fire throwers and jugglers to entertain the crowds.
Live music stages all around the central party zone featuring a colourful line up of singers and bands including Marc Almond, Idlewild, The Snuts, Rudimental DJ, Arielle Free and the Mac Twins. If you fancy a Hogmany Highland Fling, you could also book a ticket for the outdoor Ceilidh, traditional Scottish country dances, jigs and reels to keep you warm in the cold night air.
The Concert in the Gardens welcomed an international star, the Grammy and Oscar Award winner, Mark Ronson, who played a rousing round up of hits, with a guest appearance from Daniel Merriweather. At Midnight, Ronson’s music soundtrack accompanied the brilliant blast of fireworks – an amazing eight minute display – set off from the Castle, which could be seen for miles around.
For those with the stamina, you could dance the night away at the After-Party till the wee sma’ hours of the morning.
The Loony Dook is a well established tradition (running since 1986), on the first of the day of the year, when brave souls take a refreshing (freezing!), dip in the Firth of Forth at South Queensferry. With a crowd of spectatators watching the action, on 1st January 2019, 1,100 people, many in Fancy Dress, took the plunge – with £1 from the ticket price goes to the RNLI. Over the Festival, £42,500 was raised to support community, social and health charities.
With so many international visitors travelling to Scotland for New Year, it’s important that the Festival offers a taste of Scottish culture and cuisine. On 1st January, 2016, Scot:Lands was a brilliantly curated tour around city churches and pop up theatres, with performers from across Scotland showcasing poetry, music and film, complemented by a feast of regional food and drink from the Borders to Orkney.
This year, the renowned singer and musician Eddi Reader and her Band gave an early evening concert. The intimate space of the McEwan Hall, with bar drinks on offer created a casual Cabaret ambience. With entertaining stories along the way, it was a seamless blend of pop songs, folk tunes and bluesy numbers from Elvis to Edith Piaf, from Rabbie Burns to Eddi’s award winning smash hits, “Fairground Attraction” and “Perfect.” With a foot-tapping, jazzy beat, this was the perfect cool, Celtic heart-warming Gig to kick start 2020.
An estimated 180,000 visitors attended the Hogmanay Festival travelling to Scotland from 87 countries including Argentina, Australia, Bermuda, Brazil, China, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, New Zealand, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, USA and Vietnam. After the midnight moment, revellers were offered a complimentary Johnnie Walker Cocktail. Slainte Mhath!
Thousands more watched the whole show from across the globe – USA, Italy, Canada, West Africa, Sweden, Australia and UK via the first ever live stream of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay to capture the atmosphere.
“What a fantastic night! Tonight Edinburgh overwhelmingly celebrated a togetherness of Edinburgh people and visitors, showing to the world the true spirit of Scotland. We thank the many people who worked together to make tonight the best ever Hogmanay.” Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam, directors of Underbelly, producers of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.
A fantastic night for these party goers too!
I’m an Edinburgh resident and it was my first time at the Street Party. One of the best night’s of my life.
Edinburgh you are amazing!! Thanks for a great few days
Thank you Edinburgh – absolutely amazing
What an unforgettable experience. Thank you Edinburgh
Fan bloody tastic.
Where, when, how can I get tickets for 2020?
If you fancy joining the Party in December this year, Underbelly has just put a limited number of Street Party tickets for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay ’20 on sale at an early bird rate £20.50 + £1.00 booking fee.
Read all about Edinburgh’s Christmas:
Edinburgh’s Christmas 2019: Market stalls, Fairground fun & Festive foodie feasts at this cool Winter Festival
“Life is not measured
by the number of breaths we take,
but by the places and moments
that take our breath away”
So begins Patricia Schultz’ travel book, “1,000 Places to See Before you Die.” Not surprisingly Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is one of those 1,000 breathtaking places across our planet.
Hogmanay, (New Year’s Eve) in Scotland’s Capital is part of the Winter Festivals season which kicks off in mid November, a perfect time to visit for Festive entertainment, a foodie feast, music and culture for all ages.
As a lifelong Edinburgh resident, I’ve experienced the classic, cool Christmas and New Year celebrations over the decades, and often think I should become jaded by the annual arrival of Christmas Trees, glittering fairy lights and the Funfair taking over Princes Street Gardens.
But no. Whenever the Big Wheel starts turning beside the Scott Monument, with the scent of mulled wine wafting in the air, I am thrown into the magical mood as Edinburgh begins to sparkle.
Created and staged by Underbelly, the Live Entertainment Company, since 2013, Edinburgh’s Christmas 2019 was launched on Light Up Night with a family friendly gathering on the Royal Mile, with a stunning flying visit by Father Christmas on his sleigh.
The lights on the Christmas Tree (a gift from the people of Hordaland, Norway) at the top of the Mound were switched on and the countdown to 25th December and New Year celebrations had begun.
Edinburgh’s Christmas was open every day, except Christmas Day, from 10am to 10pm, from 16th November 2019 until Saturday 4th January, 2020.
In East Princes Street Gardens presents a wonderful Carnival of Fairground rides such as the Star Flyer, whizzing up to a rather scary 60 metres or take an exciting whirl on the Forth 1 Big Wheel. These sky-high Rides are located on either side of the iconic Scott Monument – so you can take an energetic trek up the spiral staircase of 288 steps inside the tower to a height of 200 feet 6 inches (61.11 metres) for panoramic views over the city.
The wee ones will have fun on the Carousel and Santa Train, then play hide and seek in the maze of Christmas Trees: 25p from the price of each ticket for the Santa Land Maze supports the Greenspace Trust Tree Time, a local initiative, to fund the planting of new trees in Edinburgh.
The pedestrianised Castle Street was home to Santa’s Grotto, while parents can slide down the adult-sized Helter Skelter before time for hot chocolate or mulled wine.
A colourful programme too of free events such as the Scottish Norwegian Advent Concert at St. Giles Cathedral, the Nativity concert on the Mound and Carol singers around town. It’s the time of year for Good Deeds, with free tickets and donations provided to local charities, community & youth groups, schools and Food Banks through fund-raising Carol concerts and events over Edinburgh’s Christmas.
As many visitors have posted on social media, a disappointing omission at Edinburgh’s Christmas 2019 was the Ice Rink which has always enticed a happy crowd, day and night.
Skating is the essence of a traditional, romantic Christmas. Ice Rinks are a major seasonal attraction across the UK – London, Swansea, York et al – and, of course, at Rockefeller Centre, New York City, as witnessed in many Festive, feel-good movies. Let’s hope we can don our skating boots again to add the ICE-ing on the cake at Christmas 2020.
Browse around the traditional Market of wooden chalets – bigger than ever in 2019 with 163 stalls – for gifts, jewellery, craftwork, chocolates, French cheese, gloves, socks, hats, Loch Ness Leather, a family Highland business showcasing handmade products. Authentic Monster leather!?
A fine taste of British and European food and drink: Gluhwein, Greek Grill House, Salmon roasting over an open fire, Yorkshire Puddings, Rekorderlig Cider Lodge serving hot & cold cider cocktails and Swedish food.
After a good walk around, you could head over to The Johnnie Walker Bothy Bar to warm up and sample a dram or two, whisky cocktails and hot toddies.
Christmas entertainment too around the city theatres: The smash hit musical, The Lion King at the Playhouse (running until 29th March), the fabulous 5 star Pantomime, Goldlocks and the Three Bears at the King’s Theatre (until 19th January), The Christmas Carol at the Lyceum and Scottish Ballet staged the premiere of The Snow Queen at the Festival Theatre.
In previous years, the Spiegeltent popped up for the Festival season in St. Andrew’s Square or Festival Square: Storytellling and shows for Kids, and Limbo, a spectacular dare-devil Acrobatic extravaganza – such a special ambience in the vintage Spiegeltent, a Big Top Circus had come to town. (Please bring it back!).
Visit Edinburgh during the Festive season for a truly enchanting time in the crisp, cool winter air – and it might snow! Inspirational shopping for unique gifts, cashmere and tweed, cosy cafes, quaint old pubs, hearty food, gourmet restaurants, whisky galore, ghost tours, Harry Potter, art galleries, museums, City of Literature walks, explore the Royal Mile from Castle to Palace, climb Arthur’s Seat – as well as the Festival fun for all ages.
The extended Christmas Market in East Princes Street Gardens on various levels, with improved accessibility for all, has been a sparkling success.
A total of 2,631,154 people passed through Edinburgh’s Christmas, 4.85% more than 2018. Just under 650,000 tickets were sold for the special Festive events, attractions and Fairground rides. There was an impressive 23.9% rise in the number of Edinburgh Residents with an EH postcode, taking the advantage of a 20% discount.
And this is what visitors thought about their experience of Edinburgh’s Christmas 2019:
It’s simply the best Christmas Market and even tops Bryant Park in NYC ! Please bring back the ice rink, that’s a huge attraction and not quite the same without it
Couldn’t believe how big it was. Plenty of stalls to browse and Carnival rides for the kids. Loads to eat and drink. Definitely worth a visit
A fantastic place to visit and in my view it’s the best Christmas Market in the UK.
Why not plan to visit Edinburgh’s magical Winter Festivals in 2020.?
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.
Her innovative and unique styles of black and white photographs were selected two years running for the Scottish Portrait Awards, 2017 and 2018.
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
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.
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.
“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.
Pop Up Gallery Edinburgh, 17 Dundas Street, Edinburgh
Exhibition opening times:
12th December: 3pm – 6pm
13th – 17th December: 10am – 6pm
18th December: 10am – 3pm