Nicole Farhi: Writing Heads @ The Fine Art Society in Edinburgh – unique, literary-inspired, mini masterpieces
Nicole Farhi is a multi-talented artist in every sense of the word. From excelling as a world renowned fashion designer, and also a home stylist – furniture, kitchenware, accessories – today she is a sculptor extraordinaire.
Born in Nice, she brought a chic French style and continental flair to the British fashion industry. The shift in career from clothes to clay was, as she says, “It’s like falling in love. You don’t know why .. your life is going to change.” In 2012 she turned away from the cat walk and now concentrates solely on sculpture. For Farhi it was a natural progression to study the human figure in a different perspective, to craft and shape a face, head and hands.
This most impressive and inspiring showcase,“Writing Heads” takes pride of place at the elegant space of the Fine Art Society this summer, as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival: Twenty-five immaculate miniature busts of internationally renowned authors – philosophers, travel writers, essayists, novelists, playwrights and poets.
“I started thinking of the books I had loved reading while growing up in France.. but then also foreign authors like Hemingway, Patricia Highsmith and Doris Lessing. At the end, I had a gallery of faces, all full of humour and authority .. insight and intelligence.” Nicole Farhi
These famous faces are lined up in rows on two long shelf-like tables, so that you can walk all the way around for a close up view. The Heads are creatively constructed of ciment fondu ( a French invention – strong, quickly setting cement made from a mixture of limestone and bauxite) and acrylic.
This must be a most malleable combination of materials as Farhi has perfected an extraordinary likeness in each distinctive facial expression, skin tone, hair and clothing. They have such a tactile quality, one is tempted to touch (but of course would not!).
Let’s take a short stroll around to spot a few of these famous writers – I was so inspired that I have been dipping into a few of my favourite books to reflect on their literary life and work.
Toni Morrison, who passed away age 88 on 5th August, 2019, received The Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. Her novel, “Beloved,” based on the true story of an African American female slave won the Pulitzer, and she continued to chronicle the African American experience over five decades.
Here she is with her mane of steel grey, spiral curled, Afro hair and a proud sense of race and womanhood in her calm, composed expression.
Ernest Hemingway, with thick white beard and craggy lined face, is wrapped up in a thick seafaring sweater as if he just stepped off his fishing boat, reminiscent of his famous character, the Old Man.
“The old man was thin and gaunt with deep wrinkles I the back of his neck. The brown blotches of the benevolent skin cancer the sun brings from its reflection on the tropic sea were on his cheeks” “The Old Man and the Sea” – Ernest Hemingway
Edinburgh’s own Muriel Spark is captured as a pretty young woman, copper hair, red jacket, red lipstick. She escaped her short marriage to Sidney Spark, (his name was the only part of him she liked and kept), to seek the freedom to write. There would be 22 novels in total, with The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, regarded as her milch cow. She was Scottish through topography and geography but European in cultural, social and political spirit.
“Hold up your books” said Miss Brodie. “If there are any intruders, we are doing our history lesson, …our poetry, … English grammar. Meantime I will tell you about my last summer holiday .. about the Frenchman I met in the train to Biarritz, .. and about the Italian paintings I saw.” “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” – Muriel Spark.
Another avid traveller is Graham Greene, hair slicked back, a quizzical look about his piercing, perceptive eyes. His stories located in hot and dusty tropical places such as Mexico, West Africa, Vietnam, Cuba, Haiti, and Argentina, led to the expression “Greeneland.”
“I became aware that our love was doomed; love had turned into a love affair with a beginning and an end. I could name the very moment when it had begun, and one day I knew I should be able to name the final hour” “The End of the Affair” – Graham Greene
One of the most innovative, modernist and feminist writers, Virginia Woolf is portrayed by Farhi with a subtle sense of quiet beauty – her angular face, severe hairstyle and gentle eyes, in thoughtful, distant mood.
With her passion for vocabulary and language, she created her own style of lyrical poetry- prose narrative as a way to enter imagination of her characters.
“She enjoyed life immensely. It was her nature to enjoy. She enjoyed practically everything. …in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment of June. ”Mrs Dalloway, -Virginia Woolf
With her fashionably androgynous look of ther period, short wavy hair and masculine-styled shirt collar, the bust of Daphne du Maurier expresses her tomboyish denial of femininity.
The seed of the Rebecca story lay in her jealousy of her husband’s first fiancée:
“ If there was some woman in London that Maxim visited, dined with, slept with, I could fight her.. One day the woman would grow old and Maxim would not love her anymore. But Rebecca would never grow old. She was too strong for me.” “ Rebecca” – Daphne du Maurier
In 1954, aged 18, Francoise Sagan became an overnight sensation on the publication of “Bonjour Tristesse, ” an amoral tale of a schoolgirl’s summer romance which scandalised French society. The sculpture here shows her shock of blond hair, with a half smile, seductively playing around her mouth.
Always a rebel, her wild Bohemian lifestyle was mirrored in her depiction of fictional love affairs and loss.
“I do not know if the desire to attract others comes from a superabundance of vitality, possessiveness, or the hidden, unspoken need to be reassured.” “Bonjour Tristesse” – Francoise Sagan
W. H. Auden is remembered for his wisdom and wit – his first book, Poems was published in 1930, with the help of T. S. Eliot. With a deeply lined face and furrowed brow, the sculptured image here recalls photographs of the man at work, cigarette in hand. Close friend and creative collaborator, Benjamin Britten described his startling personality and remarkably fine brain.
“He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.”
Funeral Blues – W. H. Auden
This is just a glimpse of the twenty five Writing Heads on show – all the ciment fondu sculptures are for sale (Edition of 7 with 3 APs each, and hand painted Bronze editions are available to be cast on request.
In the downstairs gallery is an enchanting selection of serene and soulful Portraits, entitled Intimate, by a wide range of artists from mid 19th century to the present day.
Do visit the Fine Art Society soon to see this remarkable, richly rewarding exhibition, an absolute highlight of the Edinburgh Art Festival.
Nicole Farhi: Writing Heads
25 July to 31 August, 2019
The Fine Art Society in Edinburgh,
6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ
Tel. 0131 557 4050
Nicole Farhi – Louise Long
Individual images of “Talking Heads” – Iona Wolff
An exhibition of iconic Hebridean landscapes by Ron Lawson @ Alpha Gallery, Edinburgh: tranquil, timeless islands of wild scenic beauty
Before the flurry of exhibitions opening for the Edinburgh Festival season, do visit Alpha Gallery in Stockbridge to see this exhibition of paintings and prints by Ron Lawson, running from Saturday 13th July to Sunday 4th August, 2019.
A walk around the gallery will take you on an exhilarating wilderness “cruise” around the Hebrides from Barra to Tiree, Eriskay to South Uist and other islands in this archipelago off the North West coast of Scotland.
As you will see from these quirky, cool illustrations of cottages and crofts, the iconic subject matter is always recognisable as a unique Ron Lawson landscape. Surrounded by a complete barren, emptiness of the rural setting, each building is perched beside a rocky shore, a cold splash of blue sea, machair grasses, sandy beaches ..
……….or perhaps a glimpse of a lost flock of sheep.
What is so distinctive about these panorama views is the swirling sweep of a dramatic, dark sky all around; the pure grey background accentuates the white stone of buildings, rocks and sheep, as the central focus of the picture.
A thundery sky is artistic licence! For those enticed to visit, warm sunshine is often experienced here due to the gulf stream with turquoise blue water reminiscent of the Caribbean. In fact an Asian tourism advert used an image of a Berneray seascape to promote Kai Bae beach, Thailand.!
Lawson spends a few months each Spring exploring a few of these islands, camera and pencil in hand to spot a selection of these charming wee houses with coloured slate, tiled and thatched roofs. Whether these are empty, abandoned, working crofts, a boatshed or family home, there’s no indication of humanity, perpetuating the extraordinary wildnerness isolation of these communities.
With an uncanny, realistic perspective of each landscape, they capture, with real compassion, a haunting sense of Hebridean life and heritage as well as the natural, unchanging scenic beauty. While wildlife is not a signature topic, keep a beady open for a cheeky Puffin making an appearance too.
It’s the stunning quality and masterly craftsmanhip of Ron Lawson’s artwork which appeals to collectors both in Scotland and worldwide. This is a most inspiring showcase of richly evocative, atmospheric scenes, island-hopping around the Outer Hebrides – a tranquil, timeless painterly destination.
Ron Lawson: A Solo Exhibition of Original Works
Saturday 13th July to Sunday 4th August, 2019
Alpha Gallery, 52 Hamilton Place, Stockbridge, Edinburgh, EH3 5AX
Open daily, 1100 to 1700 (or by appointment)
Tel. 0131 226 3066 E. firstname.lastname@example.org
“The End of History” by Jack Thorne: a time-travelling, political Comic-tragedy of Manners @ The Royal Court Theatre, London
Jack Thorne and John Tiffany have collaborated as writer and director on several plays, including the critically acclaimed,“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” for which they both received Tony and Olivier Awards – it was the most awarded West End play in the history of the Oliviers.
The hearth and heart of a home is the kitchen. Alan Ayckbourn’s farce Absurd Person Singular observes the changing friendships of three couples in their kitchens at three successive Christmas Eve parties. In similar vein, this is the ideal communal family space for a realistic homely environment in “The End of History.” It’s simply designed with a refectory dining table and bench, oven, sink, pots & pans, fridge, comfy armchair, piles of books, newspapers and all the usual clutter. Central patio doors lead out into a garden which we see change during the seasons.
The kitchen is the constant setting for three distinctive dates in 1997, 2007 and 2017, a series of family get-togethers, memorable for all the wrong reasons.
In soft shadowy light, a short prelude shows the typical, fast paced bustle at breakfast time. Scene one, 6pm, November, 1997, Sal, (forty-something), and her daughter Polly, a law student, discuss the complex sleeping arrangements for Carl, the older son and his new girlfriend, Harriet whose parents apparently own “half of Hampshire”.
It’s an awkward first encounter; with her hands fluttering and arms waving, Sal chatters away, interrogating the shy, young girl – “What does your mother do?” … “ As in work? She doesn’t,” is the quick, curt reply.
Initially engrossed in The Guardian, husband David joins in a humorous yet heated conversation about Tony Blair, left wing values and inherited wealth with a volley of satirical comments, bickering and swearing, much to the growing embarrassment of their “posh” guest.
But then in a moment of silence, Carl reveals some shocking news, which ricochets like a bombshell with an outburst of accusations, shame and blame. Sal tries to pretend that all is fine, stirs the pot of curry and checks the rice for supper.
Their 17 year old son, Tom then arrives home to find that he has missed the family crisis, but happy to munch a slice of leftover naan bread.
This is the start of an emotional rollercoaster ride as we fast forward to summer 2007 to witness another revelation, an unexpected life-changing decision from Sal and David, as they wait for a Chinese takeaway.
“Ethically, politically, pragmatically, personally” is the refrain for the family’s regular debates, or more likely arguments, revolving around parental socialist ideals. (The kids by the way are named after Carl Marx, Polly Hill and Thomas Payne.)
John Tiffany is a master craftsman of atmospheric mood, pressing the pause button at precise moments to add dramatic tension, punctuating Thorne’s short, sharp conversational dialogue with its free flowing rhythm and pace.
Dimly-lit time change sequences are delicately choreographed with a haunting music soundtrack (The Quiet by Imogen Heap), like mini silent-movies, as the calendar pages are torn off, year by year to reach 2007 and then 2017 respectively. By the final Springtime scene, the garden is filled with colourful plants and the tall trees overhead are in full blossom, a sign of rebirth.
The impressive cast features Kate O’Flynn as Holly who matures from bolshie student to smart, savvy solicitor, while David Morrissey plays David as a thoughtful, quietly urbane intellectual.
The transformation of Harriet from a frail, fragile girl, intimidated by Sal, into a strong-minded woman, is serenely handled by Zoe Boyle.
Carl (Sam Swainsbury) is quietly serious, desperate to break free from parental control, while the youngest, nicknamed Tom Tom, (Laurie Davidson), is a sensitive, lost soul, later finding a kindred spirit in Polly.
Lesley Sharp, (who played the quick-witted, gutsy yet feminine D.C. Rachel Scott in the crime series, “Scott and Bailey”) is pitch perfect as Sal. This is a luminous portrayal, capturing the joint roles of caring mother, loving wife and feisty feminist with a hint of thin-skinned vulnerability. In this modern Kitchen Sink drama, Sal is an angry, middle aged woman, a proud, passionate Greenham activist, with the backbone to her political DNA only revealed in the last scene.
The only quibble is the over-peppering of F words throughout – is this really the vocabulary of middle class parents and teenagers in the late 90s? Also a tendency for actors to stand stock still during conversations, rather than sitting down, grabbing a beer, making a coffee – everyday, natural behaviour at home.
The Royal Court Theatre is the ideal intimate space and from lights down, utter silence as the audience is gripped in the power of shared experience and gasping aloud in unison as the narrative unfolds.
It’s difficult to place Jack Thorne’s ambitious, astute, time- travelling new play into one single theatrical genre, as it shifts in three tight, taut scenes over thirty years, from a black comedy of (appalling) manners to a bleak tragedy. Expect pin-sharp, satirical humour in a hard-hitting, heartfelt family drama, performed with a fine sense of realism, truth and honesty.
Production Photograph credits: Johan Persson
“The End of History” written by Jack Thorne and directed by John Tiffany
Show times: Thursday 27th June until Saturday, 10th August, 2019.
Mon – Sat: 7.30pm. Thu & Sat mats: 2.30pm
Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London, SW1W 8AS
Box Office Tel. 0207 565 5000.
The script is available (Nick Hern Books, £9.99).
A serene sense of place is captured in “Moments in Time” – by Jamie Primrose: Dundas Street Gallery, 7 – 15 June, 2019
It was in June, 2004 when Jamie Primrose, launched his first solo exhibition at the Dundas Street Gallery. That inaugural showcase of his distinctive city streets and seascapes was the start of bi-annual events, which this month celebrates the 15th anniversary.
“Moments in Time” features sixty paintings selected from 2004 to 2019, as a colourful and enriching retrospective, focusing especially on dramatic observations of sky, sun and sea, day and night from sunrise to sunset.
The tranquil beauty of East Lothian is illustrated by painterly panoramas of wide, sandy beaches, the sweep of the bay at North Berwick with the grey crag of the Bass Rock out at sea.
“There began to fall a greyness on the face of the sea; little dabs of pink and red, like coals of a slow fire.
With the growing of the dawn I could see it clearer and clearer, the straight crags painted with sea-birds’ droppings like a morning frost, the sloping top of it, green with grass.”
Robert Louis Stevenson: The Bass Rock from “Catriona”
This quotation so aptly describes the colour palette of pink, grey and white oils in these paintings of the Bass Rock and North Berwick. Like RLS, I loved spending summer holidays and days out in North Berwick as a child. This peaceful seaside resort has hardly changed.
What is so impressive is how Primrose perfects meteorological realism of floating, fluffy clouds across the wide expanse of sky.
Further along the East Coast towards Edinburgh, there are views of Portobello Beach, majestic structures of the Forth Bridges and the quaint village of Cramond.
Travel on to the North West Highlands near Oban, gateway to the Hebrides, for the great escape to the wild, empty shores of Loch Melfort, Port Appin and Lismore.
A series of stunning seascapes depict endless skies, shimmering shapes of distant islands and the rolling hills of Mull on the horizon. With such exquisite quality of light, streaming through stormy clouds, you can easily imagine standing there on the shore, tasting the salt sea air blowing in the breeze.
Next take a trip to the south of France – suitably known as the Cote d’Azur – where for generations of artists, from Picasso and Peploe to Primrose, the Tiffany-blue sea under a glistening glow of light, has been a constant attraction. Feel the warmth of the summer sun in scenes of the charming resort towns of Antibes, Nice and Villefranch, bathed in a pale pure light.
Further along the coast is the Italian Riviera with the colourful historic towns of the Cinque Terre, such as “Late Afternoon at Manorala” perched on the cliff top surrounded by verdant vineyards.
Portofino, known as a summer playground for wealthy lifestyle and leisure, curves around a half moon bay, the harbour lined by super yachts and fishing boats, beside a row of designer shops, bars and restaurants.
The American journalist Robert Benchley sent a celebrated telegram to his editor at the New Yorker after arriving in Venice for the first time: “Streets full of water. Please advise.” He obviously had no prior knowledge of this historic city of islands!
Regarded as the most romantic city in the world, the meandering, unchanging waterways of Venice have inspired writers and painters over the centuries to capture its mesmerising magic.
“Last Light on the Grand Canal, Venice” is a magnificent scene composed with such clarity in subtle shades of terracotta, cream and ochre: graceful palazzos, arched windows and church domes in a perfect perspective is a work of architectural draughtsmanship. In the centre, the Grand Canal shimmers in this quiet moment before dusk.
“It is a city of mirrors, a city of mirages, at once solid and liquid, at once air and stone.” Erica Jong on Venice
Here too are iconic images of the Thames flowing through London, magical, moody studies with Turneresque tones in soft shades of blue and grey.
This collection of oil paintings by Jamie Primrose highlights with meticulous detail, the subtle nuances of sun, light, shade and shadow, which he has developed over the past fifteen years, into his own masterly artistic style.
“For me a landscape hardly exists at all as a landscape, because its appearance is changing in every moment, but it lives through its ambience, through the air and the light, which vary constantly.”—Claude Monet
Do visit the Dundas Street Gallery soon to experience a marvellous tour around these dreamlike destinations from Scotland to La Serenissima, each composition captured with such a serene sense of place and intangible timelessness.
The Dundas Street Gallery,
6a Dundas Street,
Edinburgh EH3 6HZ
Opening hours: Daily, 11am – 6pm.
Saturday 15th June, 11am – 5pm.
For more information on this work, private commissions and prints, see www.jamieprimrose.com
The original British-American movie (2005) was inspired by real life events. The W.J. Brooks Shoe Company in Northampton was founded in 1898, and continued as a very successful family business for the next century making 4,000 pairs of traditional shoes and employing 70 people. But then cheaper imports from the Far East began to destroy the British shoe industry causing redundancies.
Like a fairy godmother, the owner of a shop in Folkestone requested an order of thigh high PVC boots for cross-dressers and drag queens male size and the entrepreneurial company manager Steve Pateman saw the potential of a diverse new market, and produced a range called Divine Footwear.
The amazing change of fortune for W. J Brooks was featured in BBC documentary, “Trouble At The Top” in 1999. This inspired a fictionalised version of the story for a comedy film and “Kinky Boots” premiered in 2005 with the tag line: “How far would you go to save the family business?”
From big screen to the Broadway stage in 2013, winning six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Kinky Boots features a lively score and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, (the legendary composer of such enduring hits as “Time After Time,” “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,”), foot tapping choreography by Jerry Mitchell and a book by Harvey Fierstein.
The reinvented storyline features Charlie Price who is the fourth generation of his family business, Price & Son, a shoe factory in Northampton, but is not keen to take over from his father and plans to move to London with Nicola, his ambitious girlfriend who wants to escape small town life. But when his father suddenly passes away, he inherits the shoe factory, which is on the verge of bankruptcy.
The set is all about minimalist and flexible staging and props. A front screen shows the brick wall exterior with the Price & Sons sign, opening up into the factory with a moveable platform, boxes of shoes and a bustling crowd of staff. Desperate to follow his father’s legacy and save the family business, Charlie finds inspiration after a fortuitous encounter with a transvestite cabaret singer, Lola who inspires Charlie with the offer of a contract to manufacture a line of mansize fetish footwear for her drag queen dancers, The Angels.
With Lola in charge of design alongside the fun and funky, Lauren, as project manager, the cobblers get into production mode with samples selected and prototype created for sparkling knee high, latex and leather high heel boots.
Like a mash up of “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” with a dazzling dash of “Sex and the City”, it’s a heartwarming story to reveal how important fashion is in helping people whatever race, class and sexuality, to express themselves with gay abandon.
Don, a down to earth factory worker is steeped in tradition where men are macho and women are feminine; challenging him to a duel of wits, Lola plays a central role in illustrating how we must accept people for whom they are without prejudice and discrimination. Charlie and Lola may be worlds apart in social background but their business collaboration transforms into a buddy buddy friendship. Portrayed with a rather innocent boyish charm, Joel Harper-Jackson, Charlie gradually opens his eyes to see what matters most, to take a change of direction both at work and in his love life.
With gleeful energy, expect a mixture of pop, raunchy rock, torch song ballads and disco Drag Queen numbers. Slick choreography throughout is jazzed up with acrobatic flair for a brilliant scene on and off the fast moving conveyor belt.
Kahi Ushe stars as the dynamic diva Lola with exhilarating poise and pizzazz, tough cookie humour as well as a heart of gold. The Angels are stunningly beautiful, strutting the catwalk to show how these sparkling red boots are made for dancing and prancing ….not just walking.
As colourful and camp as Christmas, this high kicking, rom-com musical is a crazy antidote to the traditional pantomime – jolly, joyful festive entertainment for all the family.
“Kinky Boots” is at the Edinburgh Playhouse
Monday 10 December, 2018 to 5 January, 2019
UK Tour 2019:
Scottish Ballet’s Christmas Treat: Ingredients: 1 rose, 1 kitchen maid, 2 cheeky stepsisters, 1 fairy godmother, a scattering of insects, a sprinkling of ballgowns and tuxedos, 1 Prince. Mix together with vibrant colour, wit and magic for a delicious confection.
This recipe is not an overly sugary sweet but a cool, contemporary revamp of the classic Fairytale, relating the rags to riches journey with richly emotional and dramatic story telling. First choreographed by Christopher Hampson for New Zealand Ballet in 2007, Cinderella was given its European Premiere by Scottish Ballet three years ago and is now touring Scotland for the Festive Season in a glamorous revival.
A prologue transports us back to a miserable, wet day as mourners gather under black umbrellas for the funeral of Cinderella’s mother. The young girl plants a solitary rose on the grave, the flower being a recurring motif throughout to represent the beauty of nature, remembrance and love.
This dark, stark image of death is a vital starting point as we then see Cinderella at work in a cold kitchen, unloved by her stepmother and teased by her two stepsisters. In her pale blue dress and apron, she pirouettes to a gypsy folk tune, highlighting her lonely existence. The bullying culture in this dysfunctional, disjointed family may seem a humorous prank, but is very much a modern message.
In a traditional Upstairs Downstairs scenario, meanwhile the sisters are in gleeful mood as they prepare for the Royal Ball. A flurry of dressmakers and cobblers present a flourish of frocks and shoes to sample with vivacious energy, as well as a much required dance lesson with hilarious results.
Kayla-Maree Tarantolo and Grace Horler portray the petite wee one and her gangling tall sister with fabulous, flamboyant, fun with no hint of the ugly stepsisters in a pantomimic burlesque. Trying desperately to fit their feet into the lost slipper is a scene of comic genius.
The stunning Art Nouveau stage and costume designs by Tracy Grant Lord are integral to the narrative which unfolds scene by scene like observing the dramatic action played out inside a child’s toy Theatre. The rose bush has blossomed into a giant tree with Rennie MacIntosh–style artistry as a decorative backdrop; enter a dreamland world of wonder and magical spells, where wishes do come true.
The intricately crafted choreography is a seamless flow with perfect quick-changing tempo for a very bouncy, very green grasshopper, to a fluttering flight of silk moths and a fast spinning web of spiders. Surrounding the Fairy Godmother is her beautiful bouquet of swirling pink Roses, her garland of girls.
With a nod to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, the Ballroom scene is exquisitely staged with the Prince’s guests in slinky silk gowns, white tie and tails, waltzing in perfect unison.
Centre stage, Cinderella (the sylphic Sophie Martin) is transformed from ragged waif to regal Ballerina as she is swept off her feet by the charming Prince (Barnbaby Rook-Bishop) in their dazzling duets. Pure romance.
The Prokofiev score captures the full orchestral colours to dramatise the mood, from light to dark, quirky characterisations and lively wit through a flowing melody, harmony, pace. Shifting from moments of spontaneity to slow, slow elegant grace, it is rich in Russian, romantic sentiment, the music weaving its magic with seductive charm.
With a bold rainbow of colours, there’s a myriad of marvellous costumes for the tailors & spiders, shoemakers & moths, stepsisters, Roses, Royal Ball partygoers; not forgetting the Kafka-esque metamorphosis from delightful dance tutor to grinning grasshopper. The characters imaginatively come to life through facial expression, gesture and the fine detail of each and every dancing step.
This is a Cinderella for today, preserving the traditional magical tale with an underlying darker mood to reflect on a young girl grieving for her mother, as well as the art of kindness, finding love and romance. Fantasy meets Reality.
This vibrant, vivacious production may date from 2007, but is as fresh as a daisy, or perhaps more aptly, a blossoming pink rose. As Scottish Ballet prepares for its 50th birthday in 2019, this kicks off the sparkling year of celebration “en pointe.”
Scottish Ballet on tour:
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, 8-30 December, 2018
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, 4-12 January, 2019
His Majesty’s, Aberdeen, 16-19 January, 2019
Eden Court, Inverness, 23-26 January, 2019
Theatre Royal, Newcastle, 30 January-2 February, 2019
“They were crossing the Meadows glaring green under the snowy sky. Their destination was the Old Town, for Miss Brodie had said they should see where history had been lived; and their route had brought them to the Middle Meadow Walk”.
From “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” Muriel Spark
Born in Edinburgh in 1918, the novelist Muriel Spark was brought up in Bruntsfield and educated at James Gillespie’s School where an influential teacher inspired the creation of the charismatic Miss Brodie. Renowned worldwide for her literary genius and while Italy became her second home, Edinburgh was always special: she considered herself ‘Scottish by formation.’
Over the past fifteen years, I have followed Jamie Primrose’s artistic journey as he travels around his equally beloved home city of Edinburgh to paint his favourite scenes in colourful oils on canvas. This new exhibition, Sparkling Hues captures the parks, streets, lochs and rolling hills as well as the timeless beauty of the dramatic skyline through the changing seasons.
Primrose has a fascination with “the ephemeral nature of light” and here you can observe similar scenes “snapped” across the shifting times of day from dawn to dusk. Most impressive is the meticulous manner in which he illustrates the distinctive change of seasons from the birth of Springtime to crisp, chilly Winter.
With indepth personal knowledge of Marchmont where he lives, a familiar stomping ground in this show is The Meadows. Here is the flowering, frothy pink blossom of Spring, with shards of sun streaming through the branches, casting long shadows on the grass.
It is stunning to view this wide expanse of parkland and long avenues of trees, each scene showing how the light slowly shifts between the brightness of midday and the first glow of sunset. Muriel Spark would certainly have loved seeing these trees in Springtime, a fond memory from her schooldays:
“It was an Edwardian building with big windows that looked out over the leafy trees, the skies and the swooping gulls of Bruntsfield Links. The school was a ten-minute walk through avenues of tall trees. Leading away was another avenue of hawthorns, flowering dark pink, the May blossoms. Muriel Spark
In March this year, Edinburgh was in the grips of a hard winter with schools closed and normal daily life ground to a frozen halt for a few days. While his children enjoyed sledging in The Meadows, Jamie was keen to capture the quiet, white wonderland.
In paintings such as “Snow Shadows looking towards Arthur’s Seat,” “Last Light on Spottiswoode Street,” and “Sunrise on Middle Meadow Walk”, the icy snow with footprints, car and sledge tracks is depicted with brilliant clarity. Just look at this glowing salmon pink sky as the sun fades away.
Following the year through nature is very much the theme of this collection with the trees also dressed in the gorgeous, golden colours of October. “Autumnal Burst of Colour in the Meadows” is particularly representative of the exhibiton title, Sparkling Hues. Exquisitely crafted, this painting needs to be studied close up and personal to appreciate the subtle, soft haze of sunlight shining on the bright copper leaves.
As you wander around Dundas Street Gallery, you can also trek up Arthur’s Seat to see Duddingston Loch, take in a panoramic view across the city to the Firth of Forth from Blackford Hill and stroll along the towpath of the Union Canal, the charming rural waterway flowing through Polwarth.
Jamie Primrose also specialises in fine black and white Ink drawings of iconic city views, streets and church spires, from cobbled closes of the Old Town to the elegant crescents of the New Town. Commissions are also available for your favourite place to be preserved in a painting.
Visit the Dundas Street Gallery soon to see this marvellous, magical evocation of Edinburgh as observed through the natural world of our seasons.
The Dundas Street Gallery, 6a Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ
Saturday 3rd November to Saturday 10th November: Weekdays, 11am-6pm. Saturday, 11am to 5pm.
“Timeless Places” by Anne Butler: an expressive meditation on our natural world with ‘joie de vivre’.
Solo exhibition “Timeless Places:”
15 – 20 September 2018
Dundas Street Gallery, 6a Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ
Opening times: 10am – 6pm.
Anne Butler is renowned for abstract landscapes and floral studies with a vivid, vivacious use of colour. Last year in September, I visited Dundas Street Gallery to view her showcase of paintings entitled “Land and Sea” featuring most evocative scenic views.
As I wrote at the time, “ There is a recurring theme of time, memories, ghosts of the past, the flow of the seasons, Spring flowers to migrating geese. Colour is clearly the dominant aspect of Anne’s vibrant green and blue land and seascapes.”
This new exhibition “Timeless Places” takes the viewer on a journey from the idyllic Hebridean island of Iona to the Canal Du Midi in France, as well as an artistic reflection on a recent loss in her family.
Anne spent a month on Iona in the early part of this summer. As she recalls, “ I like the changing weather on Iona. It can be misty in the morning, wild and windy in the afternoon and calm in the evening.”
The great pioneering Impressionist painters Monet and Cezanne found that they could capture the transient effects of sunlight by working quickly, “en plein air” rather than in a studio.
“For me a landscape hardly exists at all as a landscape, because its appearance is changing in every moment, but it lives through its ambience, through the air and the light, which vary constantly.”—Claude Monet
Likewise she works outdoors and in all weathers, painting in acrylic to build up layers with a rich colourful texture. This creates a marvellous perspective of sand, sky, sea, grass, rock, wild flowers through thick brush strokes to bring an intangible freshness to the scene.
Standing in front of these wildly abstract paintings, it feels as if you are there too on the sandy beach with the breeze of salt sea air and the sound of lapping waves.
Iona has attracted artists for decades most notably the Scottish Colourists. After painting scenic views in Venice and along the Cote d’ Azur, it was on a trip to Iona where Francis Cadell realised that the light on the West Coast of Scotland was perfect and he visited Iona almost every summer from 1912 for the next two decades. He felt very much part of the island community as described in his poem One Sunday in Iona, 1913.
Warmed by the sun, blown by the wind I sat
Upon the hill top looking at the sound.
Down in the church beneath, the people sat
On chairs and laughed and frowned.
No chairs for me when I can lie
And air myself upon the heather
And watch the fat bees buzzing by
And smell the small of summer weather
Let them bow down to God unfound
For me the sound that stretches round
For me the flowers scented ground
Upon the hilltop, looking at the sound.
Iona has preserved its symbolic status as the birthplace of Celtic Christianity since St. Columba arrived here from Ireland in 563 AD to build a monastery. Today the Medieval Iona Abbey has daily church services and residential Retreats.
“Pilgrimage” was painted after chatting to a visitor who had travelled from Minneapolis, just one of thousands of people who come to experience both the religious heritage and the restful, unspoilt beauty of the island.
Shimmering shades of blue reflect both sky and sea against dark grey blocks which could represent the Abbey or rocks on the shore. A sleek streak of aqua paint drips down the centre, creating the fluidity and movement of light and water with a dreamlike, meditative mood.
Tranquility too along the Canal du Midi, Languedoc which has attracted generations of artists. Here, Anne depicts the colourful expanse of vineyards and fields which flourish with pink poppies, lavender and golden sunflowers.
Around the walls are marvellous impressionistic landscapes re-imagined like a patchwork quilt as well as more realistic scenes such as Autumn trees, farmhouses and the grassy meadow around Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh.
There is a bold immediacy working on a scene while in the scene, a snapshot of the fleeting quality of light amidst painterly patterns. In this masterly new collection or artwork, Anne Butler captures the lingering, lost atmosphere of place, the underlying tranquil timelessness of beauty in our natural world with an expressive joie de vivre.
“Painting from nature is not copying the object, it is realizing sensations.”—Paul Cézanne
“Berlin in Stone” – a photographic journey through place and time with classic artistic vision by Eion Johnston
Berlin in Stone – Photographs by Eion Johnston FRPS
The Life Room, 23B Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6QQ
Tuesday 11th – Sunday 16th September 2018 (open 10.30 – 17.30)
Award-winning photographer Eion Johnston, FRPS, who lives in Edinburgh, has visited Berlin regularly over the past thirty years observing its architectural heritage, past and present. This two part exhibition captures a snapshot of a crumbling building damaged during 1945 and the remaining fragment of the Berlin Wall. These are more than just photographs – these are artistically crafted compositions to reflect, through hindsight and contemporary viewpoint, the aftermath of a city at war.
Through a series of panels, Berlin 1945 depicts a stone wall, punctured with bullet holes and blasts of shrapnel which pierced the fabric of the building. With extraordinary juxtaposition and layering of black and white photographic images, here too we see the ghosts of war captured like a classical sculptured frieze, human figures frozen in mid-movement, representing aspects of comfort, hope, despair and death in their war torn and destroyed city.
The main focus for Ancient Greek artists was to depict ultimate beauty and harmony, the physicality of man, his Olympic strength and endeavour in sport and in battle. With extraordinary vision, Eion Johnston has replicated the stylistic, athletic pose and poise of classic sculptures with images of slim, toned models in Berlin today. The background has a grainy textured quality which emphasises a forgotten, faded sense of place and time. One or two people viewing these photographs were convinced that these were real, historic decorative friezes carved on a wall in Berlin.
What is most moving about combining the bullet blasted stone with modern life studies is that the figures represent both the citizens who suffered and died during World War II and also young Berliners today, surrounded by memories still present within the ruins of the past.
The second part of the showcase, The Wall follows a similar artistic format whereby life studies of models have been placed against the stark grey concrete of the Berlin Wall. About a kilometre has been preserved as a valuable historic monument, a living symbol of the physical and political divisions between East and West Berlin, 1961 – 1989. Now partly destroyed, strips of steel supports are visible which gives the impression of prison bars holding back the male figures, viewed from behind, as if trapped against a cell wall, while another has his arms out stretched as if to represent the Crucifiction.
This dual perspective of Berlin in Stone reflecting the city’s tragic heritage, presents re-imagined classical mural iconography with contemporary vision which is simply breathtaking in its power and poignancy.
A selection of photographs from Berlin 1945 was submitted to the Royal Photographic Society last year, for which Eion Johnston proudly received the award of “Fellowship of the Year, 2017”. A most prestigious honour in recognition of this memorable and masterly collection.
Yes, it’s all sunshine and roses for the Summer Garden Party at the Union Gallery, an exhibition of regular, favourite artists, including Patsy McArthur, James Newton Adams, Megan Chapman, Lucy Jones, Colin Brown and Sophie McKay Knight and Joyce Gunn Cairns. Expect a distinctively diverse showcase of amazing abstracts, fabulous flowers, posed portraits, lavish landscapes, architectural artwork, galloping horses, punchy Pop Art and comical Caricatures.
On the dove-grey painted wall to the left as you step inside, is a row of five stunning Abstract Expressionist “landscapes” by Megan Chapman, under a series title, “Echoes and Memory.”
“ The foundation of my work is in the balancing of shape and line with colour, texture, and atmosphere. I enjoy creating meditative places to get lost in, such as how we dance between our inner and outer selves .. to explore our connection to the world as we navigate the push and pull of life.”
Having been brought up in Arkansas, USA, Megan has recently returned to Edinburgh (where she now lives and works), from a trip back home to visit family in Winslow, (population 300), very much rural countryside of this Southern State. Using mixed media, her colour palette is soft and subdued with a smooth, smudged blend of grey, charcoal, teal, ochre, cream which is easy on the eye.
‘In the Shallows’ offers an inkling of a realistic place, perhaps a tranquil seashore and beach, but equally, it may reflect a more dreamlike image. Bold brush strokes create an essence of the outdoors, of air, water and sand. (See image in poster above). Certainly more meditative is ‘All That I Am,’ a darker, moody scene where thin spattered, streaks of paint drip like raindrops – or perhaps tears – down the canvas giving the fluidity of movement.
Understanding the artist’s raison d’etre to these works adds a personal dimension. In ‘Return Home’ you can envisage the rich fertile earth of field and grassy meadows, a river and soft clouds on the horizon, as seen through distant memories, a distant past life. Her use of shimmering shades crafted with a cool, delicate touch is simply mesmerising in their imagination – fragile fragments of space, place and time, to capture the precious, elusive landscapes of the mind.
James Newton Adams is a sculptor and painter, who explores Scottish land and seascapes as well as the inherent people, animals and objects to compose a humorous narrative. Here are charming, quirky illustrations such as “Queensferry Lovers” – a couple embracing against a backdrop of the iconic Forth Bridge;
With colourful boats and lobster pots, “Wellies and Creels” is reminiscent of a children’s story book as well as clearly portraying the culture and heritage of small town life around a fishing harbour.
For those who know and love the rather eccentric portraits of women by the late Pat Douthwaite, a similar figurative style is employed by Sophie McKay Knight with her wildly colourful and fashionable ladies. ‘The Queen of Swords’ (see poster above), and a Priestess show off their exuberance, passion and joie de vivre. ‘The Writer’ is a fascinating profile, with no pen or book in sight, simply a madcap Bohemian girl, her serious expression as as frozen focus on whatever she is observing with intent interest.
“Thematically, my work is concerned with the human figure, nature, science, transformation and magic. Although it mostly depicts people, many other things inform my imagery – often a scene I have witnessed, a story I have read, an historical character or event.” Sophie McKay Knight.
And a Garden Party is not a complete without flowers. A vase of ‘Yellow Tulips’ by Joyce Gunn Cairns is an integral part of her trademark subtle sketches of domestic scenes where there are also cats of many colours who lurk and curl in peaceful comfort beside their doting Mistresses, apparently lost in quiet thought.
Aine Divine is also inspired by the natural world of colour and scent with her mixed bouquet of flower paintings, such as gaily patterned jug of ‘Sunflowers,’ as well as delightful ‘Oxi Daisies” and fragrant ‘Freesias’.
As Aine says, “You can understand why Monet was so taken by his garden. The thing that strikes me about flowers is that it’s hard to beat the real thing. I’ve never seen a more beautiful painting of flowers than a Renoir Still Life – they seemed alive and moving on the canvas.”
This overview offers just a brief snapshot of this inspiring, insightful exhibition rather than illustrating the full picture. Take a stroll around this painterly Garden over the next couple of weeks to view the spirit of life and living, a marvellous, magical world as seen through the eyes and minds of these artists – and many others – across the spacious two floors of the Union Gallery.
And view too a flourishing window box of blossoming flowers too within this sunny Summer in the City scene.
Summer Garden Party – 12 July to 4 August, 2018.
Union Gallery, 4 Drumsheugh Place, Edinburgh EH3 7PT
Open – Monday to Saturday, 10.30 – 5.30pm. Closed Sunday.
www.uniongallery.co.uk – tel. 0131 225 8779