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“Christmas at the Botanics” – an enchanting walk in the park amidst the glittering glow of fairy lights and festive fire.

After enticing 70,000 visitors to the inaugural event in 2017, and 76,000 in 2019, “Christmas in the Botanics” is back again, transforming the garden at night into a winter wonderland.  With the pantomime season cancelled for 2020, this outdoor entertainment offers a magical treat for all the family. 

Just a short walk from the West Gate, a choral rendition of Joy to the World will put you in festive mood as you stroll beside a meadow of giant snowballs like sparkling Christmas Tree baubles.

Christmas Spheres – giant snowballs and glistening baubles

All around, the bare winter trees and evergreens glimmer and shimmer in colourful shadows.  Wander over the Chinese Hillside with a garland of lanterns hanging from the branches beside the lake with a spouting fountain. 

Chinese lanterns

One of the highlights is the ‘Laser Garden’, where you are enveloped in a thick beam of green, glittering fairy lights, while a white mist swirls between the trees, creating a very spooky woodland atmosphere.

The Laser Garden filled with flickering, flying fairies

Kids will love to try to catch hold of these tiny, Tinkerbelle fairies, as they dance around you and sparkle along the path.  This is a magical, theatrical moment and I really felt like a child again. 

Another surreal sight, is the beautifully lit, tumbling waterfall at the Rock Garden, where the trees and plants are ‘painted’ in soft shades of green and purple. With the floating waterlilies in the pond, it’s like a landscape by Monet come to life. 

The painterly Rock Garden like a Monet watercolour

Turning along each path of the trail, the Botanics is brightly illuminated with installations such as a crystal, be-jewelled Christmas Tree, ‘Starfield’ featuring twenty twinkling stars, and ‘Constellations’, with sculptures of Orion, Little Bear et al.  

Starfield

Warm up in the ‘Fire Garden’, ablaze with flickering bulbs and flaming torches, while you sing along to Silent Night.  Through each different landscape, the air is filled with the familiar classics, Michael Buble is Walking in a Winter Wonderland, Chris Rea, Driving home for Christmas and for Kylie, It’s the Most Wonderful Time.

Listening to the sharp, clear quality of the soundtrack, you would think that the performers, choirs and orchestras are hidden behind the trees!

Cathedral of Light

Enter the ‘Cathedral of Light’, an arch of flower bud lights through a long tunnel with a clever optical illusion.  A dazzling, zigzag display of colourful Diamond lights is projected on the architectural structure of the towering Glass Houses, choreographed perfectly to the jazzy-rock music score by Metallica. 

The 21 Diamond installation along the 128 metre Glasshouses

An artistic pile of Sledges is reminiscent of the sculpture, “Sled” (1969) by the German Fluxus artist, Joseph Beuys, who in fact visited this garden a few times, for an exhibition at Inverleith House.  

A towering Tree of Sledges

This grand 18th century mansion is the backdrop to a magnificent animation with images of iconic places around the city from the Castle to the Forth Bridge.

Inverleith House is illuminated like a huge Advent Calendar

The windows of the house are like the boxes of an Advent Calendar with the dates flicking over from 1st to 24th December, as Mariah Carey belts out, “All I want for Christmas is You.” 

“All I want for Christmas is You” sings Mariah Carey

This enchanting walk through this series of installations is like a mixed box of well-designed, glittering Christmas Cards …. but unfortunately, there is no narrative or overall theme. At its heart, this event is for families with young children, so a simple story could link these different theatrical scenes together.

The Fairies in the Laser Garden could be trying to help a lost Reindeer in his search for Santa Claus.  Children could then follow a fun and fantastical, Peter Pan-style journey, flying through the Constellation of stars, land of ice, snow and fire, from the Chinese Hilltop to Lapland.  (Just an idea!)

And yes, a jolly Father Christmas does makes a magical appearance with his flowing white beard and a majestic red coat, waving outside his log cabin in the forest.  

 ‘Christmas at the Botanics’ runs at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh on selected dates from 2nd December, 2020 to 3rd January 2021.

Information on dates, opening times, travel, parking, entrance gates and tickets: https://www.rbge.org.uk/whats-on/christmas-at-the-botanics-2020/

Tickets prices range from: Adult £19, Member £16, Child £13 (4-16), Family £60. Carers and children under 4, free. (subject to a single transaction charge).

A Pop-up Bar serves a range of food and drink *: e.g. Mulled Wine, Prosecco, Beer, Cider,  Hot Chocolate, Tea, Coffee, soft drinks; Hot Dogs, Burgers, Veggie Burgers, BBQ snacks, Fries, & Children’s portions. (* but where are the traditional roasted chestnuts and mince pies?!)

‘Christmas at the Botanics’ is produced by events promoter Raymond Gubbay Limited a division of Sony Music, in partnership with the RGBE and Culture Creative, in collaboration with Mandylights, Lightworks, ArtAV, & Liverpool Lantern Company.

The Holyrood Distillery 2021 Heritage Whisky Cask Auction – recreating a spiritual taste of history …in a dram.

Whisky lovers, collectors and connoisseurs can be part of a unique event when Holyrood Distillery offers a limited edition of thirty casks of specially crafted single malt whiskies at auction. The casks are the innovative recreation of heritage whiskies based on those formerly produced by Edinburgh’s historic distilleries.

In partnership with Whisky Hammer, the Aberdeenshire specialist whisky auctioneers, these unique whisky casks will be sold at an online auction with bidding open from 4th to 13th December, 2020.

Whisky Hammer

Holyrood Distillery was launched in Edinburgh in 2019 to resurrect the lost tradition of whisky making in the Capital after almost a hundred years; the majority of the distilleries closed in the 19th century with the last two, Dean and Glen Sciennes closing in 1922 and 1925.

Using recipes dating back a hundred years, the Distillery has sourced the ancient ingredients, old style brewer’s yeast and authentic barley varieties: Chevallier was used in the 19th century by Bonnington, Croftanrigh and Yardhead distilleries; Plumage Archer was used from the early 20th century by Dean and Glen Sciennes. Only sherry casks will be usedfifteen American oak, Oloroso Sherry Hogsheads and fifteen Spanish oak, Pedro Ximenez Sherry Hogsheads – in the tradition of these former Edinburgh distilleries.

 “This is a rare opportunity to own a single malt whisky which is based on the techniques and ingredients used by Edinburgh’s distilling forefathers. Purchasing one of these rare casks is an invitation to own a piece of history and tread in the footsteps of the people who created the city’s whisky industry.” David RobertsonCo-founder of Holyrood Distillery.

David Robertson, co-founder of Holyrood Distillery

The re-creation of an historic whisky has been a successful branding concept for Whyte & Mackay with their iconic Shackleton whisky in tribute to the great Antarctic explorer. Three crates of Mackinlay’s whisky were discovered in 2007 at the Expedition base camp for the officers and crew of the Endurance ship, stranded in the ice in 1915.  Master blender Richard Paterson worked with the whisky salvage team to profile the original Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt, Shackleton’s favourite, to create a contemporary, blended malt.

Likewise, the production of these classic Edinburgh whiskies is an inspirational venture for Holyrood Distillery to preserve a taste of the city’s “spiritual” heritage.

Whisky Hammer, Ellon, Aberdeenshire

The Scottish, family business, Whisky Hammer, Ellon, Aberdeenshire, was established in 2015 by brothers, Daniel and Craig Milne, to specialise in rare and hard-to-find bottles for whisky connoisseurs worldwide: The motivation behind the company was from our passion for whisky. We were brought up in Macduff, on the edge of the Speyside region, where some may argue, the best whisky in the world is produced.”

Now one of the most renowned, global, online whisky platforms, at their October auction, a bottle of Macallan 78 year old (Red Collection), sold for £922, 500. Also under the hammer, was a rare Bowmore Hogshead cask, 1987, snapped up for £64.700, and also a Tullibardane, Oloroso cask, 2018, for £1, 550.

Daniel and Craig Milne, of Whisky Hammer

 “We’re honoured to partner with Holyrood Distillery to offer 30 unique casks exclusively on Whisky Hammer. Having seen increasing interest and demand for old, vintage whisky and cask purchases, this is a golden opportunity to make history and fully participate in crafting a deeply personal and rare spirit, …. an offer not to be missed by our members, who love interesting and unusual whiskies.” Daniel Milne, Managing Director of Whisky Hammer.

Bidding is expected to start at £3,000 for each numbered, sherry hogshead allowing bidders to select the barley variety, cask type and number. The casks will be filled with the fledgling spirit in early 2021 and put to rest in the warehouse to become unique single malts.  

Winning bidders will be invited to see their spirit being created and cask filled in the Warehouse and then follow each stage of the maturing process of their own whisky.  The hammer price paid will include storage of the cask for up to ten years, annual sampling and insurance.

Holyrood Distillery was founded by a Canadian couple, Rob and Kelly Carpenter and Scottish whisky expert, David Robertson. Rob launched the Canadian branch of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society with wife Kelly, while David has 25 years’ experience in the industry with The Macallan and The Dalmore, as well as co-founding Rare Whisky 101. 

Rob Carpenter and David Robertson, owners of Holyrood Distllery

Located on St. Leonard’s Lane with views over Holyrood Park, the Distillery is based at a B-listed, 1835 era building, formerly part of the Edinburgh & Dalkeith Railway.  As well as single malt whisky they distil gins and liqueurs and there is a 5-star visitor centre offering an interactive, educational experience.

Holyrood Distllery on the site of a former Railway Company

Owning a maturing cask is a dram lover’s dream, the ultimate indulgence, but also be a sound investment for the future. In eight, ten, twelve + years’ time, you will be able to bottle this speciality whisky for your own unique collection.

Whisky Hammer will host the online auction for these thirty heritage whisky casks which kicks off at 7pm (GMT) on Friday 4th and open until Sunday 13th December, 2020.   

To register to bid on the Holyrood 2021 Heritage Whisky Cask auction, visit: www.whiskyhammer.com   

For more information on the Holyrood Distillery and shop on line: https://www.holyrooddistillery.co.uk/

Learn all about whisky on the Holyrood Distillery Tour

The quietly composed Landscapes, Flowers and Still Life by Joan Renton, RSW, on show at the Grilli Gallery, Edinburgh

Joan Renton was born in 1935 and studied at the Edinburgh College of Art where she was taught by three exemplary Scottish artists, William Gillies, John Maxwell and Robin Philipson. After a travelling scholarship to Spain in 1959, she was a teacher before becoming a full time artist.  The recipient of several Awards, Joan was elected to the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolour in 1974.

This charming exhibition of landscapes, botanical studies and Still Life paintings illustrates the diverse range of subjects and artistic styles which inspire Ms Renton. 

Towards Mull

Travelling to the wild and wonderful Hebridean Islands off the west coast of Scotland has always been her stomping ground, sketch pad in hand, no doubt. With a photographic eye combined with impressionistic creativity, “Towards Mull” is a majestic panoramic scene.  The viewer feels they are standing on the sandy beach looking out across the bay to the shimmer of shapely hills beyond.  

While this clearly evokes a realistic ambience, the blending of soft shades, and curving contours of land and sea, creates a misty mood.

 ‘Although my paintings have their origins in nature, the influences of light and atmosphere are more important to me than realistic representation.’  Joan Renton

Tragh-Mhor, Tiree

This semi-abstract technique is also shown in “Traigh-Mhor, Tiree,” which is most atmospheric: the curving trail in the sand leads the eye between the rocks to the lapping waves, a fleck of white horses and the distant islets. The pinky grey sky of scudding clouds evoke a tangible feeling of a chilly, salt sea breeze in the air on this blustery day. 

A most enchanting winter scene is conjured up in “Little Tree,” in which the black, bare, skeletal branches spread across the canvas like a spider’s web.

Little Tree

The bold, imaginative pattern in the foreground reveals a tapestry of the snow-covered fields and rolling heather hills behind. This striking viewpoint would be a magical illustration for a Christmas Card.

The world of nature is captured both outdoors and at home. Here are several botanical paintings such as “Jug of Flowers,” a finely crafted, colourful display with such detail in the leaves, stamens, buds and petals.

Jug of Flowers

And with a more expressionistic style, a swimming swirl of translucent green, blue and amber tones in the watercolour, “Sunlit Summer.”

Sunlit Summer

Edouard Manet described Still Life as “the touchstone of painting,” which tests the skill of an artist to paint household objects, fruit, flowers, jugs, glassware and textiles. “Grey Still Life,” is a quiet, cool composition to illustrate the contrasting texture of a seaside shell, garden pears and flowers on the olive-green cloth.

Grey Still Life

The renowned artist Anne Redpath, OBE (1895–1965), devised her own iconic style of two dimensional Still Life scenes and domestic interiors.  Following in her brushstrokes, Joan Renton is also a master of the genre with such a delicate, elegant and decorative design.

The moment I stop learning and exploring new avenues,  I shall give up and spend all my time in the garden.” Joan Renton

Now in her 85th year, this celebratory exhibition proves that Joan Renton is still very much in her prime and unlikely to exchange her paint brush for a trowel anytime soon.

THE GRILLI GALLERY, 20A Dundas Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6HZ  

Joan Renton – A solo exhibition of paintings

31st October to 29th November, 2020

Mon, Tues, Thurs & Fri 11.00am to 4.00pm,

Viewing by appointment: Tel. 0131 261 4264; mobile 07876 013 013

Browse the gallery of images on line:  http://www.art-grilli.co.uk/exhibition.html

Poppies and Silver Jug

‘this divine quiet’ – Helen Booth: a painterly meditation on the bleak, serene beauty of Iceland, @ &Gallery, Edinburgh

This is the first solo exhibition by the British artist, Helen Booth to be held in Scotland, and features over 25 artworks inspired by a recent residency in Iceland. She has exhibited widely across the UK, Europe and USA, and in 2019, she received two prestigious accolades in New York – a Pollock Krasner award for painting and an Adolf and Esther Gottlieb Prize for Abstract Painting.

Iceland is known as ‘The Land of Fire and Ice’ due to its ancient topography of giant glaciers, waterfalls, hot springs and fiery volcanoes, a wild, desolate terrain, sculptured through climate and time.

‘this divine quiet’ – Icelandic landscapes by Helen Booth at &Gallery

“Standing in a divine landscape has reinforced my personal belief that Nature is the most powerful force and that trying to capture the essence of Nature in its purist form is what is important to me as an artist.”  Helen Booth

Feel the chill air in Abstract Landscape, 4, as soft snow flutters in icy dribbles from a billowing thick cloud stretching to the lost, hazy horizon.

Abstract Landscape 4, Helen Booth

Again with atmospheric realism, Abstract Landscape 7, is a swirling, whirling whiteout around the looming mass of a glacial mountain.

Abstract Landscape 7, Helen Booth

This raw, rugged environment is a pale palette of milky-white, cream, pink and blue-greys; the cool, crisp winter light glistens with an ethereal quality etched into frozen lakes and snow-smothered rocky peaks.

Abstract landscape 6, Helen Booth

Many of these landscapes are pared down to the one essential element – water; the flow and fluidity of melting glaciers in a stream of drips as in Falling Water, with monochrome minimalism.

Falling Water, Helen Booth

Also with abstract purity, a flourish of translucent spots and dots depicts the vision of glimmering icicles and a blizzard of drifting snowflakes in Frozen Water.

Frozen Water, Helen Booth

This seemingly simple, subtle technique is so imaginative, such as in I Think About You All The Time with its sparkling glow like Tinkerbelle fairy lights and stars in the night sky. (This stunning image would be perfect for a Christmas card or fabric design).

I think about you all the time, Helen Booth

The use of symbolic markings is also most effective in the delicate, pointillist pattern of Silent Fall of Snow. Magical, mesmerising, meditative.

Silent Fall of Snow, Helen Booth

The title, ‘this divine quiet’, comes from a memoir by Christiane Ritter, “A Woman in the Polar Night,” about surviving life in the Arctic wilderness. Likewise, with poetic, painterly eloquence Helen Booth captures the bleak, majestic natural beauty of Iceland with a tangible, serene sense of place.

Abstract Landscape 2, Helen Booth

 “Abstract Art is always rooted in experience of the real world .. .. and provides an emotional satisfaction similar to that of landscape. ”  Pepe Karmel (Abstract Art, a Global History, Thames & Hudson).

this divine quiet – Helen Booth

&Gallery, 3 Dundas Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6QG

Current opening times:

Tuesday to Friday 11am – 5pm; Saturday 11am – 4pm & by appointment. 

www.andgallery.co.uk.  Tel. 0131 467 0618

The exhibition is beautifully complemented by floral displays of Birch Tree branches and ice-dried, white Amaranthus blossom, created by ‘Flowers by Minty’, Abbeyhill, Edinburgh

Abstract Landscape 5, Helen Booth

“Ethereal Silence:” Paintings of Edinburgh through the seasons by Jamie Primrose @ Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh

Edinburgh isn’t so much a city, more a way of life… I doubt I’ll ever tire of exploring Edinburgh, on foot or in print.” Ian Rankin

Jamie Primrose is sure to agree with this sentiment, as he is unlikely to stop exploring  Edinburgh on foot or in oil paint. 

Springtime in Edinburgh, 2020 was rather a different city than usual. Like all of us, isolated at home, the artist Jamie Primrose was unable to visit his studio to work.  But he could get out and about to observe, photograph and sketch his favourite places and picturesque scenes at a time of complete solitude and tranquillity.

Sunrise from Arthur’s Seat, Jamie Primrose

This collection of over fifty original oil paintings, aptly entitled “Ethereal Silence,” is based on his wanderings around the city this year, celebrating Edinburgh through the seasons.

Follow in Jamie’s footsteps on those daily walks during lockdown around his local neighbourhood, Marchmont, and across the wide open space of the Meadows, flourishing in pink blossom.  The magical effect of shadows cast by the sun through the trees is captured so well in such works as “Hazy Afternoon Light in The Meadows” and “Spring light on Jawbone Walk.”

Hazy Afternoon Light in The Meadows, Jamie Primrose

At different times of the day and evening he would trek around the craggy landscape of Arthur Seat, and to the top of Calton Hill for a panoramic view across the city of spires.  Explorations on foot too around the Old Town, such as the charming curve of Victoria Street,  and a stroll through Princes Street Gardens in the summer sun.  Primrose’s favourite places now transformed into works of art.

Winter Lights looking up Victoria Street, Jamie Primrose

Jamie Primrose is a master at depicting the shimmering soft glow of dawn light as captured in a series of paintings such as “Sunrise from Arthur’s Seat,

Sunrise from Arthur’s Seat, Jamie Primrose

and at the end of the day, experience the coral pink and mauve tinted clouds in “Sunset Skyline over Edinburgh.”

Sunset Skyline over Edinburgh, Jamie Primrose

 Not quite sure of the meteorological term for a mackerel sky, but the distinctive cloud patterns in many cityscapes brilliantly reflect a sense of movement and atmosphere.

 Most impressive is “Sunrise over Edinburgh Castle,” a moment in time to catch the golden glimmer of a new blue sky day. It illustrates perfectly the poetic description of the Castle:

“.. this gigantic rock lifts itself above all that surrounds it, and breaks upon the sky with the same commanding blackness of mingled crags, cliffs, buttresses, and battlements.” J. K. Lockhart.

Sunrise over Edinburgh Castle, Jamie Primrose

On this painterly journey through the year, you can almost feel the shift in temperature too, by the clarity of light and brightness of Summer sun to the icy grey chill in “Winter Morning looking down Middle Meadow Walk.”

Winter Morning Middle Meadow Walk, Jamie Primrose

These are just a few key highlights from this captivating and finely composed collection. The exhibition is at the Dundas Street Gallery but if you are unable to visit, you can view the online gallery and take a video tour of the show. 

Limited Edition Prints:
In addition to these new original paintings, there are framed limited edition prints of The Meadows, Old Town scenes and city skylines. Also available, East Lothian and West Coast seascapes, atmospheric vistas of Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Venice, & South of France.

Jamie Primrose: ‘Ethereal Silence’
Thursday 5th – Saturday 14th November 2020

Open Monday to Friday, 11am to 6pm by appointment

To book your appointment contact: Mari Primrose
mari@jamieprimrose.com

Saturday – walk in visits from 12 noon – 5pm

The Dundas Street Gallery
6a Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

View the works on the website: https://jamieprimrose.com/latest/index.html

Video tour of the gallery:  https://vimeo.com/476041741

Sunset over the City from Arthur’s Seat, Jamie Primrose

Florilegium: a Gathering of Flowers – a flourishing showcase of colourful, multi-cultural artwork at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

A Florilegium is a book of flowers. It is commonly a group of botanical paintings depicting a particular collection. Florilegium: A Gathering of Flowers is a vitally important exhibition of botanical illustrations depicting rare and endangered plants found in the glasshouses at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.  

Founded 350 years ago, with a collection of 13,500 international species, its mission is “To explore, conserve and explain the world of plants for a better future.

RGBE – 350 years of collecting exotic plants


“Florilegium: A Gathering of Flowers” aso neatly links to the heritage of the historic garden. One of the earliest books recording scientific drawings of plants was Robert Sibbald’s Scotia Illustrata in 1684. Sibbald was the first professor of medicine at the University of Edinburgh and a founder of RBGE.

Last year, an invitation was sent out to Botanical illustrators around the world to submit drawings of plants from the RBGE Living Collection for this art showcase at Inverleith House.  Forty artists were selected from Australia, Austria, Barbados, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Nepal, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, Slovenia, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, UK and USA.

Floral illustrations blending botancial accuracy and fine art

The walls of the downstairs gallery have been painted a soft sage green which gives a calm, cool backdrop to the paintings. Each are labelled by the classic Latin name with the name of the artist. 

Brownea grandceps, Maria Alice de Rezende

Paresh Churi uses an ecological approach for his drawing, of “Dichrostachys cinerea” featuring the branch, buds and insects in its natural setting.  In contrast, Claire Banks, presents a scientific dissection of “Cavendishia Engleriana var. ecuadorensis” – such fine detail of tiny feathery stamens and silky petals. In display cases there are Claire’s sketch books and paint pots – the precise colour palette is simply stunning.

Paulownia tomentosa, Mieko Ishikawa

Narongsak Sukkaewmanee’s floral study of “Musa coccinea” is a flourish of coral blossom, leaves, seeds and nuts. The Coffee plant is delicately sketched by Sarah Howard, while Jacqui Pestell has created a detailed image of a Blackberry.  Beautifully captured in soft shades of pink, yellow and green, is “Globba winitii” by Sunanda Widel. 

These are just a few highlights of these colourfully crafted masterpieces, which combine exquiste botanical accuracy with artistic perfection. 

To complement this showcase, four contemporary artists were commissioned to create their own personal, cultural and geographical response to the natural world through paintings, drawings, photography and video film. 

The ‘Night Garden’ blue room by Wendy McMurdo

Upstairs at Inverleith House, the first room is taken over by Wendy McMurdo has curated  Night Garden, inspired by blossoming Spring flowers, a series of photographs accompanied by her diary entries.

The early months of the Covid-19 lockdown coincided with the warmest May ever recorded in Britain.  The sunsets were spectacular. Night after night, the May skies were filled with lilac and purple. My wisteria flowered for the first time. “

Wisteria, Wendy McMurdo

During this time, her mother had become ill and soon passed away. Meanwhile, in Wendy’s garden, an unidentified plant began to grow, unfurling glossy leaves, then buds bursting into life with beautiful flowers – “large waxy trumpets filled the night air with their scent that summer.”  

Cardiocrinum Giganteum – Wendy McMurdo

The plant was named as the very rare, “Cardiocrinum Giganteum, giving an unexpected, welcome sign of renewal at the time of sadness and loss. Out of the dark, a lily grows.

Annalee Davis from Barbados has created an illustrated family history entitled As If The Entanglements Of Our Lives Did Not Matter. This refers to the fact that her grandparents were of mixed race at the heart of Colonial life on a sugar cane plantation, as depicted in this charming portrait.

“As if the Entanglements of our lives did not matter,” Annalee Davis

Annalee’s Caribbean heritage is illustrated most powerfully using pages of a 1979 Ledger from the Estate. Superimposed on a handwritten list of sales figures and the wages paid to workers are paintings of sugar beet and ivy leaves as well as actual pressed flowers.

Sugar Cane and Ivy on 1979 Ledger sheet, Annalee Davis

Taiwanese-American artist Lee Mingwei is a tribute to his beloved, late Grandmother in a series of photographs, 100 Days with Lily (1995).  Lee cultivated and nurtured a single lily, documenting every moment of its natural life from seed and bulb to blooming flower, until it finally shrivelled and died.

100 days with Lily – Lee Mingwei

Lyndsay Mann has created a video documentary, A Desire For Organic Order on the work of the Herbarium and Centre for Middle Eastern Plants at the Royal Botanic Garden. Featuring plants from Afghanistan dating to the 1820s, the meditative film shows an archive of journal entries, diaries, letters and contemporary links between Scotland and the Middle East. 

Abutilon megapotamicum, Jessica Daigle

 “From common weeds to exotic cultivars, flowers are deeply embedded within our lives and have long been an inspiration to artists (who) explore our wider relationship to nature. We hope the show will encourage visitors to treasure their encounters with the art and the amazing diversity of flora in our Garden and Glasshouses. Emma Nicolson, Head of Creative Programmes, RBGE

Florilegium: a Gathering of Flowers

Friday 16 October – Sunday 13 December 2020 

Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

Book a time slot to enter RBGE in order to visit the exhibition.

https://www.rbge.org.uk/whats-on/inverleith-house/introducing-climate-house/florilegium-a-gathering-of-flowers/

Inverleith House with Terrace Cafe

The Scottish Portrait Awards 2020 for Fine Art and Photography – an inspiring focus on faces and places, life and love.

Now in its fourth year, the Scottish Portrait Awards received a significant increase in submissions with 1,050 works entered for the SPA in Fine Art and Photography, especially by young artists aged under 25 in both categories. 

This just illustrates the creativity, talent and commitment for artistic expression during life in lockdown. “Art is often a refuge when times are tough and this year proved no exception. Works selected for the 2020 SPAs convey a stunning mix of defiance, escape, resilience and humour.” Gordon Mitchell, Director, SPA  

Entrants to the SPAs must be over 16 years and born, living or studying in Scotland. The Scottish Portrait Award for Fine Art is for portraits in any 2D or 3D medium. The SPA Photography Award for black and white portraiture is named after the late Richard Coward who had a prestigious career as a portrait and fashion photographer.

The annual exhibition of the selected 60 works from the long list of entries, is open from Tuesday 3 to Friday 27 November at the Scottish Arts Club, Edinburgh. I enjoyed a leisurely browse around the two galleries, upstairs and downstairs at the grand Georgian townhouse on Rutland Square.

These are a few of my highlights of the Fine Art exhibition:   

Emmeline Cosnett’s “The Mask Maker” is certainly topical, illustrating her work sewing masks during the Covid-19 pandemic on a vintage Singer machine. Her doleful companion is Bosco, a bull terrier, paws on the table as if to say, ‘When can we go for a walk?!’

The Mask Maker, Emmeline Cosnett

Saul Robertson has captured the peaceful pose of his two young children in “Summer Sleep.”  Such exquisite painterly detail here in this picture of pure innocence: soft, smooth skin, strands of blonde hair and the crumpled folds of white bed linen.

Summer Sleep, Saul Robertson

“Between this World and the World Beyond” is a poignant scene by Li Huang of himself sitting with his late father, recalled as a young man. Each hold a book on Modern Painting, their hand gestures reflect an imagined conversation between father and son, now divided between two worlds. Last year, Li Huang won third prize for a portrait of his mother, “Kinship”.

Between this World and the World Beyond, Li Huang

“Teresa” is a charming tribute to Theresa Gourlay’s aunt, when she was suffering from dementia. There is confusion and pain in her tearful eyes and downturned mouth, as she clutches her arm in comfort, her watch perhaps signifying the passing of time and a life well lived.

Teresa, Theresa Gourlay

“Starting the Day: Self-portrait in Lockdown” is described by the artist Brian Barclay as ‘an insomniac just out of bed and in desperate need of a haircut.’  His Mohican curly whiff and furrowed brow is like a mirror image with, it seems, light-hearted introspection.

Starting the Day, Brian Barclay

I am a great admirer of the brilliant, Oscar winning actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, (Capote, The Talented Mr Ripley et al). who tragically passed away aged 46, in his prime. The bronze sculpture by David A. Annand expresses his “vitality, intelligence and that twinkle in his eye.”

Philip Seymour Hoffman, David A. Annand

And a look around the Photography gallery:

Mark Shields specialises in finding salt of the earth characters for his narrative portraits.  With an industrial backdrop, “The River Man” is George Parsonage, a legend of the Clyde who has recovered many bodies but, a true Samaritan has rescued 1500 people from the river.

The River Man, Mark Shields

As seen through the eyes of a young girl, Eve, “The Magic and Mystery of Scotland” by Julie Wilkes shows the sweep of the Glenfinnan viaduct reflected through the window of the Jacobite train – aka Hogwart’s Express, the film location of the Harry Potter movie.  

The Magic and Mystery of Scotland, Julie Wilkes

Queen’s Park, Glasgow – Homo Hill –  is renowned as a playground and meeting place for gay men.  On a summer’s day, “Gareth and Andrew” by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan, depicts their private, intimate, close embrace.

Gareth and Andrew, Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Davide Pagnossin is a close friend of Umu whose serene, natural beauty was apparently snapped in a fleeting moment, as “she looked at me effortlessly” without poise or pose. “Umu and the Boys” shows her beside a lamplit painting, out of focus as the backdrop. 

Umu and the Boys, Davide Pagnossin

From the final sixty entries, the shortlist of five portraits in each of the Fine art and Photography categories has now been selected by the professional judging panels.

Fine Art nominees: Brian Barclay – Starting the Day: Self-portrait in lockdown and Li HuangBetween This World and the World Beyond. (as above);. Bethany Cunningham – Steamin’ aff a Sair Fecht, her boyfriend in lockdown mode;  Reuben Sian de GourlayThe Contemplation of Being Back in Nature, c.2059, a meditation of modern society and nature; Huw Williams – Overalls, Mouse ….and Me, a self-portrait with his dachshund, Mouse, who was meant to be a studio dog, but she hated the cold and loud music. (illustrated below).

Photography nominees: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan’ – Gareth and Andrew; Robert Andrew Mheadhoin Trefor shows a builder repairing a track on the summit of a windy mountain;  Peter Iain Campbell –  Milli Kuzem (River Kelvin encounters #002) taken after his daughters discovered a hidden path on the River Kelvin; Samuel TaylorDyron, a joyful, charismatic dancer has a rest;  Ben Douglas –We got everything? shows Sam, Matt and Liam as they set out for a gig.

We got Everything? Ben Douglas

The winners will be announced on 18th November, 2020, who will be presented with a total of £11,000 including the £5000 first prize SPA for Fine Art and £3,000 Richard Coward SPA in Photography.

Visit the SPA 2020 exhibition at the Scottish Arts Club, Edinburgh, 3 – 27 November 2020, Glasgow Art Club, 15 January – 24 February, 2021, Duff House, Banff, 1 April – 30 June, 2021.

Book an appointment on the website. https://www.scottishportraitawards.com/

View the Fine Art and Photography exhibitions on line:

https://www.scottishportraitawards.com/2020-spa-fine-art-gallery

https://www.scottishportraitawards.com/2020-spa-photography-gallery

A two minute You Tube video of the exhibition has been set to music by Andy Jeffcoat, commissioned by the Scottish Arts Trust. 

With such a high quality of entries this year, the 180 works on the Long List will be available to view on the website from 15 December 2020 to 15 January 2021.

Overalls, Mouse and Me, Huw Williams

Bienvenue La Fete du Cinema, 2020

The French Film Festival UK is on the road again: 220 films, 28 cinemas, 25 locations, 44 days – La crème de la crème of Francophone Cinema.

After the cancellation of all the Edinburgh Festivals this year, and with most theatres still closed, it is most welcome news that the French Film Festival UK decided to plan ahead in positive spirit.  The 28th edition is back again, from Wednesday 4 November until Thursday, 17th December, 2020.

The inaugural Festival was in December 1992, as one of the selected cultural events as part of the Summit of the European Council in Edinburgh. Almost three decades later, the French Film Festival UK has developed into a major annual celebration of French-language cinema. 

The FFF is due to take place across the UK in independent Art House cinemas from Aberdeen to Plymouth*, screening a hand-picked selection of new movies from France, Belgium, Switzerland, Quebec and Africa.

(N.B * Cinemas may be affected by changing national and regional health and safety restrictions.)

The programme is distinctly diverse with a good deal of comedy to offer the much needed feel good factor, as well as romance, thrillers, family drama, documentaries, Shorts and Classic retrospectives.

The UK premiere in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen will kick off the Festival with Mama Weed / La Daronne. This zany crime caper stars Isabelle Huppert as a police interpreter for the anti-drug squad in Paris. When she gets embroiled in a failed drug deal, inheriting a pile of cannabis, she crosses to the other side to become a well-known drug dealer.

An award winner at the Cannes Film Festival, My Donkey, My Lover & I /Antoinette dans les Cévennes is already a smash hit in France, seen by 600,000 people since opening last month.

When a planned vacation with her secret lover is cancelled, Antoinette sets off to walk  the same the route described in 1879 by Robert-Louis Stevenson in Travels With a Donkey in the Cévennes – humorous tales of his stubborn, slow, travel companion and baggage carrier, Modestine.  Accompanied by her donkey, Patrick, Antoinette experiences an emotional journey of self- discovery against a panoramic landscape. 

Juliette Binoche stars in How to be a Good Wife/ La Bonne Épouse as the immaculate Paulette, who runs the Van der Beck’s School of Housekeeping and Good Manners in Alsace. The year is 1968: a satirical comedy about teaching traditional family values in the era of Women’s lib.

Director Valérie Donzelli  had just completed filming at the iconic location for Notre-Dame,  before the catastrophic fire at the Cathedral in April, 2019.  The unwittingly topical narrative is about an architectural competition to re-design the square in front of Notre-Dame in which Donzelli plays Maud, the winner of the prestigious project. “Sizzling, unconventional comedy, which turns sadness into shared joy“. Cineuropa

Love Affairs/ Les Choses qu’on dit, les Choses qu’on Fait is a charming, romantic Brief Encounter tale, in which two strangers are thrown together by chance, set against the lovely, lush French countryside.

If you can only dream of a winter sports trip this year, enjoy the cinematic experience instead in Slalom. Lyz, a 15 year old student, is put through competitive training at an elite ski club in the French Alps.  The title refers as much to downhill racing as to Lyz’s conflicting feelings for her coach, Fred, when their après-ski relationship develops. 

Slalom -off piste drama set in the French Alps

The heritage of French Cinema has always a part of the FFF, represented this year by two influential Film Noir classics from the 1960s.

Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg in Breathless, 1960

To celebrate its 60th anniversary is a new 4K restoration of Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless. Jean-Paul Belmondo plays Michel, a cool, suave, bad guy on the run from the police, hiding out with his girlfriend, Patricia (Jean Seberg), at her Paris apartment to plan an escape to Italy.  

This movie liberated the cinema — as clearly and cleanly as Picasso freed painting and the Sex Pistols rebooted rock.” Boston Globe

Franco-Greek director Costa-Gavras made his debut in 1965 with The Sleeping Car Murders/Compartiment Tuers starring Yves Montand and Simone Signoret. Reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s chillingly gruesome plot line in “Murder on the Orient Express,” six people travel in a railroad sleeping car from Marseilles to Paris.

When a woman is found strangled, police investigate the other five passengers as prime suspects. With stylish camera work, flashbacks and internal monologues in Hitchcockian moody manner, this fast-paced whodunit is described as “Maigret on speed.”

Simone Signoret, Yves Montand, Claude Mann in Compartiment Tueurs

The Mobile Film Festival also presents a snappy, one minute mini movie on the subject of Climate Change, each filmed on a mobile phone, to be shown as a curtain raiser before each cinema screening.

The series of Short Cuts has been selected this year by the FFF team with the help of university students. Between 3 and 21 minutes, they cover animation, comedy and Sci-fi.    

Following the success of Netflix and Amazon Prime, an innovative venture this year is FFF @ home.  Seven movies will be able to be viewed in your own home from 27th November to 4th December.  This online Festival is ticketed with a limited number of subscriptions – so book ahead asap.

Guest directors and actors have always attended selected cinemas for Q/A sessions during the FFF.  As it is not possible to travel to the UK without quarantine just now, interviews are being pre-recorded. A line up of Virtual Guests include Valérie Donzelli, Anne Fontaine, Emmanuel Mouret and Jean Paul Salomé.

Richard Mowe, the Co-founder and Director of the FFF UK commented:

Despite the challenges, we are delighted to have one of the most varied and vibrant programmes ever at this year’s French Film Festival. We hope audiences will respond to the selection in cinemas ..and will appreciate the option of fff @ home. In these dark times we need the light and reflection that cinema can offer.” 

For the full list of Films, what’s on where and booking tickets: www.frenchfilmfestival.org.uk

FFF@home www.frenchfilmfestival.org.uk/online

Printed brochure available.

Funders and sponsors – including Screen Scotland, Creative Scotland, Institut française, Alliance Française, Total, TV5Monde, Unifrance, agnès b, and Côte.

L’Ecole du Cinema: the FFF UK’s Learning Programme inspires young students to engage in the French language and culture through films and online resources as part of the Modern Language curriculum. 

Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve – the famous Scotch Whisky is jazzed up with a taste of tropical sunshine, spirit and soul.

The Glenlivet Scotch Whisky Company is part of the Pernod Ricard global drinks portfolio, producing 21 million litres of spirit each year, and one of, if not the best selling single malt whisky in the United States. The Glenlivet 18 year old, for instance, has won numerous awards, winning five double golds at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.  

With the tagline, “Original by tradition” The Glenlivet has always been innovative to keep up to date with popular trends. Now their first Single Malt to be finished in rum barrels brings the sunny spirit of the Spice islands in the West Indies to the Scottish Highlands with the launch of The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve.

My biggest challenge at The Glenlivet has always been ..consistency of style.. It’s important for us not to become complacent, and to ensure The Glenlivet stands the test of time in quality and in depth of range.”  Alan Winchester, Master Distiller

“The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve is looking to extend that summer feeling, another example of us setting new standards, this time by turning the typical into the tropical.’  Marnie Corrigan, Brand Director, Whiskies, Pernod Ricard UK.

Described as offering a sweet, citrus, fruity and caramel taste, it can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks or in a selection of cocktails such as the signature Caribbean-inspired tipple, Tartan Tiki.

Before we sample this inspiring new Single Malt Whisky, let’s go back to the start of the journey almost two hundred years ago.

The Glenlivet Distillery, Speyside

A remote Scottish glen in Speyside, through which the River Livet flows, surrounded by hills and fresh water springs, was where George Smith learnt the craft of distilling spirits, creating a characteristic, delicately balanced, malt whisky.

In August 1822, King George IV arrived in Scotland for a state visit and asked to try this fine, yet illicit, whisky. Glenlivet soon became the byword for the best in whisky, and 1824 George Smith was granted the first legal licence to produce the official Glenlivet whisky.

George Smith, the innovative founder of The Glenlivet, 1824

Unfortunately, local whisky makers wanted to destroy this successful business with Royal and aristocratic patronage, such that Smith had to carry a pair of pistols to warn off smugglers to protect his treasure of precious golden spirit.

 By 1852, the novelist Charles Dickens was a rich man with an astute taste for good things in life; he wrote a letter to a friend recommending the “rare old Glenlivet” as a fine single malt whisky, which was above his great expectations!.

Glenlivet 12 year old with Dickens’ letter on the label

The distillery remained in family hands over the generations, taken over by the founder’s great nephew, Captain Bill Smith Grant in 1921, having to deal with severe loss of sales during the Prohibition era.  To woo American drinkers back after its repeal, he forged a partnership with the Pullman Train company which served miniature bottles of Glenlivet whisky – spreading the word and the taste across the United States.

Drinks served in the Buffet Car – America train travel in the early 20th century

1950 – The Glenlivet is now the most popular Scotch whisky sold in the USA and through increased global travel, it’s promoted worldwide.

2015 – Master Distiller, Alan Winchester, creates a speciality single malt, the Founders Reserve, to capture the original smooth, fruity taste. 

Scotch Whisky regional map

Whisky can be matured or finished in various types of casks and barrels –  wood, wine, port, sherry, madeira, beer and rum.  Rum casks, known as a Butt or Puncheon, is not a new idea, especially for Irish and US whiskey-makers.

2020 –  The launch of the new Caribbean Reserve, carefully crafted by finishing their fine Speyside single malt in oak puncheons to take on the flavour of Caribbean rum. 

What Glenlivet say:

Nose: Sweet notes of pear and red apple meet a fabulous tropical twist of ripe bananas in syrup. Palate: Rich caramel toffee notes, followed by mandarin orange, vanilla and melon, well balanced and smooth. Finish: Citrusy and delicate.

The first test for this pure amber liquid is the aroma of sweet, tropical fruit, and then a sip to detect a complex array of honey, orange, apricot, coconut, ginger and subtle spicy rum flavours. Expect a lingering, slow finish which is distinctly smoky – warming, bonfire wood smoke to my palate – with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, baked banana and overall, it’s so rich and smooth.  

Whisky nosers, as they called themselves, eschewed what they saw as the pretentiousness of wine vocabulary. While oenophiles resorted to recondite adjectives, whisky nosers spoke the language of everyday life, detecting hints of stale seaweed, or even diesel fuel.
Alexander McCall Smith,  The Sunday Philosophy Club

As well as sipped neat or on the rocks, this rich, rum soaked whisky is an ideal partner in various rum and whisky cocktails such as a Mai Tai, Rob Roy, Whisky Sour and an Old Fashioned.

The Mai Tai was created in 1944 by Victor Bergeron at his bar, Trader Vic’s, Emeryville, California, inspired by the ancient Tiki culture and paradise island life of French Polynesia.  When his cocktail of dark Jamaican rum, fresh lime juice, a dash of orange Curação, French Orgeat (almond) syrup, was given to a friend from Tahiti, the response was “Mai tai, roa ae” which means “Out of this world, the best.”

Trader Vic’s original Tiki Cockail, the Mai Tai

Mai Tai  – with Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve instead of Rum.

50 ml Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, 25 ml Triple sec, (or Cointreau), 25 ml lime juice, 15 ml Orgeat or Orange syrup.

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice, shake briskly then strain into a Highball glass with ice cubes. Garnish with lime and mint.

Caribbean Reserve Mai Tai cocktails

The delicious sharp, tart taste of orange and lime blends perfectly with the spicy, citrus notes of the whisky and certainly hits the spot.   Just like when sipping a Margarita, I am transported on a trip to Mexico – with this Scottish Mai Tai, catch the tantalising taste of South Sea island sunshine.

Rob Roy  – created in 1894 by a bartender at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York City.

Rob Roy recipe

Switch your usual Scotch for Caribbean Reserve which blends so well with the spicy-herbal Vermouth and the aromatic flavour of the Bitters.

50ml Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, 30ml Sweet Vermouth, (e.g. Dubonnet), 1 – 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters; Pour all ingredients into a shaker with ice, strain into a coupe and garnish with a twist of orange. (Maraschino cherries are traditional but the orange adds extra zest).

The Roy Roy Scotch whisky cocktail – popular since 1894

These are adapted from two classic Bourbon cocktails:

Whisky Sour  

50ml Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, 25ml lemon juice, 15 ml sugar syrup, 2 dashes Angostura bitters,  ½ fresh egg white.  Shake up with lots of ice, strain into a glass with ice; add zest of lemon and garnish with orange slice.

Old Fashioned

50ml Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, a dash of Angostura bitters, 1 white sugar cube.   Mix the sugar and bitters in a tumbler glass until the sugar dissolves.  Stir in the whisky and add a large ice cube. Garnish with slice of orange and maraschino cherry.

Old Fashioned

The cocktail inspired its eponymous Old Fashioned glass and Cole Porter celebrated it in this bittersweet song.

Make it Another Old Fashioned, Please

Since I went on the wagon, I’m certain drink is a major crime
For when you lay off the liquor, you feel so much slicker
Well that is, most of the time.
But there are moments, sooner or later
When it’s tough, I got to say, love to say, Waiter

Make it another old-fashioned, please
Make it another, double, old-fashioned, please

The Glenlivet has also invented their own tropical cocktail – Tartan Tiki  

Tartan Tiki – the Glenlivet Tropical island-style cocktail

50ml The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, 25ml Pineapple Juice, 2 Dashes of Angostura Bitters Stir these together over ice in a tall glass and top with Peach Sparkling Water.

The recipe creates an ice cold, fruity Whisky “Rum Punch” – more suitable perhaps for hot summer days …. but this is the idea, to bring back the chill-out, Caribbean mood, spirit and soul during the winter and Festive season.

The good news is that the Tartan Tiki cocktail kit has just been launched so that you can easily shake this up at home: The hamper includes 70cl bottle of The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve, two bottles of sparkling water, Angostura Bitters, pineapple juice and an orange for the garnish. (6 – 8 serves).

Create at Home – The Tartan Tiki Cocktail kit

Tasting and testing, sipping and sampling The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve in so many different ways, shows how flexible this jazzed up Single Malt proves to be.  Sip a dram poured over a large cube of ice, shake up one of these revamped, classic cocktails above or the tropical Tartan Tiki.

Another seasonal suggestion, instead of the usual Rum, a Caribbean Reserve Hot Toddy would be the perfect, sweet, spicy, smoky winter warmer.

Slainte Mhath!

Where to buy:

The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve is available for purchase at Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Amazon and Co-op. RRP £38.59. 

Browse the website and shop on line.

https://www.theglenlivet.com/en-UK

The Caribbean Reserve Tartan Tiki Cocktail kit, RRP £49.50.

https://shop.createcocktails.com/collections/the-glenlivet-caribbean

The Glenlivet Distillery, a painting by Euan McGregor

Solace

Botanical paintings by Julie Croft & photographs by Alexander Van Der Byl, Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh.

Solace – as defined in the dictionary, a noun to mean “comfort or consolation in a time of distress or sadness.”

During this difficult, disruptive year to normal life, work and travel, many people have been inspired by nature – whether city park, country ramble or a wind-blown stroll along a beach.  This strange, surreal time at home has given the opportunity to listen to bird song and observe blossoming flowers in Spring and now the changing trees in Autumn.

Julie Croft studied illustration at Leicester Polytechnic, and then developed her artistic technique and medium as a mural artist during the 1980’s and 1990’s.  Today, her paintings are on a much smaller scale, working at her home in Edinburgh.

The theme of Nature and the Landscape has inspired Julie over the past few months, during the worst times of lockdown, the brighter days through the summer and now heading through the Autumn into Winter.  Here is a most wonderful series of her botanical illustrations and miniature landscapes.

So take a look back to the emerging flourish of plants during April and May with charming watercolours such as Spring Greens.  These slender twigs with their tiny leaves and burst of buds is beautifully sketched and painted in soft colours with such delicate detail.

Moving on swiftly into June and July, blossom blooms with a whiff of Summer Scent from three flowers, which look like, a pink poppy, white daisies and lilac grape hyacinth.  They do transport you into the garden on a warm summer day.

On a walk in October, it’s all about berries, conkers and all the leaves turning golden brown.  This is another charming trio, with a small, dry, curled up leaf, in Autumn Berries. 

And a wonderful collection of golden, sand and burgundy leaves fallen from the trees in the soft shades of the Fall.

Winter Trees is a lovely pencil and watercolour sketch which perfectly sums up the chilly days at the dark end of a year in Nature.

 The wet dawn inks are doing their blue dissolve.
On their blotter of fog the trees
Seem a botanical drawing —
Memories growing, ring on ring,
A series of weddings.

Winter Trees, Sylvia Plath

Julie Croft also paints atmospheric land and seascapes – watercolours on Daler Rowney paper which create a richly textured backdrop. These intimate, small scale scenes are so pleasing to the eye.

At the other side of the gallery is a collection of photographs by Alexander Van Der Byl who is in his final year as a Photography Student at Edinburgh College of Art.

A successful career is already on the cards as this year he was awarded the Astaire Art Prize 2020.  It is presented for outstanding undergraduate work by a third or fourth-year student at the ECA, founded by Mark Astaire, a University of Edinburgh Politics graduate and investment banking professional. This year four winners were chosen from a shortlist of twenty artists, each receiving £250.

“I could see all the students produced such wonderful and varied collections of work. It was difficult, but I had so much fun trying to select just four works!”  Mark Astaire 

“ … work that is sophisticated, intelligent and dynamic.” Gordon Brennan, School of Art Painting Lecturer

The Anticipation of Change, Alexander Van Der Byl

Van Der Byl’s award winning photograph is entitled The Anticipation of Change, which was taken in a former carpet shop in Leith; shabby, peeling flock wallpaper, tartan lino, blue carpet, gas meter, the table laid with a teapot and glasses, beneath a Vettriano print of the “The Billy Boys” on the wall. A cold, empty room perhaps, but there is a sense of pride and belonging in what is someone’s business.

This photograph is part of a series called “Return to Sender, No Such Address” of ten Hahnemühle German Etching Photograhic prints, “documenting the process of leaving a domestic space, (and) explores a presence which is transient and short lasting.” 

Home from Work, Alexander Van Der Byl

Home from Work focuses on another empty room, with an enticing warm light shining through the open door, perhaps the kitchen and a meal being prepared for the person arriving back home at the end of the day. With shimmering shadows and a half hidden portrait, this is such a haunting image.

Again, a fascinating glimpse of a domestic scene, with a television, an empty bookshelf, plant, vase, lamp in Rocking Horse Winner – the blurred effect of a child’s toy horse cleverly depicting a flash of movement.

Rocking Horse Winner, Alexander van der Byl

Here are also a few black and white portraits, which capture the thoughtful facial expression of the subject, in a quiet, quick, snap shot moment.

Portrait of a girl, Alexander Van Der Byl

From Julie’s painterly nature walk through gardens, woodland and the seashore, enter Alexander’s contemplative world of deserted rooms and streets.  With their distinctively different artistic vision, they share a theme of nostalgic memory, time past and present, the experience of isolation and silence, with a comforting, joyful sense of peace. Solace indeed.

SOLACE – Dundas Street Gallery, 6 Dundas St, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

17th – 24th October, 2020. 11am – 6pm daily.

Exhibition closes Saturday 24th, 2pm