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A trio of artists at the Dundas Street Gallery take us on a trip from the Scottish Highlands to Transylvania

Dundas Street Gallery – an attractive showcase of pop up exhibitions year round

Filly Nicol, Tessa Whitley and Brenda Martin  have been sharing studio space for some years, encouraging and criticising each others’ work, so decided it was time to show their work together.  The Dundas Street Gallery is the ideal spacious pop up venue to exhbit their distinctively different yet complementary landscape and figurative paintings, floral and still life sketches.

With a passion for travel way off the beaten track, Filly experienced an extraordinary authentic trip on a local boat, rather than a touristic cruise.  Along the upper reaches of the Irrawaddy River, Myanmar are traditional riverside villages and local markets selling vegetables and fish.

After Shopping, Nyaungshwe, Filly Nicol

Using oil and beeswax on canvas or board, here is a selection of well crafted paintings to illustrate people and places reflecting the timeless culture of former Burma, the sights and sounds described in Kipling’s poem, the Road to Mandalay.

Can’t you ‘ear their paddles chunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay ?
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’-fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!

.. ..spicy garlic smells,
An’ the sunshine an’ the palm-trees an’ the tinkly temple-bells;
On the road to Mandalay

Strolling along the Teak Bridge, Filly Nicol

Water in particular fascinates me as do people going about their daily lives .. the sounds, smells and colours and their animals … I take in the plays of light and wind in skies, on land and on water, the atmosphere and scenes.  Filly Nicol

Described as the Fairy Tales lands of Transylvania, the tradition and tranquility of rural Romania is charmingly portrayed in pastoral vignettes to show shepherds and cowherds busy at work and also an elderly woman at leisure in Knitting in the Sunshine, Viscri.

Knitting in the Sunshine, Filly Nicol

Viscri is a famous village due to its ancient Saxon heritage, and Filly is keen to preserve a painterly vision of peasant farming life here unchanged over the centuries, before it disappears over the next generation.

The Scottish winter is a key inspirational theme for Tessa’s landscapes with an expressive, intuitive use of various shades of white on off-white on buttermilk with a smudge of grey, blending snow and heavy laden skies; almost abstract in the manner of flourishing brushstrokes like a thick layer of icing in paintings, such as Winter Hill.

Winter Hill, Tessa Whitley

The soft light is beautifully depicted as the eye follows shadowy tracks snaking through snowy fields, as seen in Flotterstone and Nine Mile Burn – like this this painterly winter scene with pink-tinted sky and real touch of the cold air, which really chills you to the bone!

Field and Track under snow, Tessa Whitley

Travel on north to the remote wilderness of the Highlands, from the west to east coast in a series of scenic views in oil pastel on paper, from Helmsdale to Achiltibuie with its view over to the Summer Isles.

Achiltibuie, Tessa Whitley

After graduating from The Royal College of Art, Brenda worked as a designer in the fashion industry overseas before returning to the UK to work as a BBC costume designer.  Also inspired by the Scottish countryside, she spends a good deal of time in a cottage on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, observing the changing light over Loch Sunart, the hills and forests beyond, as viewed on a summer day and evening dusk.

Most impressive are these mixed media work framed as diptychs, the panoramic views as seen quickly sketched on her drawing pad, en plein air.  

Blue Hills across Loch Sunart, Brenda Martin

Sweeping seascapes such as Storm over Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland, and other glorious sandy beaches and empty shorelines, in which the bold blue sky dominates the stunning composition.

Storm over Bamburgh Castle, Brenda Martin

With her background in fabric and fashion, Brenda uses fluid paintbrush strokes to fill the canvas with vivid colour, tone and texture to capture blossoming flowers, gardens and the unspoilt natural beauty of Highlands and Islands.

The Empty Wheelbarrow, Brenda Martin

This trio of landscape artists take the visitor on an evocative journey from the Highlands of Scotland to Romania, Isle of Mull to Helmsdale and Northumberland coastline to Kipling’s river in Myanmar with a marvellous, atmospheric sense of time and place.

The Dundas Street Gallery

6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

10 – 15 October, 2015

Open Daily: 1000- 1700.

Green Crayons, Brenda Martin

Scottish Art: Bonhams, Edinburgh, 16 October, 2019 – an illustrated preview.

Founded in London in 1793, by Thomas Dodd, a famous print dealer of the day, Bonhams is an international auction house with nine salesrooms including London, New York, Hong Kong, Sydney and Edinburgh. Today it is renowned for its expert reputation as connoisseurs in fine art, antiques, furnishings, decorative art, motor cars, wine, whisky, books, jewellery and collectibles.

Sales of Scottish Art have been held at the Edinburgh showroom twice a year since around 1996.  Always a key date in the calendar, it has been a delight to browse through the illustrated and informative catalogue in advance of the next auction on 16th October, 2019 at 11am at Bonhams, Queen Street, Edinburgh.

Royan Harbour, Samuel Peploe

A recently discovered painting, “Royan Harbour” by Samuel Peploe has a most interesting provenance. It was purchased around 1910-1915 by Mme Marie Marguerite Soulie, the wife of English novelist and playwright Arnold Bennett, and since then passed on through the family. Royan is a resort town and marina on the West coast of France.

The beach scenes that Peploe painted at Paris Plage in 1906, 07, 08, are dominated by the blue of daylight.  The high point of this development came in the small paintings of the harbour at Royan in 1910. Peploe, aware of both Van Gogh and Les Fauves, turns up the colour key just so far … the experience of intense sunlight.”  Duncan Macmillan “Scottish Art”.

This detailed impressionist composition in various shimmering shades of blue, ochre and buttermilk, using broad brush strokes to depict a charming ‘smudge’ of figures as they promenade along the waterfront to see the yachts and lighthouse in the bright summer sun.

Beach scenes and seascapes, from the Western Isles to the South of France, was a recurring theme for the Scottish Colourists. Another harbour view, “Cassis”  (1927) by Leslie Hunter is delicate ink and crayon sketch of boats reflected in the water.

Cassis, Leslie Hunter

In 1912, Francis Cadell visited Iona for the first time, immediately inspired by the light of sea, sky and sand.  “Mull from Iona”  is a serene scene, looking over the roof of a white-washed house across the narrow turquoise-tinted Sound under a pale sky.

Mull from Iona, Francis Cadell

A wide selection of Scottish seascapes here,  such as “Inch Kenneth and Loch Na Keal, from Iona” (1922) by William Mervyn Glass, which leads the eye the foreground of the rocky shore far into the distant misty hills. “Sannox Bay, Isle of Arran” by John Maclauchlan Milne is also a fine perspective looking across a sweeping bay, the white surf lapping the shore, and golden leaves on the trees with a sense of a breeze in the Autumn air.

Interesting indeed to compare these early 20th century works with the contemporary painting, “Fishing Boat, Corse” by Archie Forrest, with a similar palette of azure to depict the bright light of the Mediterranean.

Fishing Boat, Corse, Archie Forrest

There is a distinctive trademark to the abstract landscapes of Barbara Rae – a dramatic explosion of brash, bold colour and a vitality of movement. With a soft, moody ambience, “Sea Marks”  has an extraordinary watery quality with a splash of moonshine.

Sierra above Carataunas, Barbara Rae

Rae travels the world to capture a topographical sense of place: “It’s the culture and history that fascinates me,” and returns regularly to Spain. “Sierra above Caratuanus” is observed through a rainbow palette to enhance the contours of the terrain with a warm luminosity.

A significant collection of twelve works by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham is a true highlight of this sale. As a member of the St Ives School, she was a key figure in developing Modernist British painting in the mid twentieth century.

“Black and White” (1954), part of her Geoff and Scruffy series, captures with such simplicity, the curving shapes of a moon and beach. She developed her own inventive abstract language fascinated by the geometry of nature of the rocky Cornish landscape.

Expanding Forms,(with orange), Wilhelmina Barns-Graham

The precise discipline of structural composition is evident in “Expanding Forms (with orange) and “Untitled – “Firth of Forth,” the rust red girders of the Rail Bridge in close up.

Scorpio ii, no. 38, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham

In contrast, are two later works, acrylic on paper, from the Scorpio series (1997); vibrant patterns of interlocking squares, diagonal stripes and circles, quite hypnotic in their painterly freedom of expression.

My theme is celebration of life, joy, the importance of colour, form, space and texture. Brushstrokes that can be happy, risky, thin, fat, fluid and textured.” Wilhelmina Barns-Graham

The Scottish Sale features a fine selection of portraits painted over the decades, from Sir Henry Raeburn to the masterly figurative study by Francis Cadell –  “Miss Don Wauchope in the George Street Studio.”  

Miss Don Wauchope in George Street Studio, Francis Cadell

 Miss Wauchope was a friend and regular model of the artist, several featuring this dramatic black hat.  Cadell’s studio on George Street, Edinburgh was a Salon decorated in white, grey and lilac with  black floorboards. Furniture, mirrors and artwork were placed like a theatrical setting for this fashionable lady.

Chris Brickley, Head of Scottish Art at Bonhams, comments: “Intimate in atmosphere and fluid in technique, the Wauchope pictures transcend the norm of conventional portrait-painting and become abstract studies of the elegant high society of early 20th century Edinburgh.”

Glamorous men and women with vintage style is the forte of Jack Vettriano.  His moody film-noir portraits reveal a private, intimate world behind closed doors, such as “Private Dancer”  (1998) – lady in black, escort in white, with a glimpse of another couple behind, reflected in the mirror.

Private Dancer, Jack Vettriano

“Lounge Lizards II” (2009) is another sexual encounter, which clearly expresses the subtle, seductive glance of the girl, cigarette holder in hand, waiting for a light from the tall dark stranger.

.. the manipulation of paint in veiled glazes and meaningful shadows, the music of colour and the dramatic focus of composition .. such an identifiable personal style.” W. Gordon Smith. “Lovers and Other Strangers, Jack Vettriano”

In a very different mode are the much admired character portraits depicted by Pat Douthwaite, such as this pastel and chalk drawing, “Female Model.”

Female Model, Pat Douthwaite

This wild, Bohemian lady with a mass of hair, blue eye shadow and pouting lip is typical of Douthwaite’s quirky, crazy Baconian caricatures with a hint of a darker psychological undertone lurking beneath the humorous image.

From the pioneering Colourists to the eminent work of Stanley Cursiter, Sir Robin Philipson, Anne Redpath, David McClure and Elizabeth Blackadder, et al., this diverse showcase of Scottish Art at Bonhams is an inspiring, comparative survey stretching more than a century.


22 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1JX

Scottish Art – Wednesday 16 October 2019 at 11am.

The Viewing Dates are as follows:

Friday 11 October            10.00am-4.00pm

Sunday 13 October           2.00pm-4.00pm

Monday 14  October       10.00am-4.00pm

Tuesday 15 October         10.00am-4.00pm

Wednesday 16 October     9.00am-11.00am

On line catalogue –

For more information –   Tel.  0131 225 2266

(IIustrations of works courtesy of Bonhams)

Leo du Feu, Susan Smith and John Williams: the natural world in paintings and prints @ The Life Room, Edinburgh

Half way down Dundas Street, Edinburgh is a hidden gem of a gallery – a pop up space for artists to showcase their work as well as art class studio.  With vintage lamps, a Chesterfield sofa and ornate fireplace,  it’s like being invited into the living room of a friend’s home. Hence the name, The Life Room.

This week, a trio of artists who all share a passion for nature and the outdoors have joined together to exhibit their contrasting yet complementary artistic style and subject matter.

Leo du Feu graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in 2006 and now enjoys exploring the natural environment is his passion with a special interest in ornithology, armed with his binoculars, sketchbook, pencil and watercolour box.

“People often only find time to look quickly then move on .. we forget to study and wonder;  Drawing forces you to absorb your subject.  Scotland – a wealth of landscape and wildlife that needs to be appreciated and protected.”   Leo du Feu  from “Landscapes and Birds of Scotland, an Artist’s View.”

Discovered Worlds is the title of Leo du Feu’s selection of landscapes, birds and animals observed with imaginative vision.  Two intriguing images, a Tiger’s Eye and a Penguin’s head, close up and personal, enhance colour and contour to create a different abstract image.

Hilltop, Leo Du Feu

Panoramic views depict the geological shape and texture of a dense forest, desert, islands, a valley of hills.  There’s a dreamlike, surreal otherworldliness in these empty, tranquil spaces and places, immediately characteristic of Salvador Dali: likewise these are stunning in their bold, bleak, melancholic mood.

Lion Rocks, Leo du Feu

Hill Panorama, Leo du Feu

Several charming small abstract landscapes too – a crimson-tinted sky and a gold sunset featuring a tiny fir tree.  These these miniature paintings are superb.

Du Feu is an artist with the eye of a botanist and geologist, going off on rambling trips in the countryside and beachcombing for leaves, seeds, fir cones, pebbles, seaweed, drift wood. These jars of found treasures of all shapes and texture then inspires the decorative design in his artwork such as “Celery Moon.”

Celery Moon, Leo du Feu

Susan Smith studied Fine Art under Sir Robin Philipson at Edinburgh College of Art and specialises in painting, printmaking and sketches.  Bringing a glimpse of the countryside into the gallery, here are charming floral paintings, fields of bright poppies and elegant tall tulips.  Pretty rural scenes too featuring a peacock displaying flamboyant feathers and a kingfisher perched beside a river.

Summer Poppies, Susan Smith

An impressive selection of lino-cuts illustrate rabbits, hares, sheep, foxes, owls, crows and herons – taken from memories of her childhood, playing in the fields and meadows around her farmhouse home in Aberdeenshire.

The Fox, Susan Smith (lino-cut)

These are exquisitely crafted, capturing the cheeky characterisation of these birds and animals in their wild habitat.

Hare in Snow, Susan Smith (lino-cut)

A publisher should commission Susan Smith to illustrate a children’s story book featuring a cunning fox, a cute wee rabbit or a wise owl – or a menagerie of her meticulous sketches of animals and birds.

Dancing Crow, Susan Smith, (Iino-cut)

“For my tenth birthday I received a box of watercolours and I’ve been painting ever since – in 2013 I began to pursue a full-time career as a contemporary Landscape Artist.  I would describe my painting as impressionistic with degrees of abstraction.”  John Williams

A selection of evocative land and seascapes by John Williams draws you into the scene with their dramatic depiction of light and darkness, from day to night.

A most effective figurative painting is called “Meandering” in which a young woman stands, with a shy, yet joyful smile around her mouth, as if looking directly at a camera lens – and therefore looking at us, the viewer.

Meandering, John Williams

Wrapped up in a cosy turquoise sweater, you can almost feel the winter chill in the air; look beyond to a corn field, purple heather-clad hills and bare trees with the glow of a salmon pink sunset in the distance.

“The Lighthouse” is wonderfully atmospheric, with wild, sweeping storm clouds and jagged slash of coral across the sky. Such fine detail here in the composition with the splash of white surf over the gentle rolling waves.  Look carefully at the far horizon to see the tiny glint of a red light and the white tower of the lighthouse on a rock.

The Lighthouse, John Williams

Williams says that he learn in his craft by following the work of such masters as Van Gogh and Gauguin and here you can see the same impressionistic flourish of brushstrokes for a swirl of colour to add tone and texture with a shimmering blend of blues, grey and indigo.

“I absolutely want to paint a starry sky. It often seems to me that night is still more richly coloured than the day having hues of the most intense violets, blues and greens” Vincent Van Gogh

A more naturalist image depicts the iconic pudding shape of the “Bass Rock”, with glistening streaks of green and turquoise; it’s almost as if the island is placed within a Rothko abstract of horizontal stripes, where sea meets the sky.

Bass Rock, John Williams

As well as this extensive collection of paintings, sketches and lino-cuts, there are small prints and cards by each artist, at very affordable prices. Do visit The Life Room soon to explore the beauty of the Scotttish landscape, animals and birds, travelling from the countryside to the seashore.

The Life Room

23b Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6QQ

11am – 6pm daily
Saturday 5th – Thursday 10th October, 2019


The cult Sci-Fi novel “Solaris” by Stanislaw Lem is imaginatively staged as a chilling thriller at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

Original book cover, of Solaris, 1961

Let us take you with us to Solaris, planet of mystery, embodiment of man’s latent conflict with the unknown. Man, face to face with his conscience, and with his past.”

The philosophical science fiction novel by Stanislaw Lem was published in Polish in 1961, (English translation, 1970), a timeless masterpiece as a dark, emotional exploration of the human psyche.

Poster image for the 1972 Movie directed by Andrei Tarkovsky

The Movie by Andrei Tarkovsky, won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, 1972, and the remake in 2002 by director Steven Soderbergh was turned into more of a romantic drama starring George Clooney.

David Greig has now adapted the narrative from page to stage, set in a Space Station orbiting the planet Solaris which is surrounded by a swirling, stormy ocean.  Kris Kelvin, a psychologist has just arrived to investigate the work of the research team and complete the mission, following the death of the director, Dr. Gibarian.

Fode Simbo as Snow and Polly Frame as Kris as she arrives at the Space Station

Kris is welcomed by Dr. Snow on arrival and and then meets Dr. Sartorius when the three scientists, dressed in their green khaki uniform of T shirts and combat trousers, later that evening. It’s a surreal social occasion as they chat and share a bottle of wine, as if Kris is visiting a friend for supper, back on Earth. But soon Sartorius is distant and reclusive while Snow is quietly watchful in the company of this new intruder. As if traumatised by something, what are they hiding?

Polly Frame as Kris and Jade Ogugua as Sartorius

The white, box like set is more minimalist, domestic Scandi design than Star Trek /Tardis spacecraft: smart, sleek and functional, hideaway work desks, kitchen table and beds all slide, silently in and out of the walls in a series of short, snappy scenes.

Kelvin is mesmerised by her first glimpse of Solaris, as we also view a panoramic seascape film of wild, rolling waves on screen – this drops down at frequent intervals, immersing us into the black-out of Space.

The night stared me in the face, amorphous, blind, infinite, without frontiers. Not a single star relieved the darkness behind the glass.” from “Solaris”

A collection of video tapes recorded by the late Gibarian are personal messages for Kris to explain that the planet is believed to be a sentient, brain-like organism. The crew have all been haunted by hallucinatory figures, known “visitors” from their past lives. “We are not alone” is his shocking warning.

A Message from the dead: Hugo Weaving and Polly Frame as Gibarian and Kelvin –

While asleep, she has a visitation herself, waking up to find Ray, her deceased lover curled up in bed beside her. Initially fearful, she needs to understand more about this humanoid manifestation, apparently drawn from her dreams, memories and feelings of loss, guilt, regret.

Kris, Sartorius and Snow with their new visitor “Ray” – the subject of scientific study.

Although irrational, Kris, as a psychologist, tries to rekindle an emotional attachment to find out the truth of their relationship and his death.  This strange encounter is well dramatised – Polly Frame captures the lively energy of a youthful Kris, while Keegan Joyce as “Ray”, expresses a cheeky, childlike personality with bursts of manic, manipulative behaviour unsure of his identity.

The characteristic trope of classic science fiction illustrates the first contact with alien life.  Stanislaw Lem felt that the 1972 movie of his novel failed to capture the extraordinary physical and psychological “alienness” of Solaris.

A view of the alien ocean planet, Solaris from the 1972 movie.

Theatre can, however, create a tangible sense of realism. With an undercurrent of dramatic mood music, bold lighting and dreamlike visual effects, the mysterious, menacing planet is an omnipresent “character” as an invasive extra-terrestrial force.  As the scientists attempt to communicate with Solaris, this ‘thinking’ Oceanic brain is able to access their subconscious and identity as a mirror to their souls.

How do you expect to communicate with the Ocean, when you can’t even understand one another?”  from “Solaris”

Inventively designed and directed with a subtle, slow growing tension, the white, stark, sterile setting creates an ice-cold, claustrophobic atmosphere.  The classic cult novel “Solaris” has been re-imagined with cool, composed performances, up close and personal, as an electrifying thriller, which chills to the bone.

Solaris, a new play by David Greig.

Directed by Matthew Lutton. Cast: Polly Frame, Keegan Joyce, Jade Ogugua, Fode Simbo, Hugo Weaving

This is a co production between the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne and Lyric Hammersmith, London. 

The first performance took place at the Malthouse Theatre on 28 June, 2019 

Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh (

12th September to 5th October, 2019

Lyric Hammersmith, London (

10th October to 2nd November, 2019

“The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing” by Mary Paulson-Ellis: a theatrical book launch by Golden Hare Books at the Royal Scots Club

Mary Paulson-Ellis – Edinburgh has been her home for 32 years

Mary Paulson-Ellis received an MLitt in Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow and also won the inaugural Curtis Brown prize for fiction in 2009.  Her debut novel, “ The Other Mrs Walker”, was Waterstones Scottish Book of the Year, 2017.  Her second novel, “The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing” was launched last week at the Royal Scots Club, Edinburgh, a most apt location for a narrative inspired by memories of the Great War. This private club in the New Town was founded in 1919 in honour of 11,162 men in the Royal Scots Regiment who died in the First World War.

The Library, Royal Scots Club

Organised by Mary and Golden Hare Books, there was a theatrical ambience to the wine reception with staff dressed in army uniforms, a medley of vintage wartime songs, the chance to gamble with matchsticks and buttons, and cheese and crackers served from a vintage tin box.  If this didn’t take us on a moving and nostalgic trip to the trenches, nothing would.

Afterwards, guests were invited to the theatre downstairs for the meet the author event.  Julie Danksin of Golden Hare Books, welcomed us all and introduced Mary Paulson-Ellis.  It was also a timely celebration for Golden Hare which was named Independent Bookshop of the Year at the British Book Awards 2019.

Golden Hare win the Award for the Best Independent Bookshop in the UK, 2019

They were up against eight regional winners but it was Julie of Golden Hare Books who was presented with the award by Ian Rankin at the ceremony in May.

Mary Paulson-Ellis is certainly interested in complex dual narratives, linking past and present.  “The Other Mrs Walker” has been described as neo-Victorian mystery, set in the Edinburgh winter of 2010, when the death of an elderly woman starts the research into her life story.

Mary explains that the saga of Solomon Farthing inhabits the same territory as Mrs Walker – the theme of identity and no known next of kin.  It begins in the present day, when an old soldier passes away in an Edinburgh nursing home which sparks the search for his descendants and delve into the past to follow a link back to the battlefields, France 1918.

The story was inspired by “Heir Hunters”  the BBC TV series which follows the investigations of legal cases when someone dies intestate. Apparently 60% of people do not make a Will, such that the inheritance of their Estate can be claimed by the closest living relatives.

Solomon Farthing is an Edinburgh heir hunter who has been given the responsibility of finding the rightful owners of a pawn ticket and an amount of cash, just a few belongings of the deceased soldier.  But his journey of discovery also reflects on his own troubled life and lost links with his family.

The novel also explores the morality of inheritance – how do we know where the money comes from as it passes hand to hand. We may be left a gift, valuable property, an investment but was it the result of theft or gambling. ?

Julie then asks Mary about the other character in her books, Edinburgh.  As she has lived here for 32 years, (born in Glasgow), it is her homage to the city, although, of course, a great deal of fiction is set here.   She also explains that it is not a novel about World War I as other writers have covered the subject most comprehensively, including Pat Barker’s “Regeneration” Trilogy.

The narrative of Solomon Farthing focuses on the life and death of men and soldiers – indeed it was not men, comments Mary, but boys who were called up aged 19, who then had four weeks training before heading off to fight for their country.

There is a most poignant quotation printed at the beginning of this novel:

“ The First World War, if you boil it down, what was it? Nothing but a family row.”   Harry Patch .

Before he died in 2009, aged 111, Harry was the last surviving combat soldier of the First World War and known as “The Last Fighting Tommy”.

On the front cover of “The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing” is a quote from Val McDermid:

“A richly rewarding literary novel that’s also a gripping page-turner.” 

“The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing” by Mary Paulson-Ellis – part modern mystery and part heroic war story – is clearly the perfect time-travelling, Winter’s tale.

Perhaps visit the Golden Hare Books to pick up your copy.

Golden Hare Books, St. Stephen Street, Edinburgh

“The Inheritance of Solomon Farthing” by Mary Paulson-Ellis is published by Mantle Books, an imprint of Pan MacMillan


Encounter: an exhibition of paintings, photography and drawings by Sophia Pauley & Nancy Nightingale – cool, crafted artwork with a sense of stillness and harmony

“They don’t teach drawing in art schools anymore. It’s criminal. Teaching drawing teaches people to look.” —

David Hockney, 2014

Fortunately, the Edinburgh College of Art introduced, inspired and instilled in these two young artists the fine ability to draw and paint intricate, cool, crafted compositions.

Sophia Pauley graduated in 2018 with a 1st class Honours degree in Art and now specialises in large scale, bold, colourful abstract paintings on canvas or wood, screen printing and painted sculptural installations.

Tangent ii, Sophia Pauley

Dominating the vast concrete floor and expanse of white wall is the Tangent series of paired diptych canvases in which Pauley brings a flowing wave of swirling colour, curving shape with linear precision; she is inspired by water from natural landscape to manmade structure, from lake and sea to swimming pool.

Tangent, i, ii, iii, Sophia Pauley

Of course, Hockney was also attracted to paint the sunlight on dappling blue water of Los Angeles pools of luxury Hollywood mansions.

Acrylic, spray and gloss paint is used to create a Tiffany-blue grid which certainly reflects the shimmering, cool water of a pool, surrounded by red, green, pink and blue boomerangs and stripes.

Tangent, part 2, Sophia Pauley

The painterly pattern, bold palette, parallel lines, squares and rectangles bring Mondrian’s decorative designs clearly to mind, and reflect an underlying mood of quiet contemplation.

Viewing Sophia’s work on her website, there are other installations and canvases – splintered triangles, oblongs and diagonal shapes with an explosion of colour, dynamic energy, rhythm and movement.

Nancy Nightingale also graduated from the ECA in 2018, specialising in painting, but also trained in drawing, film and photography, to observe exterior and interior worlds.  Whatever the subject, she combines these diverse skills, such as creating a filmic quality within a painting with extraordinary dexterity, tone and texture.

Rise, Nancy Nighingale

Most evocative is the realistic ambience in “Rise” illustrating the tangled tumble of an unmade bed with the quality of an almost out of focus, sepia tinted, photograph.  Alison Watt is renowned for her depiction of the flowing folds of fabric, and here too Nightingale’s delicately composed oil painting captures the soft draping swathe of duvet and sheet with a masterly touch.

Rise (close up image), Nancy Nightingale

Like a voyeur we are drawn in, trying to see if that is a person, or perhaps a couple, lurking half hidden in the shadowy sunlight. This creates a boundary between abstraction and figurative art, with just the suggestion of human presence within the beautifully crafted “portrait” of this intimate setting.

Tracey Emin’s best known installation, ‘My Bed’, (1998) was her artistic response to a relationship breakdown – her own bed with a scattering of her personal things across the crumpled sheets.  The enigmatic work was re-sold at Christies in 2014 for £2.2 million. “I bought “My Bed” because it is a metaphor for life, where troubles begin and logics die.” Count Christian Duerckheim.

The digital print, “Ghost”  with its architectural perspective, has the immediate appearance of a black and white sketch, again showing her technique to combine a photographic study with the artistic eye of a painter.

Ghost, Nancy Nightingale

Along the corridor and back room salon, see a selection of drawings on paper by both artists as well as photographic prints and a short film.  Nancy won the Best Film Award 2018 for ‘At First Light’  in collaboration with Louis Caro (Movie Production Society at The University of Edinburgh).  There are also postcards, prints and risographs for sale.

Encounter – Selection of drawings, prints and photographs

Patriothall gallery is the ideal industrial warehouse space for Pauley’s expressive, experimental paintings, enhanced by the light flooding in through the high windows to great effect.    Walk around to view Nightingale’s paintings and prints at a distance, and then see the detail in close up, light and shade of the detailed draughtsmanship.

From geometric abstracts to architectural sketches and prints, this joint collection shares their innovative exploration of place, space and time to reflect artistic harmony with a subtle sense of serenity and stillness.

Encounter – Sophia Pauley & Nancy Nightingale

Patriothall Gallery,  Patriothall,  Hamilton Place, Edinburgh EH3 5AY

6th – 21st September, 2019

Tues-Fri, 2pm-7pm; Sat & Sun, 10am-5pm – closed Mondays

For more information:

[Photographs of the exhibition by Murray Orr and the artists.]

Patriothall gallery, the perfect industrial open space for this exhibition, Encounter

The smash hit Broadway revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “The King and I” is heading to Edinburgh

“The King and I” 1956 movie (Deborah Kerr & Yul Brynner)

For lovers of the glamorous and richly romantic show, “The King and I”, you would be mistaken to think that Oscar Hammerstein II, who wrote the book and lyrics, created the storyline.

In fact, it’s a true story, based on Margaret Landon’s semi-fictionalised novel, “Anna and the King of Siam”, (1944), inspired by the real life memoirs of a British school teacher. In 1862, Anna Leonowens arrived at the Royal Palace Bangkok to be the tutor to King Mongkut’s 39 wives and 82 children, her experience related in “The English Governess at the Siamese Court.”Premiered on Broadway in March 1951, “The King and I” ran for three years, winning a Tony Award for Best Musical. The latest revival of this smash hit show at the Lincoln Center Theater, New York, has recently had a sell out season in London and is now coming to the Edinburgh Playhouse, from 17th to 26th October, 2019.

Leading a company of 50 performers and a full scale orchestra are Annalene Beechey as Anna and Jose Llana as The King.

There was a sneak media preview this week, at the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian in the luxurious Castle Suite, garlanded with flowers.  Annalene and Jose describe their roles and story of this lavishly staged production, which won four Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Musical.

Jose Llana and Annalene Beechey at the media launch  – “Shall We Dance?”

This classic, heart-warming narrative, while set in the 1860s, is still so relevant to audiences today relating the story of an unlikely friendship between two headstrong personalities from very different backgrounds and cultures, where East meets West.

Annalene Beechey and Jose Llana in The King and I

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s enchanting, romantic tale is perfect for families of all ages to enjoy together. Children will be inspired to see young actors of their age, on stage singing and dancing. In fact, following a local audition, sisters Perrie and Nikita Wong, aged 8 and 6, were selected to join the ensemble of Royal Children for the run in Edinburgh.

Anna and the Royal children

Annalene recalls performing in Les Miserables at the Playhouse in 1994 (“I was very young at the time!”, she says with a laugh).  Anna is a dream role for an actress, wearing the most gorgeous dresses with one ball gown weighing three stone. This is the costume for the number, “Shall We Dance,” when Anna and the King perform a polka. Jose Llana is impressed that she can twirl across the stage in this heavy dress, dancing backwards and in heels.

Annalene Beechey as Anna and Jose Llana as the King

Theatre goers can certainly expect elaborate costumes and an opulent Palace setting, with 22,000 hand made flowers, two miles of fabric and 250 metres of gold leaf.  Eight trucks are required to transport the set from city to city on this UK tour.

Annalene Beechey

We are treated to a few of the familiar songs from the show, “Hello Young Lovers”, “Puzzlement” & “Getting to Know You, “ performed with such clarity of the lyrics and joyful charisma.

Jose Llana

The reviews say it all, from Broadway to the West End – “I doubt I’ll ever see a better production in my lifetime’ said the Wall Street Journal;  “Five stars for a sumptuous “King and I”. Book now. It’s a hit,’ was the verdict of The Times.

So, perhaps this appetising taster of the show has tempted you to book your tickets soon!

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “The King and I”

17th to 26th October, 2019 @ 7.30pm (matinees, 2.30pm).

Tickets: £19.50 – £110

The Edinburgh Playhouse, Greenside Place, Edinburgh EH1 3AA    Tel. 0844 871 3014

[“The King and I” press launch images, Photo credit, Rob McDougall 2019]


100 x 100 is the theme of this year’s exhibition in the aid of charity at Saorsa Gallery, Stockbridge, opening on 27th September and running to 13th October 2019.

This showcase of 100 bright, bold and beautiful Scottish landscapes by Tommy Fitchett will be priced at a very reasonable £100 (some artwork for a little more) – 25% of which is donated to Cancer Research.

“I am a landscape artist whose work is predominantly abstract inspired by nature, by the Scottish landscape and by the changing light of the seasons. My art is most fluid and expressive when working directly onto glass – I achieve a depth of tone and colour, a freedom of expression and wielding of light.  Tommy Fitchet

Tommy Fitchet with a selection of his unique, oil on glass, Scottish landscapes

Saorsa Art Gallery is located in the heart of Stockbridge, Edinburgh and since 2016 Tommy has presented an annual art event for charity, raising in total over £10,000.

Saorsa’s popular annual showcase of art in aid of charity

For the 2017 show, he gave himself the challenge of completing a small work every day, resulting in the gallery walls being hung with 365 paintings.

These are stunning abstract land and seascapes .. with his palette of oils, from rainbow colours to cool monochrome, an extraordinary energy and atmosphere of the outdoor air is captured.  The effect of oil on glass creates a gleaming, glossy layer with soft, shimmering shades of light to reflect marvellous images of sun and sea.”

From my exhibition review of ‘365 paintings by Tommy Fitchet’

Once again this year, you can expect to see an evocative collection of stunning, small scale, (22 x 22 cm) paintings and other larger panorama landscapes.

Purchase one (or more!) of Tommy’s mini masterpieces to brighten your home while giving a valuable donation to Cancer Research.  Be warned, this is a popular event so get there promptly to browse and buy.

Saorsa Art Gallery

100/100/2019  Fundraising Exhibition of paintings by Tommy Fitchet

8 Deanhaugh Street, Stockbridge, Edinburgh EH4 1LY

Friday 27 September – Sunday 13 October

Thursday & Friday, 12 noon – 4pm

Saturday & Sunday, 12 noon – 5pm.

tel. 0131 343 1126 –

Tommy Fitchet at work creating unique, original abstract land and seascapes

Julie Dumbarton & Kelly-Anne Cairns @ The Torrance Gallery: vibrant, dramatic landscapes and poignant, peaceful portraits.

The Torrance Gallery, 36 Dundas Street, Edinburgh

When it first opened in 1970, The Torrance Gallery was the only contemporary art gallery on Dundas Street. Nearly 50 years on, this is the address for the crème de la crème of the city’s independent galleries.   Fiona McCrindle, the owner of the Edinburgh Drawing School, has recently taken over the baton to preserve the legacy of this New Town gallery.

Fiona McCrindle, the new owner of The Torrance Gallery

Year round, there is a regularly changing showcase of a diverse range of artists with either solo, duo or mixed exhibitions, as well as ceramics, crafts and jewellery. The current exhibition brings together land and seascapes by Julie Dumbarton with portraits and life drawings by Kelly-Anne Cairns – a contrast of genres but sharing a bold, colourful expression.

Posed and poised, Kelly-Anne captures a genuine sense of  character in her series of portraits of young women, each so natural and relaxed as if in quiet contemplation.

Maria, Kelly-Anne Cairns

With titles such as Sunday, Forget-me-not and Promise, these are like snapshots, a moment in time, with an underlying dark, dramatic mood in their perceived sadness and solitude.  What are they thinking, who are they thinking of?  Their facial expressions give little away.

Rosemary, Kelly-Anne Cairns

Yellow is a dominant colour together with a recurring motif of birds, (especially swallows) and flowers. A stunning self portrait, “To Belong,” features Kelly-Anne in a pretty bird print frock, eyes closed as of in meditation.  She paints herself with the use of a mirror, so this is a reflection, as she sees herself.

To Belong, self portrait, Kelly-Anne Cairns

Several gallery visitors on the opening day suggested that Kelly-Anne should design this as a dress material. Well, fashion is all about beautiful, wearable art!.

The domestic settings of a home are exquisitely brought to life through richly patterned fabrics, cushions and wallpaper backdrop within which we have a glimpse of an interior space, both physical and personal.

Drifting, Kelly-Anne Cairns

This most evocative image, entitled “Drifting” focuses on a girl falling asleep on a bed, her hands drooped down over a blue sheet, which is symbolically dripping down the canvas. As a voyeur of this intimate scene, we cannot help but be drawn into her private, secret dreamland.

Most impressive too is a series of black ink sketches, “All the Young Nudes,”  four exquisitely composed figures. There is a delicate touch here in the fine, flowing representation of the soft, youthful, rounded contours of the slender female body; these clearly emphasise Kelly-Anne’s masterly talent at the classic artistry of life drawing.

All the Young Nudes (series of four), Kelly-Anne Cairns

I love to recreate subtle skin tones in oil paint and manipulate the model’s pose to create an atmosphere and elusive narratives within the composition.  I am inspired by the human form, capturing the flowing lines and layers of muscles, tendons, and skin, capturing and suggesting emotions through body language.” Kelly-Anne Cairns

Julie Dumbarton lives in Langholm and the wild natural expanse of the Scottish countryside is central to her work. Her dramatic, vibrant colourful land and seascapes enhances and exaggerates the rich hues of flowers, heather hills and sunsets.

Scottish Sunset, Julie Dumbarton

A red sky at night, a shepherd’s delight – here the clouds burst with a flurry of fireworks in shades of gold, crimson and salmon pink.  Through thick brushstrokes, the tone and texture gives a multi-layered surface and depth to the perspective.

These luminous landscapes clearly bridge the gap between realistic views and bold, brash expressionism.  The swirling water in “Waves” depicts both the rising, rolling sea as well as a row of whitewashed cottages on the shoreline beneath the calm, cool golden embers of an evening sky.

Waves,  Julie Dumbarton

With painterly precision, a dark, melancholic mood pervades this seascape of “Orkney”: with this whirlwind of yellow, coral and mauve clouds, there is such hidden beauty in this wild, unspoilt beach scene.

Orkney, Julie Dumbarton

Moving over even more to the complete abstract, “Autumn Waterlilies” is a stunning, surreal composition where a scattering of white petals can just be glimpsed within a flurry of pink, blue and green. A most attractive floral design which would be ideal for fabrics and decorative designs.

Autumn Waterlilies, Julie Dumbarton

“I like to explore the same themes and images, the tension between abstraction and representation. I’m obsessed with colour, and strive to show the subtle details that we all see but often go unnoticed. As a landscape artist,  I endeavour to inspire and nurture our love of the natural world.”  Julie Dumbarton

The Torrance Gallery

Julie Dumbarton & Kelly-Anne Cairns

31st August to 15th September, 2019

36 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6JN

Open: Mon-Fri, 11am-6pm; Sat, 10.30am-4pm.

Coastal Bay, Julie Dumbarton

John Busby – Silent Landscape @ Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh: a calm, contemplative study of our natural world

“My work is rooted in landscape and in the living birds and animals as they are part of it. I aim to show how creatures move and to express the visual delight they bring. I try to combine accuracy with artistry.”  John Busby

John Busby – Landscape and Wildlife artist at work in the world of nature

“Silent Landscape” is the perfect, poetic title for this fine retrospective of work by John Busby (1928 – 2015).

John was brought up in Yorkshire where he developed an interest in nature, especially birds. After studying art at Leeds University and Edinburgh College of Art, graduating in 1955, time to  travel around France and Italy. He taught drawing and painting at the ECA for more than 30 years until retirement.

Nature in the raw was his perennial subject to paint, the wild open space of hills and dales, captured in all seasons, dramatic mood and shifting light. Over the years, his approach changed radically, moving to and fro, from scenic realism to experimental representation.

Around the elegant, spacious rooms at the Open Eye gallery, take a time – travel journey starting in the mid 1950s with the intricately crafted “Twelve Winded Sky.”

Twelve Winded Sky, (1956) John Busby

The palette of sombre muted tones of bare sketchy trees, bleak moorland, with just a splash of mustard yellow under a dark sky, reflects a touch of winter chill.

Moving on to 1962, “Northern Landscape” is depicted in an almost cubist pattern of oval and oblong shapes in a blend of charcoal, mushroom and truffle.

Northern Landscape, (1962) John Busby

A decade later, “Ensign for Winter” is a pure abstract Rothko-esque layered block of bold blue, with black and cream stripes.

Ensign for Winter, (1972) John Busby

Many rural scenes have a sky-high, birds-eye view across the countryside.  “Flight over Yellow Field” is a textured tapestry of geometric colours with a tiny kite blowing in the wind, while “Lothian Landscape” is a richly atmospheric panorama of green fields, sandy shore and blue sea and cloudy sky.

Lothian Landscape, (1980) John Busby

“Last night a wind from Lammermoor came roaring up the glen,

With the tramp of trooping horses and the laugh of reckless men ..”

From Walter Scott to W. H. Ogilvie, Lammermuir has inspired writers for their romantic, legendary tales.  Here is a remote glen of rolling hills painted by Busby first in 1985, a fragmented structure in a sweeping curve, to a more naturalistic composition in 2005, with its sun-tinted streak of blue sky.

Lammermuir,  (2005) John Busby

To complement this retrospective, “John Busby Remembered” features a selection of work on the theme of the natural world by fellow artists and associates at the ECA:  an expressive abstract by Barbara Rae and the iconic figurative seascapes of John Bellany.

“Whence do we come ….”, John Bellany

Like David Attenborough of the art world, animals and birds were the subject of John Busby’s lifelong passion, illustrating and writing books – he was a founding member of the Society of Wildlife Artists.

Drawing Birds (and other wildllife books), John Busby

On show in this exhibition are a few sketches and watercolours such as of owls and sparrows to illustrate his masterly study of ornithology.

The Heart of the Wood, (1953) John Busby

Take a stroll around the Open Eye to immerse yourself in these evocative, enriching landscapes: cool, calm and contemplative in their sense of place and time,  here are moments of quiet beauty and stillness.

‘Silent Landscapes’ by John Busby & ‘John Busby Remembered’

27 July to 2 September, 2019

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

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

tel. 0131 557 1020

Landscape, (1967) John Busby