Saturday, 19 August 2017


I still calculate work in feet & hands. Stables & jockeys still measure their steeds in hands. My mother could accurately measure a yard of fabric from her nose to her outstretched hand.  I can stride across the grass and give u some square yards. The human body was a useful tool and tied to the land. 
KATE DOWNIE takes this one step further, by using our body as  "a poetic metaphor and handy travel guide around this collection of paintings, drawings and prints." 
DOWNIE's catalogue for her FESTIVAL show at the SCOTTISH GALLERY contains her own explanation as to her subject. "I am inspired by the ingenious & ubiquitous acts of engineering amidst the seas, mountains, & the envelope of air: concrete, asphalt, steel, glass & plastic, the modern stuff which humans have constructed." 

Yet Downie is a landscape painter. So how does that work? In an excellent essay novelist Sue Hubbard explains Kate's use of line - all journeys are linear, whether along a road river or a drawing board!
And Downie, a superb draughtsman, has always had a superb use of line. These black lines: of bridge, tower, pole, road signs, are for me her chief characteristic marks, a skeleton structure on which to build, be it a crowded city centre in Japan or an American road network. Most of the pictures here are robust oils, with some ink drawings too. And there are also a series of very loose Chinese ink & watercolour sketches of the Lofoten islands, off the coast of Norway  
I was interested in a set of screenprints made with Ros Lawless at GPS are particularly relevant here. Their experimental graphic exuberance and calligraphic quality comes from a combination of her Chinese pen technique learned in China, plus Downie's love of long train journeys, 1000 miles in Norway (see her image (Trondheim) 
or just from Edinburgh to Oban. 
To get a "bigger bolder view" she decided to tape acetate sheets onto the train window and draw images in black line on the acetate as the scene sped by. 
These acetates were then turned into the dominant silkscreen design on top of a blurred background from slow shutter speed film of yet another journey shot in autumn on the way to Oban. Thus 2 journey overlap, their superimposed imagery playing counterpoint as in jazz. 
Downie is well known for her love affair with the FORTH Bridge & now with the Queensferry Bridge, has been following the building of the new bridge. 
Downie is a constant traveler - near & far- 
and some of my favourite images are her Cross Country pen drawing from a British train 
plus her minimal 'Kyoto Shinkansen (Spinal Cord)' which she equates with travel in Japan. 

Tuesday, 15 August 2017


British REALIST Painting in the 1920s & 30s, GMA 2. 
Congratulations to Patrick Elliott who put this show together, with a proper catalogue, well labelled, explained and above all something new to see. The show has not been on since April, is not a re-hash, not misleading. You may not love all the work, indeed you may hate some, but there is plenty to look at, admire, think about. Enough here to recommend a visit. 
Brockhurst 1939 
 Brockhurst epitomised the brushless, hard-edged, tight, polished realist style with its intense detail, scrutiny & accurate, wonderful draughtsmanship. 
 James Cowie, one of 8 Scots here all superb. 4 Glasgow trained. 
Cowie's 2nd wife Alice

Meredith Frampton, detail,  1928 
There are 93 works by 58 artists, many unknowns, only 9 women, (who could not vote.)  Most painters were born at end of Victorian era or on the turn into the 20th century. All endured the First World War. 
The wonderful James McIntosh Patrick 1907-1998 was famously from Dundee where he lived, taught, and painted.
Stobo kirk 1939 by Partick
SNPG  has a good cross section of historical HILL Adamson 1840s photos, a great opportunity to see a range of famous, pioneering work.  

DOUGLAS GORDON's conceptual piece, BLACK BURNS, is problematic for some but worth examining. Here lies their hero: shattered, riven, fallen, almost destroyed. Not just an imperfect man, human, with feet of clay - but a man divided.   

Director Christopher Baker arrived 5 yrs ago, when all the restoration/re-building/mess had been project managed by the former director James Holloway. Baker has got all the fun of commissioning new portraits for the collection ... ... 

MORANDI at Ingleby Gallery. - Only 2 pix to see here  but both stunning. 1 characteristic Morandi still life & a huge Hugonin oil.  For 30 years James Hugonin has made just one painting a year, always following a structure of thousands of small marks of various colour on a grid,  Subtle, understated, elegant. He works from a notebook, almost like a musical score. Here he echoes the tones of grey in the Morandi pix

Tony PATERSON   - and the bag! 

Josef KOUDELKA'S landscape photographs at the SIGNET LIBRARY.   Special. In an elegant Georgian setting. Till 27th August. 

I will address the disappointments later. 

Meanwhile more pix to enjoy from GMA 2