Friday, 27 November 2009

UG Christmas Exhibition 2009

Hello everyone...
There hasn't been anything posted for a few days now. This is not because we haven't been doing anything...oh no! Indeed we have been extremely busy hanging our new Christmas Exhibition and would like to share the process with you. For me it is a bit of a love/hate thing. I always enjoy the final weekend of an exhibition and make a point of working on the Sunday so I can view or bond with the paintings one last time. Come the Monday the nerves are already starting to kick in at the thought of the re hang. Inevitably the gallery has to look dreadful before it gets better and I find it difficult to stomach at times. There are always last minute snags and hideous Frank Spencer moments. Over the couple of days we hang the exhibition my mood is like that of a bi-polar bear. Of course when things start to come together and everyones work looks amazing, it is very rewarding.
So it begins.......

The mess. Arrrgh I can't stand it.

I am told that unpacking the stunning work of Janet Melrose was the only thing that cracked a smile for the whole 2 days. Charming.
This is Janet's beautiful work.

The excrutiating worse before it gets better scene....

I hate this stage as it's the end of day one, it's late and I go home and spend the night planning and arranging the work in my head....over and over again.

Day 2 and Scott my lovely window cleaner from Rise and Shine helps me to give the place extra sparkle.

Ahhh that's better. Although just noticed my feather duster and hammer on the floor. I use either one depending on my mood! Speaking of contrasts....the above image shows the light half of Union Gallery. Again the Janet Melrose paintings along the back wall are to die for.
And now...

The dark side! Even the windows have a dark theme: featuring very classy Jenny Matthews and Jean Hall flower paintings with unusual black backgrounds.
Now readers, can you spot the Henry Kondracki "Ice Cream Van" painting that I have previously waxed lyrical about? In left window. During it's time with us at Union Gallery this painting achieved cult status. I am both thrilled and a little sad to say it now has a new and loving home in Aberdeen.
I have found myself strangely in the mood for a spot of romantic dancing all week. Sensibly, almost everyone has politely declined.
Only the Gallery Hounds were mad enough to take me up on my offer....

Cha cha cha

They always have to take it too far. Naughty doggies.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Something New at UG

We are always on the lookout for new and different sculpture for the gallery.  I have especially been trying to find some really high quality glass work to display.  There is a lot of blown glass around, but I was looking for something a bit special, and I am really pleased to be able to say I have found it.

Jessica Irena Smith is a young glass sculptor from County Durham who has been introduced to us by artist Trevor Jones.  Having seen images of her work online, I knew we were looking as something special and, when she came in this week to show us her work, that was confirmed.  Jessica casts her glass bases in a kiln, using the ancient lost wax process.  Without going into excessive detail, this is very similar to the process of making a bronze sculpture, although somewhat more risky as you are working with glass.  To put things into perspective, a larger sculpture like 'Large Sheep Column', below, lives in the kiln for fully 6 days to ensure that the piece cools evenly and therefore not creating stresses in the glass.

The glass is then hand finished, to create a perfect, smooth, beautiful finish, and then the small cast bronze scultures are added.  Jessica has the lovely little bronzes cast for her by a specialist foundry in Birmingham, and then hand finishes them herself.

So you end up with a sculpture of charm and humour, created with real craft and real perserverence.  The sheep are Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep which look somewhat similar to goats.  A trip to the Rockies, seeing these lovely beasts in their natural environment, proved to be the inspiration. 

We have 3 different examples of the series: the Large Sheep Column, above, and:

Small Sheep Column (a trio), and:

the brillant Wall of Sheep

The detail in the work, along with the quality of the finish, is really astounding.  You only have to look at Jessica's working drawings, which she has been kind enough to share with us, to get an idea of the toil and the creative process that is required to produce such beautiful figures:

I love these sketches... they are fun, but they also tell you quite a bit about the thought process and the work that goes into creating these sculptures.

I can't wait to see more of her work next year.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

"Falling Man" gets a photo shoot

I spent the other day in the company of 2 of my favourite things. David Hosie's "Falling Man"painting and my friend and professional photographer Thomas Haywood. It was really nice to be re-united with "Falling Man", a little surge of excitement came over me when I saw him again. He still smells of oil paint....that's 3 months he's been drying for!
Anyway, we are doing a spot of advertising at The Edinburgh Filmhouse and wanted to use a truly iconic and timeless image. Not going to give too much away, however if you go to see a movie then keep an eye open for him....he is pretty distinctive. I always think "Falling Man", although an extremely powerfull image, also has a certain calm to it. His beautifully painted face lacks any obvious expression and he does not appear to be in any distress despite his predicament. He is captured in a moment of time and that is perhaps what gives the painting a permanent and static dream-like status.
We wanted the best possible image of "Falling Man" we could get (I think we have established that my camera skills are poor to say the least). Luckily for me Thomas Haywood, a true wizard with the lens was on hand to show me how a pro does it. I didn't really understand a lot of his trickery, though that a lot of his equipment was pretty impressive. He even had a new toy....a wireless flash trigger thingy....

2 big bags full of gear.

I just want to point out that the floor is immaculate at this point and at no time was "Falling Man" in any distress....he seemed to take it all in his stride.

A few more attempts. Thomas is a real pro and took lots of photos until he got one he was 100% happy with. Good stuff.

Getting there.....

Stunning! As I say, keep your eyes open for "Falling Man" in his cameo appearance at The Edinburgh Filmhouse.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Unexpected Places

I am sure we have all noticed that winter is making an appearance. This involves us all putting up with dark nights and dark mornings for a while. However, winter can also be an inspiring time of the year and can sometimes throw up the odd suprise. The other morning whilst being given the run around by the gallery hounds I came across this.....

A brave Chrysanthemum still proudly holding it's head against the elements. It's growing alongside a tree stump on the banks of the Water of Leith. How did this wee fella get there?
I also noticed these....

Gorgeous Michaelmass Diasies that have set up home next to Inverleith Pond. Always a welcome blast of colour. I find daisies such a cheery flower....right up there with daffodils. The bee in the photo was completely lifeless. I guess he has done his work for the year.
Anyway seeing these flowers put me in mind of Jenny Matthews. She too gets a kick out of finding flowers in unexpected places. Jenny paints flowers but with a bit of a difference. Her work is exquisite and skillful, yet is not overly controlled or tight like traditional botanical studies. Jenny works in watercolour which, as anyone has ever attempted it knows, is not an easy medium to master. I think Jenny Matthews brings out the best in both subject matter and medium. The paintings strike a delicate balance and have a real life to them. This probably has a lot to do with the fact she always works from real flowers which can be a challenge as so many are seasonal. She has to be pretty organised in her work and often makes detailed studies that can be worked into finished paintings at a later date. The background in her work is also important, being impressions of where her final subject matter was found. The next image shows actual Michaelmass Diasies and captures their charm perfectly.

"Aberlady, East Lothian Theme".
I loved this painting when I first viewed it and got even more excited when I noticed the tiny shells interspersed amongst the flowers. Perfect.
And this beauty.....

"Alkanet, Welsh Poppies & Bluebells".
I had an on going battle with Welsh Poppies in my garden this year. They won! I now admire their perseverance and anyway a bit of colour from spring to winter is no bad thing..... I am sure nature knows best.

Jenny Matthews trained under Dame Elizabeth Blackadder at Edinburgh College of Art and you can immediately see the tutor-student influenec which is not uncommon. Jenny Matthews is having a solo exhibition with Union Gallery in May 2010. I am really looking forward to it as, having emerged from the dark dreary winter months, we will be in need of a spot of colourful nature at it's best.