Sunday, 31 July 2011

Mirror Mirror On The Wall

Hello everyone

So as the 'Head To Head' exhibition comes to a close I'd like to finish up with a nod to this special painting:

'Mirror Mirror On The Wall', acrylic & screenprint on canvas by Sophie McKay Knight.

Yes, I think it's fair to say that 'Mirror Mirror' is one of the fairest paintings on the wall, and in an exhibition that has proved to be another high point for Union Gallery.

A huge thank you to artists Sophie McKay Knight, Norrie Harman, Joyce Gunn Cairns MBE and David Hosie.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Joyce Gunn Cairns 'Chrysalis'

Hello everyone

I hope you are well and enjoying the Scottish summer time....better late than never!
Speaking of which, the current exhibition, 'Head to Head', is now in the final week, so you still have time to come in and see these remarkable artworks.
I've noticed something about this exhibition that I haven't really considered before - it requires an element of silence to experience the work fully.
Perhaps this is due to much of the work being so 'emotionally charged', artists Norrie Harman and Joyce Gunn Cairns being brilliant examples.
Lets have a look at this:

'Chrysalis, Self Portrait' oil and pencil on card by Joyce Gunn Cairns.

Now this work has received a lot of attention and perhaps doesn't require me to say that much about it. It's a strong and confident , yet hugely sensitive and revealing painting which I believe holds it's own.
However, I've been looking at 'Chrysalis' everyday now for nearly a month . It's 'got me', and I'd be loathed to say farewell without giving it the salute it deserves.
There is much to admire in this work and indeed in the artist herself. As an exercise in drawing and painting, I really don't think it gets better than this. For me, everything is bang on - the composition, gently dominated by a dignified and noble pose, mark making at it's finest and an informed and subtle palette....there is no need for over-intrusive colour here.
Then of course there's the title, 'Chrysalis'. I wonder if perhaps I feel such an affinity for this painting because it's a self portrait by a female artist looking honestly and reflecting on herself. Constantly growing, ever evolving, whilst embracing age and wisdom with grace and perhaps a little uncertain of the journey. Having got to know Joyce as a person, I think of her as a solo warrior, committed to producing work of the highest integrity and true to herself: driven, but always willing to support, share and educate her fellow artists and the wider community. It is not by chance that Joyce Gunn Cairns has an accolade awarded from Buckingham Palace does not happen all that often and is reserved for only the best of the best.
So I'm going to end, having thought about it a little more, by saying that surely a painting like 'Chrysalis' does not appeal just to women?
Don't both men and women often feel the urge to stop, take an honest look at themselves and consider both their past and future?

'I suffer from the wilderness
I suffer in silence
A loss of identity

''Identity Of The Self" Anon 2009.

Speak soon.....

Sunday, 17 July 2011

The Eyes Have It

Hello everyone

I hope you have managed to catch some sun in between dodging the downpours.

I wanted to steer your attention to some captivating and haunting gazes in the current exhibition 'Head to Head'.
First of all I'd like to start with a piercing stare that is not part of the exhibition:

Thia photo is simply called 'Afghan Girl' and became one of the most famous National Geographic pictures ever. Indeed, it was featured on the cover of National Geographic's Top 100 Pictures of all time. This 12 year old refugee's photo was taken in 1984 and her iconic stare captivated audiences for years. It was the first time anyone had ever taken her photo.
If you have never seen 'Afghan Girl' before you can read more about her here:

 I brought Afghan Girl into the equation as, on viewing David Hosie's 'Arabian Child' I immediately thought of her.

'Arabian Child', oil on panel by David Hosie.
Similarly, 'Ghanaian Girl II' thumps me with the same impact as Afghan Girl.

David Hosie has painted this beautiful woman twice now and she is a direct result of a field trip David made to Ghana last year.
Tired of the constant reports of economic doom and gloom in this country, David wanted to get a fresh perspective on poverty. I thought his trip to be admirable:the photos he sent back to us were pretty grave and I for one was also given a new perspective on what it is to be skint.

And look at these boys, and look them in the eyes:


These 'Young Spartans' look rough and ready and, for me, there is no escaping their gaze which is determined and yet vulnerable at the same time.

This next painting I definitely have eyes for:

'Bonxie', oil and pencil on card by Joyce Gunn Cairns.

Gosh, the haunting stare of 'Bonxie'.
After Joyce's work was hung a lot of time was spent simply experiencing this painting.
Now, there's a beautiful and moving story behind 'Bonxie', which I believe should be shared between the four walls of the gallery. For me, 'Bonxie' is a jewel in its own right and I am pleased, from the response, that many others can see this too. That there 'happens' to be an intelligent and sensitive seed behind 'Bonxie's' creation is an added bonus. Of course intelligent and sensitive is artist Joyce Gunn Cairns all over.

Next time we will be looking more at Joyce Gunn Cairns and the work of Sophie McKay Knight. In particular this treasure:

'Mirror Mirror on the Wall', acrylic and screenprint on canvas by Sophie McKay Knight.

Oh, and I want to leave you with another iconic gaze which is also captivating many people....

'Antonine Hill', oil on canvas by Philip Braham.
This painting will be shown in Phil's solo exhibition 'Still' which opens next month.

People are fascinated by people.

Happy Sundays x

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

It's A Tough Job, But Somebody's Got To Do It....

Hello everyone

The blog has been a bit quiet of late because I have taken advice from the wise and caved in to the pressure to create an 'official' Union Gallery facebook page.  Feel free to 'like' it or become a friend there.  To be honest, I've had trouble adjusting to it: until now all social 'meeja' stuff has been done by me, a person, and have been personal observations and thoughts which I hope have been done with some kind of insight and empathy.  Trying to post messages on a facebook page as another brick in the wall, or as a fly on the wall, really isn't my style.  I can do measured, but I like a bit of passion too.  I am sure I'll get the hang of it so please bear with me.  However, this particular blog has been brewing for quite some time and really can't come from the viewpoint of a here goes:

I want to write about what it entails to be an artist.  I say it's been brewing for a while, but like most artists it's probably played on my mind for as long as I can remember and, until now, I haven't really had the means to express it.
Possibly it's all bubbled to the surface now as I recently attempted to catch up on some painting of my own.  Until now it has largely been a secret that I went away for a weeks worth of art 'boot camp': because I feel guilty when not at UG, which has become very much my 'second home'...a second life-line if you like, I had been neglecting my painting.
I got quite a lot of 'stuff' done at boot camp and, although I found it somewhat traumatic (to say the least), I am very glad that I did it.  I took an awful lot away from that week, the most important thing being that I reacquainted myself with the harsh realities of what it is to be an artist.  This may sound a little strange or even over-dramatic, but seriously it's a tough job.  And it really is a 'calling'.
I am sure many artists have, in their time, experienced comments such as, 'it must be great to be doing what you truly love', or 'I wish I was gifted'.  Well, yes and no.....I've often thought of it as something more like a curse than a gift, an addiction or, at its worst, an abusive relationship.
There is no doubt that if you are a creative type, that menace inside you will not let you be.  It is a calling and it will niggle and goad you until you do something about it.  At boot camp it brought home to me again just what a strange and uncertain profession being an artist is.  It's a lonesome occupation, often involving long, unpredictable and unsociable hours.  Indeed, many artists have to juggle their calling with other jobs, so that they can subsidise the making of their artwork.  It's often dirty, smelly and involves all sorts of nasty chemicals that we are told to avoid:

Then there's the self doubt and personal angst/torture that is compounded by working in solitary conditions.  What am I doing?  Is this any good?  etc. etc.  Then, there's the best's often unpaid!  Any artist will tell you that it's an expensive business; paint, brushes, canvases and frames all cost an arm and a leg, and it all adds up.  The cliched image of the starving artist all alone in their garret is not so far from the truth....

However, just like any addiction, there are fantastic highs:
To create an artwork that is truly unique and which you believe to be one of the best you've ever done is enthralling, exciting and totally untouchable.  If an enlightened individual gets that kick too, and invests in your creativity....well that really is the ultimate high.  And yet the majority of artists who are true to themselves will carry on regardless of sales.  You develop a 'thick skin' and continue to battle on with your 'gift'.  one day I will post a blog about thick skin syndrome - I promise it will be shorter than this one!

I thought I would leave you with my picture of the week:

This is the seriously gifted artist Norrie Harman.
Norrie graduated from ECA in 2001, and won a number of prestigious awards whilst still a student - a remarkable achievement.  I am really pleased that his work, which has not been seen in his home town of Edinburgh for many years has been so well received.   In this informal, relaxed photo, I feel that a lot of that worry and self doubt is captured perfectly.  To be fair, Norrie Harman is most likely exhausted in this picture, having worked to the wire to get the work done, arrange the framing , travel from Leeds to Edinburgh to deliver it and attend a busy, busy opening.  It's only at the time of this photo that he finally gets the chance to reflect on all his hard work.  it was definitely worth it.

Leaving you with my other picture of the week:

From left to right: artists Norrie Harman, Sophie McKay Knight, Joyce Gunn Cairns MBE and David Hosie all looking genuinely happy and comfortable at the opening of their exhibition Head to Head at UG until August 1st.  Beautiful!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Hotter Than July!

Get ready for this.....

See you this Thursday 6-8pm for refreshments and some serious art!

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Various Visitors

Hello everyone

Just thought we'd share with you some snaps of some of the lovely artists who have been in to UG in the last week.
We should kick off with this:

This is Joyce Gunn Cairns MBE.  We are starting with Joyce because her work is going to make a serious splash next week in our new exhibition 'Head to Head' which opens on Thursday.  Joyce's work had been in the gallery for just five minutes and it was already attracting a lot of must see it!

This is the lovely Henry Kondracki who has been very busy finishing off various commissions for some very happy new owners.  Well done, Henry.

The charming 'Adams Family'.  This is James Newton Adams and co. enjoying a holiday from their home on the Isle of Skye.  We are excited about seeing more work from James in January 2012.  We will keep you posted.

Here is the brilliant Stewart Bremner's back.  Stewart has been helping out a lot at UG recently (thanks, S!), and here he is installing the camera to make the 'Now We Are Two' opening video.  Is no limit to his creative talents?
And this:

Richard Demarco, Alison Auldjo and Stewart Bremner enjoyed an interesting chat in the gallery the other day....
Et Enfin:

Beautiful artist Imogen Alabaster delivering a truly magical painting featuring some frogs at the special request a lovely French couple.  They are delighted.

Au revoir, mes amis