It's here! The virtual preview for this year's solo show at the Torrance Gallery is about to open. So I thought this would be a good moment to resuscitate this blog and tell you a little bit about it..
It’s everything I have to say. It’s about the solace of the sea, about the solitude we have all craved or hated in the last couple of years, about those moments; night, dawn, dusk or day; when you walk in the natural world and are just overwhelmed by the beauty, by the calm, the stillness. And for a moment, everything just - stops.
For this show, I wanted to do something a little more considered, measured and curated than my usual habit of just throwing together everything I've worked on for previous months. In short, I wanted to create a body of work.
But this was NOT the way I normally work - my usual method is to pitch up in the studio and paint something that responds to what I've seen on my beach walk that morning, or in the week before without any thought about how it relates to other pieces. The heart and soul of my work has always been a response to my immediate environment, and I enjoy the freshness and spontaneity of working like that. To set out to make 40 pieces that related to each other, attempting to create a cohesive series, felt very alien to me - I spent a long time mulling it over and trying to figure out an approach ( almost too long, I was in danger of running out of time)
In the end, it was one wee painting that became the guiding light. I woke up at 4 one morning and unable to get back to sleep, headed down to the studio. 'Insomnia' was the
result, a 50 x 50 cm nocturne that I absolutely loved painting. So much that I couldn't stop painting and before I knew it I had ten pieces in prussian blue and umber, an homage to the velvety stillness of the sea at night.
'Night is for the Wild hunt. Darkly thrilling, velvety blackness, illicit and unknow. Butterflies, anything might happen, everything and nothing will. Alive with the sound of the waves and the absence of us'
(Insomnia isn't in the show though, it got snatched up by one of my favourite collectors.. So here is Night Light, that IS in the show)
From these nocturnes came the idea of 4 mini-series exploring different times of day; using a strong but seperate colour palette for each. Dusk spilled out just as easily as night had, I was revelling in using fierce pinks and indigos to create 'skies at the end of the world'. These pieces, like the night ones, didn't generally reference specific places.. they are purely about the light and have a slightly otherworldly feel to them for that.
Day was a little more difficult.. probably because it was a much more disrupted work flow; I had other shows on and couldn't just disappear to the studio for days on end to lose myself in my work. But it ended up enfolding a few pieces made before I started the project and was all the stronger for these anchors. The day pieces are all about the kind of days I like to paint.. when the light is slipping through storm clouds, when the sky is a hundred shades of bluey geeny greys and you can feel the wind blowing over the wave tops. No bright sunshiny days for me! The work shifted here to be more about my beach once more, with the forth islands The Bass Rock, Craigleith, Lamb and Fidra creeping back in to root them in place.
The final section was Dawn, and was the most challenging of all. Here, I was running up against an idea in my head of the palette I wanted to use (soft gold yellows, rosy pinks, merest hint of pale blue), and the ideas I wanted to convey - 'Dawn is soft and secret, subtle blushes and shy glimpses. Hope for the day ahead, glowing and rosy and pregnant with promises' - and a bunch of paintings that did not want to comply.
I must have laid the half finished series out a dozen times over a few weeks, trying to make pieces fit together that just didn't; pulling pieces out, adding pieces in, starting again in a different direction again and again. In the end, it all hinged around one early December Sunday morning walk out to Yellowcraig that I painted over and over as I was engrossed in the light bouncing of the endless sands. The piece below, 'In the beginning' is the biggest and the keystone around which the others slotted in.
So there we have it. It's been experimental, it's been both easy and hard in different parts, it's produced some of the best paintings I feel I have ever made. I really hope you enjoy the show; it's so exciting to be actually hanging it on gallery walls this year after the disappointment caused by last year's lockdown making that show only virtual. Please get in touch with The Torrance Gallery if anything you see here is calling to you, and please sign up if you haven't already done so to my mailing list (or theirs) for the virtual preview code.
We open to the public on the 15th of January with a preview between 12 and 3 at The Torrance Gallery on Dundas Street, Edinburgh - would love to see you there!