Monday, July 31, 2017

'Complementary Contrasts' - Jenny Matthews and Angus McEwan RWS RGI RSW

WATERCOLOUR isn’t always taken as seriously as it should be. Perhaps it suffers from the days when it was considered an “accomplishment” for well brought up young ladies, like embroidery or holding a tea cup in the proper manner. Or perhaps it has seemed to be stuck for too long in the realm of the Sunday afternoon hobbyist.
Jenny Matthews says: “When I tell people I work in watercolour, I can see them thinking, ‘I know what watercolour is, it’s probably small and a bit twee’. People don’t imagine the strong colours, the big scale. I quite enjoy surprising people.

Jenny Matthews - Looking Upwards

Anyone with a preconceived notion of what watercolour is will be surprised by the work of Jenny Matthews and Angus McEwan. Two of the top artists in Scotland working in the medium, and both recognised internationally for their achievements, they aren’t afraid to push it in new directions. Being exhibited together here for the first time, their work demonstrates the contrasting ways in which watercolour can fulfil its potential.

Angus McEwan - Natural Selection

Jenny Matthews - Transition

Jenny Matthews studied botanical painting under Dame Elizabeth Blackadder at Edinburgh College of Art, and fell in love both with flowers and with watercolour. Ever since then, she has worked with both, balancing water and pigment to capture the bright colours she loves: the ochre of a tulip, the deep blue of an iris. “I feel watercolour is really descriptive. If you’re trying to portray plants, it works really well; there are lot of markings on flowers which look as though they have been painted in watercolour.”

Jenny Matthews - Fading Tulips

Angus McEwan had to go all the way to China to discover the potential of the medium. In 1996 he was awarded the prestigious Alastair Salveson travel scholarship, he packed watercolours because he didn’t have room in his luggage for his oils and acrylics. “I thought: ‘How hard can it be?’” he grimaces. “The first paintings I did were awful.
Since those early days Angus has come a long way and has won numerous international watercolour awards as well as being invited to judge several international watercolour competitions.

Angus McEwan - Busy Corner

Angus has developed his own style, building up layers of paint to create the realist depictions of weathered surfaces and buildings for which he is highly acclaimed: atmospheric evocations of old, once-inhabited places. “I find watercolour really versatile. I can get the crisp quality I want with detail, I can get a richness and depth by building up layers. A lot of people have quite strict rules about it; I quite like breaking these rules.”

Angus McEwan - Rose Amongst Thorns

Listening to Angus and Jenny talk, one quickly becomes aware of the contrasting ways they work with the medium - and make it work for them. I hear about the varying properties of pigments and paper; broad brushes, fine brushes, even a toothbrush; layering, splattering and stippling; keeping a painting balanced on the edge of control. One is left in no doubt that this is a robust contemporary medium requiring considerable technical skill and ripe for experimentation.

Jenny Mathews - A Good Year

Through the complementary contrasts of their work, one sees a range of what can be achieved. As Angus says: “I keep returning to this incredible medium, even though it is considered by some as a lesser way of working. This exhibition will demonstrate that there is a lot more to watercolour than many people think.”

Susan Mansfield, July 2017

The exhibition runs at Smithy Gallery from 6 August until 3 September.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Phil McLoughlin and Joyce Gunn Cairns

In May we are pairing two very different artists - Phil McLoughlin and Joyce Gunn Cairns. They are exhibiting for the very first time together in their exhibition 'Real Imaginings'.

Phil McLoughlin - Write and Record

Joyce Gunn Cairns - Triumvirate

Each of us is attracted to different work for different reasons. I personally like to be stopped in my tracks. This happens rarely and when it does my heart beats a little faster as I feel something new and unique. I think is takes an artist of incredible talent to have this effect on the viewer.

Phil McLoughlin - Veneration

I was first introduced to Joyce Gunn Cairns, the fabulous Edinburgh artist, not long after I opened the gallery in 2005 and I was delighted to come across Phil McLoughlin's work more recently being exhibited in the RGI. Both artists have had this impact on me.

As different as the work looks in style, there is a depth and tension there, speaking (or rather not speaking) volumes.

Joyce Gunn Cairns - Her Summer Oufit

The exhibition opens on Sunday 7th May.