Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Winter Woods - the enigmatic world of artist MARK EDWARDS

MARK EDWARDS work is compelling, more subreal than surreal - buried deep inside us. Tony Davidson, Kilmorack Gallery, explores his paintings

Enigmas and ironies abound in the work of Mark Edwards. It is a joy to bury deep into the labyrinthine folds of a possible narrative; the hats, snow, trees and train. And it is an equal delight to marvel at Edwards’ remarkable techniques, all honed to make his painting vibrate with colour, resolve in composition and twang with tension.

At first sight ‘The Crossing’ (acrylic on canvas, 100cm x 150cm) shows three men standing looking towards a large early-Georgian house from a sparse copse of pine woodland. It is a snowy but clear day. In the distance a train crosses a viaduct. This is the most superficial level at which you can look at the painting. You then spot the middle man is slightly stooped. Is he being helped to his home or drugged and apprehended? Where are the men’s feet – buried in the show? But it is too even for this. Something is not quite right. Why is there no chimney on the house? My favourite missing part of an Edwards building is in another painting, one called ‘Waiting for the Door to Open.’ It will be a long wait for the two shadowy figures outside the house for there doesn’t appear to be a door at all. This playful side to Edwards makes his work filmic, with shades of Graham Greene and Le Carré. Edwards, however, hasn’t seen many of these films – ‘some yes, but not many.’
The Crossing | acrylic on canvas | 100cm x 150cm 
Mark Edwards, however, is steeped in books - producing the covers for hundreds of works, including household names such as Kingsley Amis, Beryl Bainbridge, Sue Townsend, Michael Morpurgo and Philip Pulman. A book cover must have many things – all of which are in an Edwards’ paintings. They must have grip and promise, and, if a cover is good, they will be bound together in memory – the déjà vu effect of a Mark Edwards painting.  

Below this there are other more surreal narratives. The world depicted isn’t quite like our world. Shadows fall from unexpected light sources. An imagined open door is throwing light onto the scene. Trains can be many things in the winter woods. The more obvious train crosses the viaduct; you see this straight away. Or it can be distilled into its steamy plume behind a wood or, inexplicably, it can come from the ground – a ghost train at graveyard height with nothing visible other than a hazy band across the painting. Most haunting is Edwards’ use of repetition. Is it the same man painted three times in the same painting – quantumly appearing in his own world, populating this empty landscape? Edwards’ repetition of subject only adds to this effect. The man reappears with his Sisyphean task of waiting and watching. A Mark Edwards painting is now no longer the illustration of a story, it is everything. We are looking at the watcher and waiter’s entirety because he is not aware of a larger world. The more Edwards repeats himself, the greater the effect of disorientation.

Waiting for the Door to Open | acrylic on canvas | 50cm x 65cm

Deepening narratives are our response when we look at a Mark Edwards painting. But the magic comes from the more old-fashioned rules of composition and colour. Paint and image-making are Edwards’ real muses. His canvases can be seen as completely abstract compositions – well-placed diagonals dividing the image in a way that is mathematically pleasing. The eternal number three appears many times; in windows, figures, trees and diagonals. There is also a graduation of tone that harmonises and balances the work. This, however, is only one element of Edwards technical prowess. If you look closer there is much more. On the surface is the snowy seen we see and I have described, but under this, through the chinks, we catch a glimpse of warmer energetic fields. Technically this is very clever. It creates a pointillist effect that allows the colours to retain their vibrancy and (like many Matisse paintings) these colours are enhanced by the white of the snow and the black of the men’s coats. Subtle variations in the texture are also there in the diagonals which Edwards loves so much. It can be very hard to fully comprehend how this is done, and therein lies the magic.

The final and deepest layer of the Edwards labyrinth is the layer seen through the chinks of texture. It is a coherent world made up of balls of energetic colour – strings, quarks and atoms. This is the real world of the dark figure. It is also our infinitely divisible quantum world. Who is waiting and watching? We all are.

Tony Davidson
Director of Kilmorack Gallery
October 2017

Thursday, 29 September 2016

                                            GEORGINA COBURN REVIEW

Kilmorack Gallery SEA exhibition (Scottish Artists inspired by the sea) is up and runs the end of October 2016. There are fantastic works, from WILL MACLEAN's oceanic reminisces and JOYCE W CAIRNS Footdee works to the immersive wave studies of JANETTE KERR, LOTTE GLOB's ceramics and cliffscapes of ALLAN MACDONALD. Some of these have been reviewed by the always insightful Georgina Coburn... many thanks. I have attached the review below as links to the Geogina Coburn's original.

Joyce W Cairns “Farewell To Footdee” (Oil on panel 122cm x 183cm)
17 September – 29 October, Kilmorack Gallery, by Beauly.
Kilmorack Gallery’s latest exhibition features work by some of Scotland’s finest artists inspired by the convergence of land, sea and memory. Forces of Nature and mind are powerfully brought together in an exciting show including work by; Joyce W Cairns , Steve Dilworth, Kate Downie, Lotte Glob, Marian Leven, Will Maclean, Allan MacDonald,  James Newton Adams, Mary Bourne, Ruth Brownlee, Helen Denerley, , Gail Harvey, Janette Kerr, Sian MacQueen, Lynn McGregor, Illona Morrice and Beth Robertson-Fiddes.
On entering the gallery Lotte Glob’s large ceramic tile seascapes; Seascape, Seascape – Tidal and Seascape Stormy Sea, unleash an incredible intensity of colour in a molten fusion of elemental forces and raw materials. Brilliant ultramarine and turquoise create a feeling of depth that the viewer cannot help but dive into. In Seascape-Stormy Sea, water, earth, air and fire meet, unite and divide; cracking and separating like a microcosm of the earth’s geological record. There’s a sense of mindful physicality in this artist’s work based on being in the landscape in the most expansive sense possible. This is combined with a lifetime’s understanding of Craft, unsurpassed in her chosen discipline. Along the coastline of the UNESCO Northern Highlands Geopark that the artist calls home, the ancient Lewisian Gneiss rock, 3,000 million years old, meets the full force of the Atlantic Ocean. Shore, land and mountain are a rich source of found materials, transformed by fire in Glob’s masterful ceramics.  The strength, beauty and delicacy in her work is visibly distilled in Flower of the Sea; a living being of fired clay; anemone-like fingers extended around blooms of glassy blue/ green rock pools, tempered with the hue of a subsiding tide of red kelp. In Rock Flower, an outcrop of white clay blooms emerge from what feels like a monumental cliff face, a fused piece of immovable white stone balanced on top of the sculpted clay in counterpoint with the pale, mortal transience of flowers. The handling of materials and form is supremely sensitive and a celebration of an artist at the top of her profession. Reef is another superb example, a rocky outcrop emerging from a disc of ocean which feels like the entire globe; minerals and pigments ebb and flow to the edges of the ceramic, into the deepest sea of mind, time and space imaginable. Another signature piece is Secret Pool; a sphere resembling a meteorite flung from space, which when opened reveals an interior teaming life forms, shoreline colour and vivid joy. Lotte Glob’s responses to her environment are pure and instinctual; her spirit is as adventurous as the experimentation in her Art and in walking the landscape she has come to understand Nature and human connectivity with the environment in ways that never fail to inspire. She’s an artist who always makes me smile for the wisdom, vitality and sheer energy of her practice, intimately connected to the Northwest land, sky and sea from which she is inseparable.

Lotte Glob ” Flower of the Sea” (Ceramic)
One of the most moving works in the exhibition is Farewell to Footdee (Oil on panel 122cm x 183cm) by Scotland’s most significant figurative artist, Joyce. W. Cairns. In many ways the painting is an act of commemoration and remembrance, a strikingly poignant composition of memories which make a life. In frozen white, blue greyness, articulated by the pure warmth of cadmium /vermillion a masterful sense of composition emerges, in the structural diagonal and vertical uprights of the washing line, refracted light on the icy ground and the emotive placement of the human figure. As with all of Cairns’ work we are pushed psychologically to the edge of the frame and beyond it; by design, the distilled palette, the interior positioning of the figures and by the artist’s innate sensitivity. The acute subtlety of winter light upon the rooftops and gently nuanced expression on the face of the foreground female protagonist portrays a moment of vulnerability and sadness at the end of an era. The painting also acknowledges profound loss; of those who have passed, phases of life and aspects of self. Around the foreground protagonist’s neck is a medal of honour, engraved; “Footdee 1979-2014”, marking the artist’s departure for Tayside and a new chapter in the battle of a creative life. I always try to refrain from purely autobiographical readings of this artist’s paintings, because my sense of her work is that like all Great Artists she always transcends herself. It is true that most of Cairns’ female figures physically resemble the artist and that many of her paintings respond to life in the old fishing village of Footdee and the port of Aberdeen, past memories and familial experiences, but equally her field of reference is more widely European in painterly terms and in subject matter.  In her extraordinary body of work; War Tourist, Cairns certainly begins the journey re-tracing her Father’s steps through WWII Europe, but the visual statement that emerged out of this research over the following decade crosses all borders into contemporary conflict, the nature of war and the eternal human condition. There are few artists that share her command of large scale figurative composition, save German Expressionists like Beckmann and Grosz.  It’s the emotional gravitas and conscience in her work that is immediately and monumentally striking. Look closer and the balance of elements in her compositions are breath taking; a perfect synthesis of instinct, control, ideas and technique. Cairns’ familial memories are ever clothed in wartime dress, like the younger sister in red beret, gloves and shoes, who looks on in the mid-ground as the foreground Self departs the scene. However Farewell to Footdee is more than an image of individual/ autobiographical commemoration, remembrance or grief. The head and shoulders of the central female protagonist connects powerfully with the viewer’s space and the sense of loss we all feel when we leave part of ourselves behind in the places we have lived and in the people we have loved. Her tilted hat, crowned with a white boarded cottage whose chimney almost transforms it into a house of worship, carries emotional weight; like the posture of the tiny female figure leaned within the doorway, head downcast and hands in pockets. Time collapses into the line of cottages that frame an inner courtyard of the soul; the yellow warmth of light from open doorways in the background illuminating scenes of romance, isolation and loneliness re-enacted in the farewell.  It is impossible to see this painting and not be affected by its raw, profound emotional stillness or by the artist’s consummate skill.

Joyce W Cairns “Messerschmitt Over Footdee” (Oil on ply, 152cm x 122cm)
In Messerschmitt Over Footdee (Oil on ply, 152cm x 122cm) Cairns assumes the role of an ARP (Air- raid Precaution) warden. Pushed into the foreground she is flanked by WWII ephemera; Lucky Strike cigarettes, anti-gas ointment and a gas attack leaflet arrangement of museum pieces.  The phosphorescent glow of the sea merges with the sky in the heightened perspective of the composition. The illuminating presence and bisecting geometry of searchlights, lighthouses, washing lines and the boundaries of the safe harbour are invaded by an enemy bomber. Again the central protagonist is positioned in the foreground, standing in the viewer’s space as witness, clutching a wreath of poppies to her chest.  Out of a first floor window a woman waves a union jack, whilst below a naked female figure emerges from an illuminated doorway. The idea of “keeping the home fires burning” and the anxiety of war on the domestic front can be seen in the pallor of her expression, articulated by the memories , stories and artefacts gathered by the artist, assimilated within her psyche as part of the War Tourist retrospective body of work.

click for full Coburn review


Saturday, 23 April 2016


Here are five works selected from our Spring Exhibition. 

1: crescendo by ALLAN MACDONALD

crescendo - oil on canvas - 61cm x 91cm 
This wonderful painting by ALLAN MACDONALD and is the smaller original version of the much larger sea painting of the same name in his show (Rock of Ages) here last year. It is a powerful example of MacDonald's use of paint and his feel for the elements. 

2 The Grumbling Hive by ROBERT POWELL

ROBERT POWELLThe Grumbling Hive - acrylic with screenprint - 38cm x 28cm

This painting is reminiscent of Hieronymus Bosch. Inspired by Bernard Mandeville's The Fable of the Bees (1714,) POWELL depicts the follies of civilsation. It is a little grotesque and a lot engrossing. The frame is by Kari de Keonigswarter.

3 Moonlit Walk by CHRISTINE WOODSIDE rsw rgi

Moonlit Walk, Fife - mixed media - 81cm  x 71cm

After a long absence, it is a great joy to exhibit work by CHRISTINE WOODSIDE again. This painting, 'Moonlit Walk Fife' is the largest WOODSIDE in the current show. It is a beautiful piece; rich with images, colour and evocations of life around her Fife studio. 


Still Pool, Skye - mixed media - 92cm x 101cm 

Few artists capture the majesty of the Highlands as well as ROBERTSON FIDDES. Here, she uses a blend of her own techniques to paint the Fairy Pools in Skye. Magical and tempting to dive in.

5 Ben Loyal Walk by Lotte Glob

Ben Loyal Walk - ceramic & rocks - 33cm x 21cm 
This is one of LOTTE GLOB's tiles created from stone and sand gathered while walking the hills. They are then fired at temperatures high enough to melt the stone. These tiles (and her books) are physical memories of the day, the hill and the walk... here is Ben Loyal. 

There are many other wonderful things in Kilmorack. All works are on the gallery's website:

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

60 Degrees North: the immersive world of JANETTE KERR

60 Degrees North: the immersive world of JANETTE KERR

Showing at Kilmorack Gallery from the 20th June until 2nd August 2015.

Rain and Sea Fog over Silwick Stacks
oil on board, 33.5cm x 32.5cm

Sea Fog and Flying Debris over Silwick Stacks
oil and flying debris on board, 23cm x 33cm
JANETTE KERR’s paintings are northern. There is nothing polite about them. They are about an immersive elemental power that is too easily forgotten or has possibly never been seen in the south. 

Think of an impressionist painting: warm beaches, warm afternoons, parasols, beautiful people and very slight inclines, and throw this away. Here we have nature at its most powerful: towering waves, foam and vortexes of paint reaching everywhere. There are dark blues and blacks with bits of pink and green amide swirls of action. Put away the parasol and put on a survival suit, we’re in Shetland; alive in the north not melting in the south.

Painting was never meant to be polite and these works certainly aren't. 

Faskin An Glansin - Silwick
oil on fabriano paper, 93cm x 100cm

Monday, 22 June 2015

EYE to EYE: new work by JANE MACNEILL

Flying Lapwing - 45cm x 50cm - oil on board

What is art about? What makes one piece stronger than another? What will last? I have often pondered these questions as all passionate art-dealers must if they are to sort wheat from chaff. A true artist sees things that exist in an invisible but still equally real world. We non-artists catch glimpses of this place, but a true artist’s umbilical cord is professionally connected to it. But what is it? You must look at the art work and ask that question.

At its most simple JANE MACNEILL’s work are beautiful gold-leafed portraits of birds. There are fifteen in this exhibition; from a blue-tinged lapwing in flight across a golden ground, a fat waxwing that fills it frame, a one-eyed grouse that stares at you, to a light quick redpoll. The surprising thing is how much each portrait shouts out as an individual and how much respect is given to the bird.

Each of MACNEILL’s bird paintings is indeed a portrait. She has known every one of her ‘sitters’ (or ‘flyers’) even if it has only been for a second of eye contact. She will not paint an animal unless this eye contact has been made. That is the privilege of any portrait artist; to be allowed to look into the soul’s window. If you have that connected feeling with a Rembrandt or Valazquez portrait, you are seeing a soul livened by paint. This is what MACNEILL does for us. She brings back the memory of her eye-to-eye contact with the bird in its airy elements. It's not any bird she paints, but that precious shared moment. 

Waxwing - oil on gesso panel - 30cm x 25cm

The gold-leaf used by MACNEILL is reminiscent of religious icons, Klimt and the Buddhas of Asia. Gold is a way to show veneration and permanence. Gold links birds to the divine. It is symbolic of the airy element they inhabit. ‘We are princes,’ it says, ‘you are not like us, you belong to the world of land and we belong to air.’

MACNEILL has a point here. Even the humble robin is raised by MACNEILL to an ethereal place. Are robins allowed on Olympus where mortals cannot tread? Even without a golden halo a bird can fly, so why not. Gold is illusive, it plays with light; dark one moment and glowing the next, but the truth of the birds’ flight is always there. They are Olympian creatures - that much is obvious. MACNEILL shows us the world of air even if it’s only caught for an instant.

Black Bird - oil and silver leaf on board, 20cm x 26cm

Tony Davidson, Director of Kilmorack Gallery

Saturday, 6 June 2015


It is rare to find one fantastic artist in a show, but Kilmorack Gallery’s summer exhibition has six! EOGHAN BRIDGE, JANETTE KERR, ALAN MACDONALD, MADELINE MACKAY and JANE MACNEILL show together in this well-established Scottish gallery. 

“I’m very excited by our Summer Exhibition”, said the excited gallery owner. “It’s very alive and current; not really a mixed exhibition at all but an opportunity for six very special artists to shine. The chosen six artists are always exciting, but at the moment they are fresher and brighter than ever” he gloated while stroking his intelligent looking beard.

 eoghan bridge
Perspectives - ceramic - EOGHAN BRIDGE
EOGHAN BRIDGE’s sculpture has always been powerful.  His vision of horse and rider, his feel of balance and emotional geometry has won his sculpture place in many hearts (and homes.) For this exhibition, however, he is bringing something even fresher. The last two years have been spent in his studio; drawing, thinking and refining his work, and the results are the ten works showing from the 20th June.

 janette kerr
awaiting title - oil - JANETTE KERR

JANETTE KERR is also new to Kilmorack Gallery but is well-established both in the far north and the south. Her time is spent between her studios in Somerset and the Shetland Isles. KERR’s inspiration is the energetic (and occasional calm) weather of the far north. Looking into her paintings - with their bold, painterly brushwork – is to be absorbed into the tumultuous world of KERR’s inspiration.

Erratics on the Move 3 - etching - LOTTE GLOB
LOTTE GLOB is as well-known in the north as many of its hills and her work reflects this. GLOB brings to this show a series of eleven etchings that expand her investigations of nature beyond ceramics. There are also a few ‘they followed me backs.’ What are these you ask? They’re friendly creatures that sometime follow the artist off the hills of course.

Starman - oil on linen - ALAN MACDONALD
ALAN MACDONALD (not to be confused with landscape painter Allan MacDonald) has also been busy in his studio. The last two years have been spent on large commissions including two paintings for the prestigious ‘Reality show’ in the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Artists. The rest of the time has been spent honing his visions and painting skills further, and work in our summer exhibition is the result of this. They will grab your attention and stick with you. For a good review of Macdonald’s work try Georgina Coburn’s blog.

Redpoll - oil on board - 14cm x 14cm  - JANE MACNEILL
JANE MACNEILL has completed a body of iconic paintings of animals for this exhibition. Here birds are raised to their rightful gold-leafed status. MACNEILL’s technique and ambition has reached a new place with these paintings. These small and weak creatures become large and powerful.

Untitled 5 - mixed media - MADELINE MACKAY
MADELINE MACKAY is one of Kilmorack Gallery’s younger artists and work in this exhibition is the result of her residency in the most remote region of Canada, a place of bears, ice and inaccessible coast. Her subject matter here is often the half-eaten fish left behind by bears. It is also the circle of life.

Kilmorack Gallery’s summer show runs from the 20th June – 1st August 2015.



Monday, 25 May 2015

Seven reasons to love KILMORACK GALLERY

SEVEN Reasons to love Kilmorack Gallery

AAA+ artists

An artist dressed in paint. ALLAN MACDONALD in his studio
The heart of any good gallery is the artists it shows. At Kilmorack Gallery we only show work by carefully selected artists who push the boundaries of art.

There are always interesting things to see. 

Where else can you see sculpture?

EOGHAN BRIDGE, perspectives
Kilmorack Gallery represents more sculptors than any other Scottish gallery. Helen Denerley, Lotte Glob and Gerald Laing have all had solo exhibitions with us. Our spectacular interior (an 18th rural century church) gives 3d the space and light it deserves. 

Over the summer of 2015 we have work by Laurence Broderick, Eoghan Bridge, Lotte Glob, Steve Dilworth and Gerald Laing, 

Discover our vaults upstairs

Work on screens upstairs can be viewed on request.
Kilmorack Gallery always has an exhibition running. This is normally a two or three person or solo show, but if you are interested in something else; maybe by an artist not part of the current show, there is more to see. We have a vault upstairs that can normally be perused and other works in storage too. Do you want to know more about what is here? Then our website is always up-to-date with that can be viewed. 

4 The current show

STEVE DILWORTH 'Beaked Bird' with PATRICIA CAIN 'Arena' 
Our exhibitions are always outstanding so if you are interested in Scottish art you will not be disappointed if you just call by. Expect to see work not normally found in private galleries. We have a big space so we often have large and spectacular seminal works. 

What other gallery has such a comprehensive website?

Kilmorack Gallery’s website has been running since the gallery was founded eighteen years ago, so we have learned how to do it since then. If you want to find information on exhibitions quickly, or to see good photographs of work… it is all very accessible on-line and on the move. 

The Beauty of the old church

Autumn outside the gallery. 
Kilmorack Gallery is housed in the beautiful old Kilmorack Church which was built in 1786 at a time when the Lovat Estates were still forfeited after the battle of Culloden. In 1835 the building was recast in magnificent gothic-revival style, most of which remains as it was, but engrandured by the art.
We have many architectural students and other groups calling-in, looking for the perfect reuse of an old church and they see it. Here old meets new in bold style!

6 What more? Fire, coffee, mind and body

Fireplace, crocodile and chairs. Winter 2014
We believe in comfort at Kilmorack Gallery. We h
ave a jura coffee machine that grinds freshly roasted coffee beans and we have a large fire place with a comfortable chair. The Highlands are obviously world class for the outdoors and we are only half-an-hour from Inverness airport. Accommodation: there is everything from bed in a hostel to castles to rent. We have many clients who fly up just to see a piece and many more who find a visit to Kilmorack Gallery a high point of their highland stay.

For more about Kilmorack Gallery please look at our website: and ask to be put on our mailing list.

Tony Davidson
Gallery Director