The historic majesty of Linlithgow’s Burgh Halls might seem an incongruous setting for Aberdeen-born Clare Andrews‘ strikingly modern canvases, but its ancient grandeur with imposing fireplace and tall ceilings creates generous wall space to accommodate some fairly outsized pictures. First impressions suggest Andrews’ vibrant dramatic markings are cut-ups or screen-printed montages, but closer reading reveals the Warholian images are actually fully-rendered oil paintings. It’s a world of sharp contrasts where something like social realism bunches up with surrealism in bright flashes of bold colour.
Andrews creates a series by working across several canvases at the same time, constructing groups of images that find a common theme. Eye-catching notables here include Living in the Abstract / Yellow where a group of women in 40’s style clothing are gleefully staring off at… what? A royal visit maybe? A waving media star? It’s hard to know since a long slab of bright yellow paint obscures the object of their attention. It’s a mesmerising image, not only for its curiosity value (what are the women so engaged by?) but the quality of Andrews’ flawless photographic illustration. She has perfectly captured the lively features and body language of this group of excited bystanders (and one toddler who stares angrily out of the canvas). What looks like a blown-up black and white photograph is actually a beautifully rendered greyscale oil painting.
From the same series, Living in the Abstract / Green has a slightly comical touch, featuring a crouching B&W child lost in his pavement game with socks glowing yellow and orange. A bold strip of colour obscures the object of his fascination.
Just Walking also works by concealing much of the detail. It features only the bottom half of two ladies, marching towards us in fashionable shoes. It’s a bold, lively composition which captures the energy and urgency of their stroll. Without any visual information it’s still easy to see that the women are feeling jolly and that they are in a bit of a hurry. The punchy image looks almost like a screen-printed postcard except that it’s about 4×5 feet in size and painted entirely in buttery oils. Again, the perfectly daubed greys capture the air of an old photo, but this time the bronze glare of tights on shins pops through the newsprint image and a sunlit yellow ground brings light and depth to matt black shadows. It’s a glowing image that hangs around on the retina for a long time, illustrating Andrews’ flair for hinting at a story, leaving any narrative to the viewer’s imagination.
All paintings on display are for sale with a price list available at the door. As winter approaches it’s good to know that the Burgh Halls gallery will maintain a somewhat summery feel, shimmering in the glow of Andrews’ bright and punchy colours for a good few months to come.
Admission is free.
With thanks to Malcolm McGonigle for this review. Clare Andrews’ Instagram page is @clareandrews.painter. Her ‘The Agony and The Ecstasy’ features on the front of Artmag no. 184.