The Arion group of artists based in and around Edinburgh offers a diversity of genres while sharing a passion for their individual approaches in painting. Following a major exhibition at the Edinburgh Palette in June, this Summer Show is an inspiring collection of distinctive work by ten artists at The Life Room.
To illustrate the contrasting work of five Arion artists, here are a few highlights.
Catching the eye coming into the gallery are the large scale portraits by Jayne McIntyre. Like a series of filmic scenes, solitary figures sit silently, wearing a blank facial expression such as in I have nothing to say, where the girl raises her hand over her head as if a gesture of despair. Perhaps the man in I’m not listening is wearing an actual Pandemic mask, or this is a painterly symbol to express a personal sense of isolation.
In contrast, the sitter in a baseball cap, his legs apart, is leaning forward in I’m listening, in an attempt to communicate, while the girl, has her head bowed, legs tightly crossed in I have said enough, in Greta Garbo mode, ‘I want to be alone’. The colour palette of browns, ochre, splashes of coral and streaks of blue in thick brush strokes create a dramatic mood to these snapshots of private lives.
French Impressionist Paul Cezanne was passionate about painting apples and pears – ‘With an apple I want to astonish Paris’ – and he succeeded in his deceptively simple still lifes to illustrate fruit, plates and table from various viewpoints. Mary Lambie also depicts a delicious selection of oranges and green apples with a delightful tranquility in Fruit Bowl, so realistic you could pick up the torn peel and slice. The ceramic vase, bowl and wooden table are each captured in a glistening light.
Likewise, a shaft of sunshine is reflected in Satsumas in a Glass, as if there is an open window off the right, casting a shadow on the lovely pink table cloth. The bohemian Bloomsbury artist, Nina Hamnett was encouraged by her tutor to move away from classic still life to focus on kitchen pots, pans and jugs.
Likewise Mary Lambie also depicts the simplicity of everyday domestic utensils, as in Three Brown Bowls, showing the shine and shape of the pottery in various shades of tobacco brown, amber and copper. She also shows a few flower paintings and miniature abstracts, Colours of Summer, in patchwork patterns of pastel colours.
The world of nature also inspires Catherine Young who has crafted free-flowing, calligraphic style, akin to Chinese or Japanese vases for her floral paintings. Here are decorative paintings of soft pink blossom petals and lime green leaves in such works as Echoes and Drifting. The loose, fluid brushstrokes give the effect of watercolour in their transparency, and a clever technique is that half of the canvas is left almost whitewashed.
Most evocative is Rain Branches with a few drips falling through the leaves and grey streaks like a cloud. With delicate artistry, there’s a serene, lyrical narrative to these minimalist studies of nature.
Louise Todd teaches a postgraduate course, Tourism, Society and Visual Culture at Edinburgh Napier University and she creatively explores her academic knowledge in her artwork.
A series of painted ‘photographs’ is like browsing through an old family album as in the posing couple, Sunglasses for Reflection which has the fuzzy effect of being out of focus.
A couple pose on a terrace in Town Front of Resort, perhaps early evening, smartly dressed as if they are about to go to the hotel bar for cocktails and dinner.
There’s an almost sepia tint to the soft grey and pink shades. Another apparently long lost snapshot is recalled in Memory Travel, where three people stand arm in arm on the beach and although their faces are indistinct, it’s as if their eyes squint in the sunshine.
These charismatic paintings are so original and imaginative studying the hidden art of tourism and travel. These are not selfies but taken on a camera at a distance by a father, sister, friend – quick Kodak moments to preserve the relaxing, romantic reminiscences captured with nostalgic, dreamlike vision.
Landscapes of a similar mood too by Carolyn Maxwell who creates serene scenes of woodland and lochside at different times of the day. Winter Evening is a carefully crafted composition, with the bare trees and sandy beach framing the expanse of still water and the distant glow of sunset on the horizon. The inclusion of two small figures on the shoreline adds perspective.
The eye follows the path through the Winter Trees, Ravelston Park where the glistening icy snow creates a chill in the air.
Perhaps a scenic view in France or Italy is the subject of Evening Sunset, with the shapely Cypress tree and dry, sun parched fields with the rolling hills beyond. The glimmering shadows and slowly darkening sky at dusk is so atmospheric.
The other artists displaying work at the Summer Show are Hazel Brady, Shelagh Brian, Mira Knoche, Sue Sim and Mike Spring.
With grateful thanks to Artmag contributor Viv Devlin for this review.