Since opening in the summer of 2021, the co-directors of the Heriot Gallery have introduced a selection of established and young artists in well curated, mixed exhibitions. From portraiture and figurative studies, flowers and still life, the artwork has been varied and inspiring. The Winter Exhibition aptly includes snowy landscapes and also the nostalgic image of food, drink and the sanctuary of home.
Ali Scott specialises in illustration working in oil, ink and mixed media. During the isolating time of lockdown, Ali returned to her family home to look after her elderly parents which inspired a series of paintings: ‘Memory is a fascinating and slippery subject; its elusiveness, links, layers and tangles. My childhood memories revolve around sentimental patterns and familiar childhood meals… nostalgic and comforting during an uncertain time’.
Painted on reclaimed wood from a dismantled old family chest of drawers, these personal images of home baked biscuits and Apple Crumble may bring back poignant memories for many of us. The detail is superb – the geometric tablecloth and a vintage Noddy Eggcup with a thickly buttered toast ‘soldier’.
Ali recalls the green crockery in Sunday Family Tea (1967-1985) in which the bubble on the surface of the cup of tea is photographic in its clarity.
Tomato Soup was always served with soft bread and butter when she was unwell as a child. The wooden frames of these paintings are so well crafted to give the impression of a tray, having a cosy TV supper in front of the fire.
Still life of a more classic nature is the forte of Alastair Brown whose close up studies of fruit, saucepans and glassware are brilliantly captured such as the paper bag of juicy green Gooseberries.
Alastair describes his art as being ‘a paused moment in time’, to emphasise the intricacy of everyday objects around us. After a Foundation Diploma in Fine Arts he studied at the London Atelier of Representational Art (LARA) under Nicholas Chaundy, where he developed the traditional oil painting techniques used in 19th Century ateliers.
This is beautifully illustrated in Lemon and Silver Plate, where you see the various textures of glass, silver metal and fruit, all superbly reflected in a soft light.
While the painterly skills may be borrowed from the traditional techniques of the Old Masters, Alastair Brown has developed his own style of composition to perfect a modern art of Realism. In Marmalade, it seems as if you could just take a spoonful of the orange preserve out of the jar, neatly engraved with the name Kilner. From warm homely kitchens, let’s venture outdoors to take a stroll along an East Lothian beach.
Andy Heald specialises in the Scottish landscape, often painting en plein air to express the fleeting moments of changeable weather: ‘the paint and media splashed, scrubbed or dripped over the canvas in an attempt to capture the raw experiences of nature’. In If My Hands Will Ever Warm Up, Aberlady Bay, you can feel the icy chill in the sea air, the breeze whipping up the white surf beneath a heavy sky and dark rain cloud. While semi-abstract in its bold whirl of blues and black, it’s also a very atmospheric, moody seascape.
In order to express elements of nature and the environment, Heald mixes grains of sand, clay and plants into the acrylic and emulsion. In Winter Fields, East Lothian, the bold brushstrokes, scratches and scrapes of paint are so effective – like a blizzard of sleety rain and icy snow – but in the distance, there’s a calm glimmer of sunlight over the heathery hills.
More winter landscapes by Sandra Moffat who embraces a distinctive, delicate touch such as Dusk Descends. The thick, dappled surface of paint on paper illustrates the layer of white snow, dark row of trees and pink-tinted clouds. Sandra studied Embroidered and Woven Textiles at Glasgow School of Art and this background in interior design clearly has a creative influence on her paintings, overlaying the mixed media for enhanced texture like folds of soft material: Meadows in Moonlight is finely crafted to highlight the glistening icy ground and sparkling night sky.
A few other cityscapes of Edinburgh in this show, such as evocative street scenes by Gilly Ballantyne. After graduating, in 1994 she moved to the Cote d’Azur, France where she painted and taught students in Henri Matisse’s former villa, where, as Artist in Residence, she had the privilege of working in Matisse’s studio.
Now back home in Fife, she specialises in ‘portraits’ of places – the Mellis cheesemonger and 57 Cockburn Street, Edinburgh with its colourful baskets of flowers. Reminiscent of iconic scenes of French bars and bistros, here is an open door to welcome you inside the Natural Skincare shop.
There is also colony of buzzing bumblebees by Andrew Tyzack, some artwork presented like a Victorian collection of mounted butterflies. Andrew is a third generation beekeeper, thus the subject of a series of prints and paintings including Bombus Terrestris.
Having just celebrated Hogmanay, a timely illustration of Scotland’s national drink: Cecilia Cardiff likes to observe everyday life and has previously shown vases of vibrant flowers at the Gallery. Here, with similar fine detail is Playing by the Rules – a bottle of Macallan whisky. Founded in 1824 by Alexander Reid, The Macallan was one of the first distillers in Scotland to be legally licensed, and today is one of the world’s leading single malt whiskies. This is an impressionistic composition, with two crystal glasses – already filled with a generous dram – beside the elegant bottle of the amber Scotch, shimmering in a glowing halo shadow. Happy New Year and Slainte Mhath!
NB Around the gallery too are figures, flowers, land and cityscapes by a selection of regular Heriot Gallery artists, Peter Hallam. Lucy Doyle, Pascale Rentsch, Steven Higginson, amidst an eclectic range of artwork.
With special thanks to Vivien Devlin for this review.