Lachlan Goudie is an all-round artist of portraits, landscapes and still life. From a young age, he was taught how to create images by his late father Alexander Goudie, the renowned figurative painter and illustrator: ‘the pictures should tell their own story’.
Storytelling is at the heart of this exhibition, Once Upon a Time, which is Lachlan’s personal response to 2020, when ‘we all seemed to tumble through the looking glass into a surreal world of lockdown and anxiety.’ Observing the changing seasons of the natural world takes us on a journey from rural Dorset and the Berwickshire seashore to the ice-capped Arctic Circle. Here are magical landscapes of the mind, colourfully inspired by the classic fairy tales Lachlan reads to his three year-old daughter, Clementine, at bedtime.
The Huntsman’s Cottage is a dark and moody scene, bringing to mind the lines, ‘If you go down to the woods today…’ and haunting images of Goldilocks and Red Riding Hood creeping through the winter trees amidst a splatter of white snowdrops.
The timeless tranquility of Scottish countryside is captured in The Enchanted Forest and The Wild Wood, with a richly textured, decorative style, a tapestry of gold, green and russet hues, reminiscent of the period realism of James Guthrie and McIntosh Patrick landscapes with the brash expressionism of a Van Gogh brush stroke.
Clementine loves to dress up in a pretty Princess party frock like the heroine in the movie Frozen, as captured in Elsa in the Woods, complete with red wellington boots. Fairy Tale, with its border of daffodils and crows, is like a charming picture book cover.
Most evocative are the paintings of the Lofoten Islands, and a glimpse of the fictional, frozen and mysterious land of the Snow Queen. Perhaps Arctic Palace is her secret hiding place, perched on a lake under a rose-tinted sunset. In the Nordic wilderness, peopled by legendary Trolls, is North Mountain, where a fox scurries across the snow beside the glistening fjord below ice covered peaks.
‘Rapunzel grew into the most beautiful child beneath the sun. … shut into a tower which lay in a forest…’: this ancient, bewitching folk tale and Sleeping Beauty’s Castle are captured in stunning black-and-white scraperboard engravings.
A series of botanical studies of posies of roses, irises, violets and springtime blossom, are crafted with such delicate detail. A soft pink Briar Rose and a bag of red apples are a witty link to the story of Sleeping Beauty.
Still life compositions such as a yellow rose and tea pot – Fairest of them All – sums up day to day, domestic life in lockdown, including Matilda the cat who wanted a starring role in Far, Far Away. This contrasts the warmth of a family home with bowl, jug, plant, and lucky black cat, looking out at the snowy scene of bleak midwinter.
If you are yearning for a getaway trip far and wide, here too are serene seascapes of beaches, lapping waves and cliff tops for a bracing windswept walk, such as Cottages by the Sea.
The signature painting, Once Upon a Time, depicts little Clementine picking flowers in a summer garden, with such a serious look of concentration, but also of wonder on her face.
It was by venturing into Clemmie’s imaginative mind full of princesses, evil witches, castles, fairies and flowers, that Lachlan Goudie could escape the anxiety of life in lockdown. Through a child’s eye view of the natural world, we can all experience a sense of freedom from reality and enjoy magical moments of calm in a long-lost wonderland.
Note: Lachlan Goudie is involved in a project to document the industrial landscape of Britain and sketches of ships and shipyards are on show in the downstairs gallery.
The Story of Scottish Art by Lachlan Goudie, the epic story of how 5,000 years of creativity defined a nation, has just been published by Thames & Hudson, launched in September at Lyon & Turnbull Edinburgh.
Also on display are Aleksander Zyw (1905-1995) – the artist’s life and work before and after WWII, and Celtic Connections – Willow – beautiful basketwork and wood sculptures.