Making Light Work: Rebecca Collins at The Scottish Gallery Edinburgh

Rebecca Collins, 'Misty Tops', oil on board
Rebecca Collins, 'Misty Tops', oil on board

Loch Hourn and the Sound of Sleat: Rebecca Collins

Tue - Fri 11:00 - 18:00, Sat 11:00 - 14:00

From: 30 Mar 2023

To: 29 Apr 2023

The Scottish Gallery
16 Dundas Street
Edinburgh & the Lothians

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For many years Rebecca Collins has lived in the village of Glenelg, Wester Ross, from where it’s just a ten-minute ferry crossing over to Kylerhea on the Isle of Skye: 

Every day I witness the shifting weather patterns, how light and its effect through rain, snow, cloud onto rock and sea create moments of blinding beauty. The absolute presence and intrigue of the landscape serve as continuous inspiration. 

A previous solo show at the Scottish Gallery featured majestic paintings based on an expedition to Antarctica, the trip motivated to seek ‘a total immersion in a world of impossible beauty and isolation’. Likewise, the sea-lochs, straits, sounds and islands around North West Scotland offer Collins another remote wilderness which she portrays in atmospheric land and seascapes.  

The Sound of Sleat stretches along the shore of ‘the garden of Skye’, its furthest Point, akin to Land’s End, Cornwall. In this dramatic composition, the focus is on thick billowing pillows of cloud, the blue-greyness of sky and sea revealing a slender slither of the island in the distance.    

Rebecca Collins, 'The Point of Sleat', oil on board
‘Point of Sleat’, oil on board

From this most southerly tip of Skye, on a clear day you can see the Small Isles of Rum, Canna and Eigg. The perfect perspective of Glassy Sea, Isle of Eigg places the viewer virtually on the surface of gentle lapping waves depicted with such clarity and tangible translucency. Through criss-crossing clouds, a hazy glow of sunshine is reflected on the glossy, glassy sea and cheese-like wedge of Eigg almost lost on the horizon. The realistic shimmering shades of light and water are like a snapshot, a painterly photograph, capturing this exact moment in time. 

Rebecca Collins, 'Glassy Sea, Isle of Eigg', oil on board
‘Glassy Sea, Isle of Eigg’, oil on board

The name Skye is probably derived from the Norse, Ski (cloud) and Ey (island) and in Gaelic, ‘Eilean a’ Cheo’ means Misty Isle. Rebecca is captivated by rugged mountain peaks as observed in Misty Tops with extraordinary geological precision. A swirling fog descends over the undulating slopes, drifting in a feathery wisp over a forest of fir trees to the glen below. The dense white mist contrasts against a clear mauve-blue sky with atmospheric luminosity. 

Rebecca Collins, 'Misty Tops', oil on board
‘Misty Tops’, oil on board

‘From the lone shieling of the misty island,
Mountains divide us and the waste of seas;
Yet still the blood is strong, the heart is Highland, 
And we in dreams behold the Hebrides.’
– from the Canadian Boat Song. 

Along the Sleat Peninsula, Isle Ornsay is a charming hamlet which features a tidal island in the horseshoe bay with its Stevenson lighthouse. As if arriving in Ornsay by boat, one can almost feel a blustery wind as a lacy pattern of pale pink-tinted clouds blow over the rocky cliffs. 

Rebecca Collins, 'Towards Isle Ornsay', oil on board
‘Towards Isle Ornsay’, oil on board

The Highlands and Hebrides are a dream destination for outdoor adventures, ancient heritage and the spirit of romance. If there’s one painting here which sums up the romanticism of Scotland, it’s Isle of Rum: mystical and mysterious, the island is almost camouflaged by the vast, smoky plume. A subtle sweep of brushstrokes delicately details the flat calm sea and a silhouette of distant islands in this stunning scene of utter tranquillity. 

Rebecca Collins, 'Isle of Rum', oil on board
‘Isle of Rum’, oil on board

A more impressionistic, semi-abstract seascape is Winter Sun, Eigg, the palette of glimmering rose-gold is like the faded tones of a vintage sepia photograph. There is such fluidity here in the pattern of flowing streaks across the sky echoed in rippling waves with an otherworldly, illusory vision.  

Rebecca Collins, 'Winter Sun, Eigg', oil on board
‘Winter Sun, Eigg’, oil on board

As a lyrical landscape artist, Rebecca Collins imbues her emotional experience and poetic sense of place to evoke the stillness, silence, ‘impossible beauty and isolation’ observed around her Highland home.

I live surrounded by this ever-changing and dynamic environment. (As expressed by Gerhard Richter), I’m trying to paint a picture of what I have seen and what moved me, as best as I can. That’s all’. – Rebecca Collins 

The Gallery’s exhibitions of Art and Craft also on display in April are Angie Lewin: Wild Garden, Joe Hogan: At Home in the Wild, and Katie Watson: Nature in Detail. 

With thanks to Vivien Devlin for this review.

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