At the Scottish Arts Club this month are two contrasting exhibitions from fantasy, figurative scenarios to wild Scottish landscapes.
Upstairs in the Club Lounge, Olivia Irvine presents a series of dreamlike Improvised Fictions, based on distorted memories, childhood games and tranquil gardens. Children love to play with toys on the floor, inventing their own adventures, as illustrated in Rug Travel, in which two girls sit or kneel quietly content on the floral-patterned, magic carpet.
Akin to Anne Redpath’s distinctive trademark of ‘two dimensional’ domestic, still-life studies, here the simplified, flattened view of the table gives an enchanting, topsy-turvy perspective. As if looking through rose-coloured spectacles, there’s a shimmering, haunting presence of the past.
‘I like to paint from my imagination, some are altered memories, some arise from intense observation; they look like narratives but are improvised fictions. I wanted this painting to be pale and bright, like a fizz of memory; the two girls are daydreaming and the table appears large as if they are in their own world below.’ – Olivia Irvine
Olivia describes her process of composition as often starting with abstract marks from which to develop a mysterious, nostalgic sense of place and time. With a recurring theme of figures placed in an enclosed environment, Coming and Going depicts a girl either arriving or leaving, opening or closing the decorative wrought-iron gate of this lush green, secret garden; the path meanders between through the trees, bathed in a dusk-pink light to create an elusive, illusory vision.
A refreshing alfresco drink on a summer day is captured in Tête à Tête. Two red-haired women share an intimate, private conversation in a garden, the distant gate firmly closed to protect their personal space. A precise technique of layering and scraping-back oil paint and egg tempura gives added depth and texture. Like a tapestry of interwoven wool threads, or a finely crafted mosaic, the blend of rich shades – copper, terracotta, mustard yellow, sage green – evoke the feeling of warm sunshine and peaceful reflection in this filmic scenario.
Downstairs in the Dining Room, Claire Jones showcases her atmospheric paintings, ‘Coorie and Coorse – mindful moments in rugged landscapes.’ The word ‘coorie’ means to snuggle in and be cosy, in contrast to ‘coorse,’ the bracing elements of the Scottish Highlands and Islands.
Follow Claire’s intrepid journey through the seasons, hiking and hill climbing from the Cairngorms to the West Coast and over the Minch to the Outer Hebrides.
Not such a cold, coarse rough day envisaged in Coastline Eriska Sea II, in which the viewer stands on the machair-lined, sandy beach, leading the eye over the gentle lapping waves to the cloudy line of the horizon. With a soft palette of grass-green, buttermilk and grey blues, this realistic seascape does also echo a Rothko-esque abstract with its delineating three blocks, shoreline, sea and sky: cool, calm and meditative.
‘The paintings are inspired by the temporal aspects of nature – the progression of colours over the seasons, shifting light and weather which can transform a landscape in an instant. The relentless winds and icy rain experienced on a Munro hike whilst catching a glimpse of sunshine reflecting on a loch – all very ephemeral and unpredictable at times’. – Claire Jones
Munro-bagging is a competitive sport by climbers who gradually tick off the 282 mountains of 3,000 ft and over. Coorie Hiking 1 pictures the bleak, raw landscape of an isolated glen, the glacial lines of the steep hillside leading down to the fast-flowing river. Thick brushstrokes neatly capture the bone chilling blast of fresh air sweeping over wild grass and purple heather with a pure clarity of light.
Trees for Life is a major environmental project to regenerate and restore the ancient Caledonian forest to ensure the preservation of this natural habitat for wildlife, flora and fauna. Rewilding Highlands IV illustrates a flourishing woodland of Scots Pine against the snow blanketed moorland and rolling hills. The crisp frozen land glistens under the flurry of clouds, breaking to reveal a splash of blue sky and winter sun.
These delicately-crafted, richly-textured paintings by Olivia Irvine and Claire Jones share their painterly worlds from surreal, lyrical landscapes of the mind to the majestic beauty of the Scottish wilderness with dramatic vision.
With thanks to Vivien Devlin for this review.