Rising Mist at Flotterstone, Vibha Pankaj

Dundas Street Gallery I The Juniper Collective

The Juniper Collective – Dundas Street Gallery

Saturday 3 March to Thursday 8 March – Open daily, 10.00 – 6pm.

The Juniper Collective is a new group of five women artists who became friends and creative collaborators having met while studying at Edinburgh College of Art and Leith School of Art. Their joint exhibition this week coincides, either by chance or design, with International Women’s Day on Thursday 8th March. This global event, which began in New York almost a century ago, celebrates women’s achievements, calling for gender equality in all aspects of education, work, society and politics.

It seems extraordinary that it was in 1924 when William McDougall founded the Scottish Society of Women Artists to assist his daughter, Lily McDougall, a talented painter who, by being female, was not recognised by professional art associations.

So most timely to celebrate the most impressive work of Vibha Pankaj, Sara Nichols, Sarah Winkler, Jo Scobie and Kirstin Heggie who have formed the Juniper Collective and, despite the “Beast from the East” which swept into Edinburgh. But these artists were determined that the show must go on, transporting their work through the snow, their exhibition opened on Saturday at Dundas Street Gallery.

This is a marvellous, spacious venue to showcase such a diverse range of work around the walls.  I wandered slowly around in a clockwise fashion beginning with the richly textured landscapes bv Vibha Pankaj.  A lover of the countryside – Flotterstone, Pentlands and Loch Tay – she re-imagines the hills and  shoreline as an Impressionistic image, working in multi-media, (egg tempura, acrylic and plaster of paris) to depict the rough terrain of sand and rocks. The layered media creates a most impressive 3D collage effect, with vibrant gold, terracotta and yellow tones to capture the shifting tones of shade and sunlight.

Sarah Winkler also presents a colourful series of landscape paintings which depict extraordinary realism such as “Lichen on Rock Seam, Arisaig” and “Seaweed algae, Silver Sands of Morar.”  Detailed geological and botanical representations of a seashore where you almost feel you could touch the soft moss and salty slimy seaweed on the sandy beach.  There are also fine linocuts, and her watercolour & ink sketches of barren hills may look as if they have been scribbled at speed, but this is delicately crafted, skilful art.

Having trained as a designer of jewellery, Kirstin Heggie has recently turned her attention to landscapes and abstract figures. With luggage labels for each title, and smart thick white frames, her acrylic paintings show cool coloured beach scenes and distant horizon. Placing a hazy figure or couple in the picture adds perspective and a filmic quality where the shimmering shades of clouds and waves are created with thick smears of brush strokes across the canvas.  Most atmospheric.

Bringing a glimpse of Springtime to the Dundas Street Gallery are the pretty flower paintings by Sara Nichols – soft pink hydrangeas as seen on the coastline of Massachusetts, a place which has inspired the subject of her work. These decorative watercolours could certainly be used on fabric for lovely home furnishings or even fashion.  Most inventive are her collages, using scraps of paper to show the time table of the tides placed within a botanical painting to bring a true sense of place and the changing force of the sea and our natural world.

All things bright and beautiful is the theme for Jo Scobie’s bold, brash abstract compositions. She studied textile design at Duncan of Jordanstone and her love of colour is clearly illustrated in these patterned paintings.  Each one is Untitled, so the viewer can observe and quietly contemplate to detect any particular “meaning” or subject.. but that is not the point.  This is pure abstract art to express mood and movement, like a firework display or a rainbow bursting open with splashes of purple, red, orange, green and blue.

Vibha, Sarah, Kirstin, Sara and Jo may not (yet) be the Famous Five of the Edinburgh art scene,  but they all portray such refreshing, distinctive, creative talent.   Do visit the Dundas Street Gallery this week to view the exciting debut exhibition of the Juniper Collective.. With affordable prices (from around £60 – £250) you may well be enticed to purchase one of these impressive works of art.!