The Natural World Captured: Geoff Uglow at the Scottish Gallery

Geoff Uglow, '11.11.20, 3.41 pm, Beaufort Lundy', oil on board
Geoff Uglow, '11.11.20, 3.41 pm, Beaufort Lundy', oil on board

Geoff Uglow: The Ploughman

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

From: 6 Jan 2022

To: 29 Jan 2022

The Scottish Gallery
16 Dundas Street
Edinburgh & the Lothians

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Geoff Uglow has always been immersed in the wild beauty of the rural landscape, having been brought up on a farm in Cornwall amidst the ploughman’s traditional way of life, guided through the seasons. As an artist, he is constantly inspired by nature, ‘the tree, the sun, the sea, a rose.’

A Rose-bud by my early walk,
Adown a corn-enclosed bawk,
Sae gently bent its thorny stalk,
All on a dewy morning.

– Robert Burns

The Scottish bard was also the son of a farmer and worked as a ploughman, and his romantic symbol of a ‘red, red rose’ is most timely around Burns’ Night and Valentine’s Day. Upstairs in the Scottish Gallery, enter a virtual Rose Garden with a burst of blossoming colour in expressionist style. To show the scale of the paintings, Regina et Dux, this is the artist in front of the diptych in his studio.

Uglow in his Cornish studio beside Regina et Dux (Queen and Duke), (cat. 1), 2021

Geoff Uglow is a master of the Impasto technique, beloved by Monet and Van Gogh, in which the paint is laid on thickly to give an enhanced texture. Jackson Pollock also used impasto in his abstract art, pouring on paint in thick drips, smears and slicks.  

Geoff Uglow, 'Thalia', oil on linen
Geoff Uglow, ‘Thalia’, oil on linen

Around the walls are several glorious Rose paintings with decorative patterns of petals through a thick layering of paint to give extraordinary depth; Thalia is a blend of shades in blush pink, raspberry and burgundy on a backdrop of buttercream. 

Geoff Uglow, 'Le Coussin de Josephine', oil on board
Geoff Uglow, ‘Le Coussin de Josephine’, oil on board
Geoff Uglow, 'Noisette', oil on board
Geoff Uglow, ‘Noisette’, oil on board

While at a distance, the swirls of paint in delicate flower paintings, Le Coussin de Josephine (a flowing wave of pale aqua blue) and Noisette (with sage green leaves), seem like wild brushstrokes but viewing up-close the detail and shape of velvety petals is so intricate.

Geoff Uglow, 'Silver Moon', oil on board
Geoff Uglow, ‘Silver Moon’, oil on board

The artist does not simply mix oil paints on a palette but requires pails for ‘a sea of paint’ to build up the surface for a sculptured, 3D, relief effect. A delightful small composition, Silver Moon is more abstract in its mesmerising illusion of flowers in a thick colourful mass of ruby, garnet, sea green and grey.   

Geoff Uglow, 'Italian Rose Otricoli I', 2021, oil on paper copy
Geoff Uglow, ‘Italian Rose Otricoli I’, 2021, oil on paper

Away from his Cornish garden, Geoff Uglow enjoys the contrast of painting in Italy where the warm light and cool shadow offer a different perspective for flowers and trees. A more realistic, botanical approach is given in a collection of paintings such as Italian Rose, Otricoli I with twigs, leaves, buds and petals in fine definition.

Geoff Uglow, 'Italian Garden Evening, 18.07.21', oil on paper
Geoff Uglow, ‘Italian Garden Evening, 18.07.21’, oil on paper

In July 2021, the artist observed the shifting light in an Italian garden for a series of atmospheric landscapes by day and night, sun and storm.  The eye is drawn along the curving path in Italian Garden, Evening, 18.07.21 through the avenue of elegant, evergreen Cypress trees.

As a boy, I would keenly observe the furrow cut and turned, mesmerised by the light reflecting off the damp soil. I would witness this motion poetically reflected in the sea when a great swell of the water is torn by the rip current, or when the surface is scored by the paddle of an oar.  My hand or brush manipulates the mass of paint, driving, turning, arranging it’. 

Geoff Uglow, '11.11.20, 3.41 pm, Beaufort Lundy', oil on board
Geoff Uglow, ‘11.11.20, 3.41 pm, Beaufort Lundy’, oil on board

A series of seascapes is entitled Beaufort Lundy, named after the wind force scale and the Devon island in the shipping forecast. Painted between November 2020 and January 2021, these marvellous, miniature, Wedgwood blue-tinted paintings evoke the sweeping motion of waves and clouds. Having circumnavigated the world a couple of times, these are accurate depictions of the swirling swell as seen from the deck of a ship in rough weather.

Geoff Uglow, '12.12.20, 5.56 pm', Beaufort Lundy', oil on board
Geoff Uglow, ‘12.12.20, 5.56 pm’, Beaufort Lundy’, oil on board

A dramatic illustration of a windy winter night – 12.12.20, 5.56pm Beaufort Lundy. 

Geoff Uglow, '17.11.20, Beaufort Lundy', oil on board
Geoff Uglow, ‘17.11.20, Beaufort Lundy’, oil on board

The powerful force of the flowing tide of the sea again in 17.11.2020 Beaufort Lundy is reminiscent of The Great Wave of Hokusai’s iconic woodblock print, said to be inspired by Debussy’s La Mer. 

Geoff Uglow, '24.09.20, 4.28 pm', watercolour
Geoff Uglow, ‘24.09.20, 4.28 pm’, watercolour
Geoff Uglow, '24.09.20, 4.36 pm', watercolour
Geoff Uglow, ‘24.09.20, 4.36 pm’, watercolour

There’s a selection of delightful, delicate monochrome watercolour seascapes as captured on this blurred, misty afternoon – 24.09.20, 4.28pm and 24.09.20, 4.36pm.

The titles chronicle the exact date and time of day, as Uglow describes are like ‘a handwritten letter, a moment, a fragment of vanished beauty.’

Downstairs, the Modern Masters 180th anniversary edition features artwork by prominent gallery artists Ian Fleming, Barbara Balmer and Frances Walker, Anne Redpath, Sir Robin Philipson, Dame Elizabeth Blackadder and John Houston. 

Also take a look at the curated display of jewellery entitled Red Hot & Blue, by eight contemporary artists. The chunky, perspex necklaces by Shelby Fitzpatrick are crafted in a stunning array of colours – orange, amber, turquoise, plum, mauve: unique, sculptured, desirable, wearable art and light as a feather.

With grateful thanks to Vivien Devlin for this review.

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