Ross Ryan - Far too Early, Oban, pastel on paper
Ross Ryan - Far too Early, Oban, pastel on paper

The Scottish Gallery Edinburgh: Ross Ryan – Batten Down the Hatches

Visit website

29th April  – 31st May

Lockdown has encouraged businesses and organisations to find inventive ways to transition online. I have seen regular music and dance classes and choirs go online and can even enjoy a night at the theatre courtesy of live Zoom performances with a real-time audience and applause. Art galleries too have stepped up to present their long-in-the-planning latest exhibitions to a literally captive online audience.

The Scottish Gallery, in Edinburgh’s New Town, has worked hard to hold on to some kind of positive continuity by showing their latest exhibitions online whilst actually presenting physically in the closed gallery. This is commendable and works wonders on hungry imaginations holding out for a future time when we can see art exhibitions in person. 

For Batten Down the Hatches, the gallery even hosted a live Zoom event. The Meet the Artist virtual private view with Ross Ryan on 28th April launched the exhibition online as well as within the closed gallery. There is also the delicious opportunity for requests to rotate which painting which will show on the easel in the window, so at least if you’re passing by on your way to work or the shop  (or out on your daily exercise) you can view a selected artwork from the street. What an inventive way to keep connectivity and interaction alive in the physical world. As you view the online exhibition, red and green dots show if a painting has been sold or reserved, much like in the real-time gallery. Several paintings are already sold.

Ross Ryan – Stevenson Light Dubh Artect, 2019, oil and pastel on board


This is Ross Ryan’s second major exhibition at The Scottish Gallery (he’s been exhibiting here since 2013). It is clear the artist is drawn to formidable environments, having previously undertaken residencies in the Galapagos Islands, Finland and Auschwitz museum in Poland. Most artworks here are from 2019 but also as recently as earlier this year.

This new collection of paintings is from two years of chasing gales, sailing to offshore lighthouses and discovering the people and their islands that found my messages in bottles. As the world has also temporarily battened down the hatches I hope this exhibition is a reminder of the beautiful seascapes of the West Coast that await for us.”

Ross Ryan, 2020

In this exhibition, mostly oil and/or pastels on paper or board depict seascapes around the west coast of Scotland. Travel to Iona, Islay, River Clyde, Oban, Kintyre, Barra, Vatersay as well as the Corryvrecken whirlpool. Everything here depicts life at sea, from lighthouses to seabirds, flares to puffer boats and coastal distilleries. Ryan worked from his boat in summer and in-situ from the shore in winter. He admits that weather conditions could be so extreme that some of his paintings didn’t survive. Wonderfully expressive seascapes stand out here, with bold strokes and textured paint lavishly depicting the elements, as some veer satisfyingly into an abstract depiction of the angry sea. Anyone looking to purchase a painting can view the digital exhibition catalogue to see the medium and sizes of the artworks and some of the fascinating backstories of the artworks.

Ross Ryan – Unknown Fate, 2019, oil on board


On Ryan’s summer sailing voyages in 2017, he launched some messages in bottles into the sea and awaited a response. To date, he has received several responses. This, in turn, took him recently to Tiree and Coll to explore and paint the landscape at the spot where the bottles were found as well as meeting the people who found them.

There is much to complement the exhibition here. A blog post showing a time-lapse film of the actual hanging of the exhibition and footage of the artist. Ryan also gives a glimpse into how he executes a typical piece of work whilst battling the elements. To see the artist at work, as well as getting a tour of his boat, adds another dimension to the sense of the artworks on show here.

Also showing at The Scottish Gallery in May are exhibitions from Sir William Gillies and Wendy Ramshaw. Look out also for the Great Scots in Isolation series as it continues – it’s a worthwhile insight into how artists are coping in lockdown.

You can view Batten Down the Hatches online exhibition here. Ross Ryan’s latest exhibition title is somewhat appropriate as we hunker down indefinitely whilst still accessing art in any way that we can. 

16 Dundas Street
Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

Main image: Ross Ryan – Far too Early, Oban, pastel on paper

Thank you to Julie Boyne for this review.

Share this page

Sign up for Artmag’s free weekly newsletter!

Join us every Friday morning for the latest art news, art openings, exhibitions, live performances, interviews and stories + top UK and international art destinations.