Twice Round Edinburgh at Open Eye Gallery

John Bellany, 'The Forth Road Bridge', oil on board
John Bellany, 'The Forth Road Bridge', oil on board

City in Contrast; Edinburgh Revisited 

Tue - Fri 11:00 - 17:00, Sat 11:00 - 16:00

From: 15 Jan 2022

To: 5 Feb 2022

Open Eye Gallery
34 Abercromby Place
Edinburgh & the Lothians

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This is a city of shifting light, of changing skies, of sudden vistas. A city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again’.  Alexander McCall Smith

Two complementary exhibitions this winter at the Open Eye celebrate the timeless artistry of Edinburgh: Edinburgh Revisited focuses on its architectural and cultural heritage through black and white photographs and poetry while City in Contrast presents a collection of colourful cityscapes by eight renowned gallery artists.

Gordon Hunter and Don Ledingham at the Open Eye
Gordon Hunter and Don Ledingham at the Open Eye

Gordon Hunter has a passion for photography with an extensive portfolio of images and Don Ledingham had his first poem about Edinburgh published, aged just ten – in fact, Gordon and Don attended the Royal High School together and now both live in the Scottish Borders. In a creative collaboration of their long friendship and respective artistic and literary talents, their Picture Poems combine city views with an accompanying verse to evoke a nostalgic sense of place.

Gordon Hunter and Don Ledingham, 'Waverley Station Pigeons', photographic print
Gordon Hunter and Don Ledingham, ‘Waverley Station Pigeons’, photographic print

Waverley Station Pigeons is full of memories of arrivals and departures, a vast glass domed arena thronging with travellers, happy children at play and pigeons in search of crumbs.

‘With echoes of Kings Cross,
And Cardenden 
Hanging in the air.’ 

Gordon Hunter and Don Ledingham, 'The Forth Bridge', photographic print
Gordon Hunter and Don Ledingham, ‘The Forth Bridge’, photographic print

Hunter’s perspective of The Forth Bridge is taken from the rocky shore to give an elongated view of the grand Meccano-like structure, linking South Queensferry and the Kingdom of Fife.  

‘His eye travelled as the crow flies 
Stretching from one shore to the next 
Fusing the gap within his mind 
Short-circuiting the distances’ 

Gordon Hunter and Don Ledingham, 'Salisbury Crags', photographic print
Gordon Hunter and Don Ledingham, ‘Salisbury Crags’, photographic print

Again, a most impressive view of Salisbury Crags, the rugged rock like a wedge of Cheddar cheese, perched above the city dotted with spires and, in the centre, Castle Rock. 

‘The terracotta curtain
Collects the evening sun…
Tipping back upon itself 
Like a broken flagstone’

As an example of concrete poetry, the fractured text itself is a sloping hill of words.

Gordon Hunter and Don Ledingham, 'The Balmoral Clock', photographic print
Gordon Hunter and Don Ledingham, ‘The Balmoral Clock’, photographic print
Gordon Hunter and Don Ledingham, 'Afternoon Tea At The Balmoral', photographic print
Gordon Hunter and Don Ledingham, ‘Afternoon Tea at The Balmoral’, photographic print

As well as illustrating the landmark Clock Tower (the time set 3 minutes fast to assist train travellers), we also step inside for an elegant Afternoon Tea at the Balmoral Hotel, in the Palm Court, amidst the soothing melodies on the harp. 

A world of infusions,
From Darjeeling,
And Nepal,
…The art of ceremony,
The easy grace,
The dignity of service…’

Gordon Hunter and Don Ledingham, 'Stockbridge Lovers', photographic print
Gordon Hunter and Don Ledingham, ‘Stockbridge Lovers’, photographic print

A tour around the quirky, colourful district of Stockbridge with a sweeping Georgian crescent, St. Stephen’s Church, Old Market Archway and the much-Instagrammed Circus Lane in Stockbridge Lovers. 

‘The cut stone and the palace fronts,
The lampposts and the rails,
Where each townhouse is a landmark,
With their chronicle of tales’;

Gordon Hunter and Don Ledingham, 'The Bloody Fringe', photographic print
Gordon Hunter and Don Ledingham, “The ‘Bloody’ Fringe”, photographic print

In August, the city is transformed into the largest arts Festival on the planet, a joyful jamboree for culture vultures. But in The ‘Bloody’ Fringe, Ledingham describes how not all city folk welcome the intrusion of performers each summer. 

‘The acrobats and clowns
The students and the brave,
…“Leave us be”, we cry,
And all too soon it does,
…A Kiss – adieu;
Until next year.’

Gordon Hunter’s cool, crisp photographs juxtaposed with charmingly evocative poems by Don Ledingham are richly atmospheric.  These and many more picture-poem prints are available at just £250 each with a limited edition of 25 prints. An accompanying book includes contributions from celebrity Scots with their personal perspective on the city. Note that all proceeds of sales of prints and books go to two local charities, Leuchie House and 500 Miles. 

John Bellany, 'The Forth Road Bridge', oil on board
John Bellany, ‘The Forth Road Bridge’, oil on board

In the other front gallery is the showcase of Edinburgh paintings, City in Contrast. Taking pride of place is the majestic, modernist vision of The Forth Road Bridge (1963) by John Bellany. Reminiscent in figurative style of Fernand Leger’s heroic construction workers and Diego Rivera’s factory murals, it was submitted for a competition to celebrate the opening of the Bridge in 1964. 

Barbara Rae, 'Castle at Dusk', mixed media
Barbara Rae, ‘Castle at Dusk’, mixed media

Barbara Rae has a dramatic, exuberant style of impressionistic land and seascapes using a vivaciously vivid palette. Edinburgh Castle at Dusk is a most imaginative composition, the ancient fort atop the towering rock bathed in twilight as if dripping in a rich plum sauce. What is most effective is the golden foliage below and the soft blue streaked sky with a burst of fading coral-pink sunlight. 

Barbara Rae, 'Fireworks', mixed media
Barbara Rae, ‘Fireworks’, mixed media

The city skyline at night ablaze with Fireworks, is again boldly and beautifully crafted by Rae with delineated layers: indigo, mustard yellow, black silhouetted shapes and the minimal streak of red, pink and green shooting rockets.

David Forster, 'And then the forbidden door, (Stockbridge)', watercolour on paper
David Forster, ‘And then the forbidden door (Stockbridge)’, watercolour on paper

David Forster is a master at detailed city scenes and rural landscapes in which every blade of grass or brickwork is meticulously executed.  And then the forbidden door (Stockbridge) illustrates the row of allotments near the Water of Leith, with manicured vegetable plots, the closed shed doors and a glimpse of houses through the trees.

Catharine Davison, 'Winter Arrangements',oil on board
Catharine Davison, ‘Winter Arrangements’, oil on board

Nearby is Inverleith Park where Catharine Davison has captured a moment in time, Winter Arrangements, observing the regular dog walkers and football players are braving the cold air for a brisk spot of exercise – such a delicate sense of movement with scudding clouds on this windy day.

There are also Edinburgh views by Ann Ross, Henry Kondracki, David Evans and Robbie Bushe, and a diverse selection of other paintings, prints, ceramics, sculpture and jewellery on show.

With grateful thanks to Vivien Devlin for this review.

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