Among a surge of galleries reopening across Edinburgh, with hand sanitiser to greet you at the door and social distancing measures in place, Upright Gallery is putting on an exhibition that suits the times beautifully: it’s joyful, positive and showcases how creativity can’t be stopped. Coming Up for Air features a selection of husband and wife duo Ron and Lynda Wilson’s practice, offering up their view of the past few months. Upright Gallery is a unique space, ensuring interesting and novel curation, and this show does not disappoint. Making the most of its high walls, there are rows of artwork on either side of the main room, a colourful mixture of prints, paintings and artists books decorate the walls.
The artwork on show features bold colours and confident lines, with the work carried out both en plein air and in the studio. The art of Lynda Wilson is very confident, she knows exactly which aspects of the landscape she wishes to distil into her work, something that is also seen in Ron’s Net Hut paintings. Lynda’s monoprints are snapshots of her walks during the state-imposed lockdown, with pylons and trees rendered simply; the images created are naive representations of landscapes, with bright greens and soft blues making the distinction between land and sky. They are simple yet effective. Following this you see her artist books, which offer a different view of the Pentland Hills, created directly on the hills in pencil rubber stamping and block printing – the simple lines and stark woods offer all that is needed to appreciate the view.
The works inspired by trips to Hastings are a mixture of mono and screen prints. Executed in graphic blocks of colour, the monoprints feature a striking Irn Bru palette of blue and orange, with grey elements centring them again. The simple shapes and ridged lines perhaps betray Lynda’s architectural background – the screen prints are cleanly executed and showcase a variety of beach scenes. The Dungeness-inspired landscapes are depicted in both oil and monoprint, but their aesthetic remains largely similar, with blues, oranges and greys making up the majority of the scenes. The landscapes are boldly split by the horizon, and feature only the elements which Lynda feels necessary. It’s interesting to note the inclusion of pylons – it almost becomes a personal motif in this series.
Further works by Lynda are varied and maintain her subject matter of seaside’s and graphically rendered architecture. Her acrylic on board work Level Crossing is a personal favourite, with a subdued palate and balanced composition it loosely depicts the power station at Dungeness.
Ron Wilson’s works are similarly inspired by the trips to the south coast. The most striking works are made up of cleverly printed wood block fragments and coloured geometric sections rendering the net huts to abstracted formal elements. Immediately it’s clear to see Ron has a more condensed style when depicting the net huts and beaches. A further look at the rest of his work on show makes clear his proficiency in a variety of media – the work here varies from previous sketches to lithography.
A starkly separate style is seen with his Fabulous Beasties selection, inspired by Ralph Steadman’s style – Ron created a book for his grandchildren filled with a multitude of weird and wonderful creatures which he shares here. Featuring tartan trews and bow ties, his imagined creatures exemplify his exciting creativity.
To finish off the show, a selection of Ron’s New York watercolours adorns the walls. They feature iconic scenes and nationalistic motifs, ranging from dollar bills and yellow cabs to the stripes of the American flag and skyscrapers. Rendered loosely they have a charming sketchy feel to them, which very much suits the fast pace of New York.
Overall, the show features a wide range of media and subject matter, showcasing the breadth of creative output the two have enjoyed in their lock down studio. The impact of their surroundings and the translation of this into their own visual language is refreshing to see. The range of artwork, from sketches to highly finished work offers up an idea of their creative process. The unique way in which they both distil the surrounding world is striking and shows a real confidence in their respective practices. Take the time to go around this show and you will be rewarded.
Image: Lynda Wilson, ‘Stromness’, monoprint
Exhibition closes 21st Aug.
With special thanks to Leo Sartain for this review.